Storm of the Century (1999)

Directed by Craig R. Baxley [Other horror films: Dark Angel (1990), A Family Torn Apart (1993), Rose Red (2002), The Glow (2002), The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer (2003)]

This mini-series, written by Stephen King (and mercifully not based on a novel) is perhaps, aside from his book It, one of the finest things he’s ever done, and it stands as my all-time favorite mini-series, and in fact, one of my favorite pieces of television that I’ve ever witnessed.

I can’t say when I first saw this – I doubt it was when it originally aired over three nights, but I do know I was pretty young, and given I would have been around six years old when this came out (I was born 1993), it’s not out of the question I saw pieces of this when my parents watched it. What I do know is that I did see a lot of this when I was quite young, and that only enhances my pleasure of it now.

With a mini-series like this, it’s hard to know where to start. Storm of the Century possesses three episodes and totals 4 hours and 17 minutes. Out of these four hours and 17 minutes, there’s only one thing I don’t care much for. Otherwise, this is outright perfection in a way that no mini-series has ever come close to matching.

There’s virtually nothing I don’t like about this – the story is fantastic. The setting is fantastic. The performances – almost every single one (and this is a big cast) – fantastic. The moral quandary the characters find themselves in, the mystery, the suspense, the music (oh, the music), the opening and closing narratives, the imagery, the atmosphere, the emotional gut-punches – all fantastic.

A mysterious man comes onto an island off the coast of Maine right before a storm (the titular storm of the century) hits hard, and this man, one André Linoge (Colm Feore), kills a woman and starts off a chain of events I daren’t reveal, because if this is a mini-series you haven’t seen yet, it would be a disservice to dig too deep into the story.

What I can say is that the story is fantastic (and given that I’ve already said such, that may be self-apparent), the mystery behind what Linoge wants (for, as he repeats, if he’s given what he wants, he’ll go away) is fantastic, and the atmosphere, which is already great due to the storm and isolated island setting, is quality dread.

I’ve never seen an island setting put to such great use. The whole theme of how island folk look after their own, and more so, known how to keep a secret, is embedded in the viewers from the beginning, and it only solidifies the longer each episode goes on. It’s a great look at island life (or what I imagine island life is like, given I’ve never set foot on an island in my life), and I love it.

There are a lot of great performances here, central among them Colm Feore and Tim Daly. I could watch Colm Feore walk through a crowd of people and pontificate on their dirty deeds all day, and his performance here is just masterful. Same with Daly – his utterly straight-laced attitude works well given he’s the town constable, and more so, he works great as a moral center and the central character, especially toward the somewhat depressing conclusion. Daly was also in both Spellbinder and The Skeptic.

Who else stands out? Well, who doesn’t? There’s Jeffrey DeMunn (The Blob, The Mist, The Green Mile) as the town manager that few people like. There’s Becky Ann Baker (Freaks and Geeks) with her quality accent, and Torri Higginson with an even better one. I absolutely adore Julianne Nicholson as Kat (“She’s your wife, Mike. How would I know where she’s hot?”), and though she got only two scenes of note, Myra Carter as the elderly Cora stole each of them.

An affable counterpart to Daly was Casey Siemaszko as Hatch, and playing Daly’s wife was Debrah Farentino, who did great despite the maddening choices she made toward the end (but really, it’s pretty hard to blame these people given the dire circumstances they were in). Ron Perkins was great as Peter, same with Steve Rankin as Jack. Denis Forest popped up here and then, and he was always a nice face to see (and his secret was one of the most tragic).

Who couldn’t feel bad for Nada Despotovich as she discusses leaving DeMunn’s Robbie or Adam LeFevre running and screaming in fear after finding a dear friend dead. Kathleen Chalfant was great (especially with her back-and-forth with Myra Carter’s irascible character) and most of the child actors and actresses were acceptable.

Once we figure out exactly what Linoge is after, the characters are thrown into quite a fun moral quandary (and of course, I mean fun for us, the audience, and not fun for them), made all-the-better by the fact that while I fully, 100% agreed with Daly’s vote more, given what the townspeople had been to up to that point, I don’t think it’s out of the question for the vast majority to take the opposite choice (and some try to play both sides, such as Daly’s wife).

They never really needed that many special effects aside from the constant storm raging on. The silver wolf cane did look a little janky at times, but I thought the sequence with the kids in flight looked reasonably decent, and even a better example, the dream in which the townspeople walked off a pier into the ocean really came across well.

I mentioned there’s one thing I didn’t care for, though, and now seems a good time to point it out. Every now and again, Linoge growls at the camera, baring vampire-like teeth. He doesn’t do this to anybody in the mini-series – just us, the audience. Now, something like that happens in the final scene of the mini-series, witnessed by an actual character, which was fine, but otherwise, this technique just struck me as somewhat out of place. I get it, they need to cut to commercial, but they can do that without a toothy growl.

Aside from that, though, like I said – perfection.

And speaking of perfection, that score. This video is a little piece of the score. Throughout the mini-series, it really packs a punch, and there’s plenty of atmosphere and emotion resonating from just the score alone, which is impressive, and, on a personal note, it’s not that common that a score is as consistently moving as this one is.

Storm of the Century may seem like quite an undertaking, given it’s over four hours long, but it’s a journey well-worth it, and if you’re one that’s skeptical of King-related mini-series, I can’t say I blame you, but I’d ask you at least give this one a chance, as this most definitely stands out as a solid work.

Born in sin? Come on it, as my pappy always said.

10/10

Bordello of Blood (1996)

Directed by Gilbert Adler [Other horror films: N/A]

For a long time, despite quite enjoying Demon Knight, I had a pretty bad feeling about Bordello of Blood. It just looked too goofy and generally didn’t interest me. After finally seeing it, I have to say that I was largely right, but the movie isn’t without a few strong points.

Chief among those strong points is Dennis Miller as private detective Rafe Guttman. Guttman is such a fun character, with so many amusing lines pretty much every time he’s on screen (“You’re reminding me why being married to you drove me to the brink of homosexuality” and the ever-classy “Sorry, Zeke – I’m just not in the mood for a blowjob,”) and I just dug his personality from beginning to end.

Miller was a lot of fun here, which is definitely good, because otherwise, I don’t think the film had a hell of a lot going for it. I mean, the whole vampire-ran brothel idea was done somewhat better in From Dusk Till Dawn, and while the special effects here are decent (save for some hideous mishaps during the “Ballroom Blitz” sequence), most of the story and many of the characters, save Miller’s, didn’t do much of anything for me.

I guess that Erika Eleniak was decent (though I will further say that I didn’t love the conclusion to this movie, and in relation, her character’s story), and Chris Sarandon (Fright Night and Child’s Play) grew on me over time (though his religious nonsense was hard to swallow). The other central performances, though, such as Angie Everhart, Corey Feldman (Gremlins, The Lost Boys), and Aubrey Morris failed to leave me with much in the way of a positive impression.

I think, though, the biggest issue in regards to my failed interest was the story, which was quite light-hearted and pretty ridiculous at times. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mind that much when Miller was on screen, but I didn’t much care for the tone at any other point, especially the framing of this movie, what with the Crypt Keeper presenting this as a story while playing a card game with a mummy. I mean, you can expect something campy and corny – look at the end of Demon Knight – but this just felt like too much.

Which is ultimately my problem with the film. It’s just too goofy, which sort of hinders the better portions of the film from fully taking control. And again, I find this quite sad, as I really did enjoy Dennis Miller here, and I feel like this could have been executed better, but as it stands, while watchable if only due to Miller, this wasn’t what I’d call a particularly good time, and it’s not a movie I could see myself going back to that often.

5.5/10

The Stand (1994)

Directed by Mick Garris [Other horror films: Critters 2 (1988), Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990), Sleepwalkers (1992), The Nightmare Begins Again (1993), Quicksilver Highway (1997), The Shining (1997), Riding the Bullet (2004), Desperation (2006), Bag of Bones (2011), Nightmare Cinema (2018, segments ‘The Projectionist’ & ‘Dead’)]

This rather lengthy mini-series (four episodes, clocking in at a total of just over six hours) based on Stephen King’s longest novel is definitely something that you need to invest in, but I find it generally an awarding experience.

It’s also a mini-series that I’ve seen quite often as a child. While this didn’t leave near as much an impression as 1990’s It (also, of course, based on a Stephen King novel), I saw this plenty of times as a kid, and I remember my father requesting this one when we rented the VHS (which came with four tapes, of course) from Blockbuster, so it certainly holds good memories.

That said, until this recent rewatch, it’s been at least ten years since I’ve seen it, so I was curious as to whether it would hold up. What made the question more interesting was that this would be the first time since I’ve seen the mini-series since finally reading the novel, and I was also curious as to how close this adaptation was.

And you know what? For a television production (which is pretty noticeable at times, especially in regards to the special effects), not only does it follow the novel decently well (and certainly better than many, if not most, other King adaptations), it’s also pretty solid, and while I wouldn’t call it great, The Stand is a pretty good time.

Just now, I took a deep breath, and that’s because we need to talk about actors and actresses. And believe it or not, given the mini-series is about six hours long, there’s a lot of them. And what makes it even better, most of the central performances were damn good.

Let’s start with Gary Sinise (who I really don’t know outside of this mini-series, though he did have a long-running role on CSI: NY), who played Stu fantastically. He really felt like that generic all-American man, and Sinise pulled off the role as well as anyone could hope to. With a little more of a complex character, Adam Storke did well as Larry, and by the end, you likely couldn’t help but hope for the best.

Ray Walston (Galaxy of Terror) was one of the top-tier performances as Glen Bateman, though his somewhat more critical look at society (as a sociologist, who could blame him?) from the novel was toned down. Peter Van Norden as Ralph was good too, though like the novel, we’re not given too much insight into his character.

Others that definitely need to be mentioned include Molly Ringwald (Office Killer) as Frannie, who wasn’t great but wasn’t quite as bad as some others make her out to be, Ossie Davis (Bubba Ho-Tep) as the Judge was very solid, and one of the best smaller characters. There’s also Miguel Ferrer (The Night Flier) as Lloyd, who took a little to get there, but ended up a fine character. Corin Nemac as Harold also took time to grow, but his decently complex character turned out decent, I thought.

As the Trashcan Man, Matt Frewer was a sight to behold, especially toward the end with the special effects they had. Being mentally unstable, Frewer didn’t have that much to go on, but again, I definitely thought he did the character justice. Truth be told, Kellie Overby as Dayna is memorable for just a single sequence (her getting caught and brought to Flagg), but she was so badass that I had to at least mention her. Shawnee Smith’s (The Blob, Saw) character was memorably crazy, so there’s that.

Finally, let’s talk some of the most memorable performances.

Rob Lowe (The West Wing and 2004’s Salem’s Lot) did amazingly as Nick, a deaf-mute. Fantastic character and performance, Lowe really made Nick someone worth remembering. Jamey Sheridan as Randall Flagg was a sight to behold, fantastically hammy and always fun. Laura San Giacomo (Pretty Woman) as Nadine was an interesting performance, and I thought she definitely strutted her stuff come the finale of her character.

A lot also has to be said about Bill Fagerbakke’s Tom Cullen. Until this day (3/09/2021 should history ever be concerned), I had no idea that the guy who played Tom was the same guy who voiced Patrick on Spongebob Squarepants, and while I never watched a lot of Spongebob, as a 90’s kid who consumed both that cartoon and this movie, I feel it should have clicked before. Here, he has an amazingly solid performance, and as corny as some of his lines are (“M-O-O-N, that spells deaf and dumb”), he’s definitely a character with feeling.

The best performance overall has got to be, though, Ruby Dee as Mother Abagail. She’s quotable (“mayhap she is, mayhap she ain’t) and wholesome in every way. Now, as an atheist, I can do without her religious mumbo-jumbo (and it’s worse in the book), but even so, she’s just great in pretty much every scene she’s in.

Given that very little was changed, and almost none of it was dreadfully important, it’s hard to criticize this adaptation for leaving things out. Sure, I think the way Flagg was more interacting with some of the characters before his time (such as trolling Lloyd on the telephone pole) was a bit off, but like I said, it doesn’t really negatively impact the story, so I didn’t mind that much (though I do think the overly-dramatic scene about Mother Abagial’s departure – entirely unlike the novel’s approach – was somewhat laughable).

What is probably the biggest hurdle for modern-day audiences are the special effects, which become noticeably aged in the last two episodes (those face shifts of Randall Flagg a good case in point), and as even a fan of the mini-series, those instances of iffy effects do hurt, but I don’t think it’s an overly damning quality.

A few other things that can definitely be appreciated include the mini-series’ approach to horror and the soundtrack. Toward the end of the first episode, there’s a dream sequence in a cornfield with a quality scare. What made that really stand out to me was that there was no rising music to indicate tension – there was just a guy walking through a cornfield, and BOOM, his shoulder is grabbed by a demonic figure. It’s that low-key style that really stuck out to me.

The soundtrack too is good. Sure, it’s nice hearing “Eve of Destruction” and of course, “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” by Blue Öyster Cult made for a fantastically memorable opening, but the rest of the score too really brings back memories, such as the music when Mother Abagail is walking away from the Free Zone. The music isn’t as good as, say, Storm of the Century’s score, but then again, little could be.

For being a television production, and definitely feeling tame in some aspects, I was pretty impressed revisiting this mini-series after reading the book, as they really did keep quite a bit of it as it was in the novel. The performances were pretty great overall (even if you consider Ringwald a weak spot, you have Ferrer, Fagerbakke, and Dee to make up for that), and while it’s not a short watch, I do find the experience worth it (corny Hand of God thing at the end notwithstanding).

8/10

My Boyfriend’s Back (1993)

Directed by Bob Balaban [Other horror films: Parents (1989)]

There are some movies out there that use horror elements in movies that are primarily comedy, and I generally call these horror-lite films. Some wouldn’t call them horror at all, but when it comes to defining the genre I love, I’m liberal and highly flexible.

Honestly, though, most of the movies I’d probably throw in this category aren’t movies I’d usually go out of my way to watch and, if I do see them, probably aren’t movies I’d enjoy, and My Boyfriend’s Back is a good example.

To give the film some credit, Andrew Lowery makes for a fair lead, given the type of film this is. Traci Lind (Fright Night Part 2, Spellcaster, and Class of 1999) gave both a decent performance and a cute body. There was a young Philip Seymour Hoffman here (credited as just Philip Hoffman), which I guess was interesting (he’s not really an actor I know, but people seem to talk about him, so I thought I’d mention it).

Everything else is just so far from my cup of tea, though. The movie knew what it was and went for it, which I can respect, but it still wasn’t my cup of tea.

The narration and comic-book style of the film worked to the extent that it fits the light-hearted tone of the movie, but I found pretty much everything here beyond ridiculous. So this kid dies, and he comes back, and mostly everyone’s fine with it. I mean, he gets bullied for being “the dead kid,” but it doesn’t raise any eyebrows, so that’s fun.

I’m trying hard not to hold anything like that against the movie, though, as I’m really not the demographic they were aiming for. It’s a stupid comedy centered around a zombie who’s decaying but still wants to take his dream-girl to the prom, so of course I’d hate it. If you want a quality prom-zombie-comedy, I have four words (and a year) for you: Dance of the Dead (2008).

This isn’t my type of movie, and it’s at this point you’re potentially wondering why I watched it to begin with, in which I’ll reply it was for a podcast I partake in. I get a list of movies to choose from, and for this particular choice, there weren’t that many horror films. My Boyfriend’s Back is labelled, among other genres, as a horror film on IMDb, and so history was made.

I really disliked this film. It’s not my thing. I don’t even feel right being overly critical toward it, but I will be. Certainly My Boyfriend’s Back works for some people, but I pretty much found the whole thing cringe-worthy and painful from beginning to end with little to merit any recommendation aside from Traci Lind’s presence.

4/10

Pale Blood (1990)

Directed by V.V. Dachin Hsu [Other horror films: N/A] & Michael W. Leighton [Other horror films: N/A]

I knew pretty much nothing about this film prior to watching it, aside from, of course, the fact it appeared to be a vampire movie. After seeing it, I have to say I’m somewhat torn. It’s a lower-budget film that can clearly be seen in some aspects, but it also has a decent sense of heart, and I think it shows.

What’s somewhat impressive, even, is that the film manages to throw in a few unexpected surprises, and while none of these deeply shift how the movie goes, I was happy that the story had a bit more depth than I had initially suspected, especially once things really start going toward the end.

George Chakiris isn’t a name I know, but I liked what he was going for. You can sort of tell early on about the route his character takes, but it doesn’t make it any less enjoyable a journey. Wings Hauser (who I best know from the oddball 1988 The Carpenter) hams it up beautifully in this film, and I got a kick out of his character. A little more hard to get a grasp on was Pamela Ludwig (Rush Week), who had an interesting switch-up at the end I don’t fully understand, but I did rather like her performance.

I’m not deeply familiar with the music of Agent Orange, but I think it works well with the film, though it does end up somewhat repetitive. Still, it has almost a Bauhaus gothic vibe to it, which works well as the movie throws in references to past vampire films (such as a few scenes from Nosferatu playing on a television to posters of The Kiss of the Vampire and The Return of Dracula being pinned up on one of the character’s walls). The movie is often dim and somewhat grungy, made more obvious by the lower-budget, but it all fits together in a way that works, and goes to a solid atmosphere.

At times, Pale Blood can come across as a bit annoyingly artsy, unnecessarily so, mostly in regards to the first club scene and the multiple visions seen throughout the film. I don’t think it really harms the movie, but it did get a bit jarring at times, and it never really added much.

Ultimately, I didn’t have a bad time with Pale Blood. I didn’t have a great time either, but that’s life. If you’re into vampire films, this might be one to check out for something a little different, no matter how cheap it is, but I doubt it’d make a big impression on most who see it. As for me, I think it’s somewhere around average.

7/10

Dolly Dearest (1991)

Directed by Maria Lease [Other horror films: N/A]

This is a film that I’ve known about for a long time, and has been on television plenty of times in the past, but I’ve actively avoided, if only because I likely thought it was some type of Child’s Play rip-off. After seeing it, it’s obviously not, but that doesn’t make Dolly Dearest any better of a film.

As far as the story here goes, I think it’s fine. I sort of like the idea of a family uprooting themselves from Los Angeles to Mexico on a business decision, but I don’t know if there was quite enough done with this to really make it a big part of the film. The supernatural aspects weren’t special – a little girl (Candace Hutson) slowly becoming possessed, multiple dolls also becoming possessed – but they were serviceable enough despite occasionally looking quite cheap.

Sam Bottoms (Up from the Depths and Hunter’s Blood) made for a decent, if perhaps uninspired, lead. I was more impressed with Rip Torn (A Stranger Is Watching) and his amusing relationship with Chris Demetral, who plays Bottoms’ intelligent and rather witty son. Lupe Ontiveros (who also had small roles in films such as Candyman: Day of the Dead and Dark Mirror) was good for some cultural flavor, and her religious beliefs clashing with the rationality of Denise Crosby (Pet Sematary). The cast is generally around average, with Torn and Demetral being my personal strong points.

For a cheaper-looking film, I thought a few of the deaths were decent, and the first major one was even decently atmospheric, if not a wee tad clumsy in execution. And while gore isn’t a strong point, there is a painful injury with a sewing machine to look forward to during another decent death sequence.

I do think that the final 15 minutes or so are a bit lacking. The final possessed form of the girl wasn’t particularly great, and while the dolls were never great, they look pretty bad during the conclusion. And speaking of the conclusion, something about it feels awfully rushed in a straight-to-video feel (which, believe it or not, Dolly Dearest isn’t).

Dolly Dearest isn’t a terrible movie, as there’s some solid performances and a little charm here and there, maybe even perhaps a fun plot point or two. It’s definitely unremarkable, though, and I think it’s below average, but I could see how this might have some fans out there. It just wasn’t for me.

6/10

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

M.D.C. – Maschera di cera (1997)

Directed by Sergio Stivaletti [Other horror films: I tre volti del terrore (2004), Rabbia furiosa (2018), The Profane Exhibit (2018, segment ‘Tophet Quorom’)]

This late 1990’s Italian movie, commonly known as Wax Mask, was a movie I’ve been looking forward to watching ever since I first heard about it. Part of it was because a giallo from that time period would be interesting to begin with, but a bigger draw was simply the fact that I’ve seen very few Italian horror movies from the 1990’s, and virtually none from the late 1990’s (though let’s be honest, aside from Argeto’s 1998 Phantom of the Opera, are there any Italian horror films from the late 1990’s?), and so I was intrigued.

After seeing it, though, more than anything, I thought it was failed potential and a little bit of a mess.

Certainly there were some behind-the-scenes factors that led to such a product. Lucio Fulci was intended to direct this, but he died shortly before filming, so it was given over to Sergio Stivaletti (who had done a lot of special effects works for Italian horror, but hadn’t directed up to that point). Even before then, I’ve heard it said that Argento (who pitched the idea to Fulci to begin with) and Fulci had different visions of the movie, so even if Fulci had directed it, it may not have been much better (especially given that great plots aren’t really Fulci’s strong point).

No matter what happened leading up to the movie, though, the final product is what we have to judge, and though it’s gotten decent reception, and I personally wanted to enjoy it far more than I did, I found it quite underwhelming.

Without a doubt, there were some really strong points here – heck, even re-imaging Mystery of the Wax Museum/House of Wax in an Italian giallo setting was laudable. The gore and special effects throughout are fantastic (and the idea that the figures are still alive behind the wax somewhat terrifying). Well, mostly fantastic – when the museum is on fire at the end, it looks pretty damn amateur. The opening was pretty strong. There were even some fine character-driven moments, and elements of the ending were welcome, at least in the context of the story.

Even at an hour and 40 minutes, though, I felt Wax Mask was missing something, that spark that makes it a fully enjoyable watch. Not that it wasn’t competent enough to get something out of, but the ending, for instance, left something to be desired, along with the whole backstory behind the killer. Also, and it may not come as a big surprise that I took issue with this, the whole metal skeleton thing just felt too fantastic and almost gaudy, especially from a movie I was thinking would be in the purely realistic realm.

Performances here are a mixed bag. I do sort of like both Robert Hossein and Umberto Balli. Aldo Massasso I definitely enjoyed, as his character was one of the few characters that actually seemed like an all-around solid guy. Romina Mondello I’m more torn on – at times, she felt like a throwback to the period of horror where women were portrayed more weakly, and I don’t know if I really felt satisfied with her. Riccardo Serventi Longhi was never great either, though I wonder if the horrible dubbing job has more to do with my perception of his performance than his actual performance. Either way, that was hideous dubbing.

Wax Mask was an okay movie, but something just didn’t fully jibe with me, and while I never had a horrible time with it, it never got to the point where I was really engaged and into the film. Having seen it only once, it’s possible that I’ll grow to appreciate this more with future viewings, but for the time, I found it below average, though clearly possessing the potential to do more.

6/10

Return of the Living Dead III (1993)

Directed by Brian Yuzna [Other horror films: Self Portrait in Brains (1978), Society (1989), Bride of Re-Animator (1990), Initiation: Silent Night, Deadly Night 4 (1990), Necronomicon (1993, segments ‘The Library’ & ‘Whispers’), The Dentist (1996), Progeny (1998), The Dentist 2 (1998), Faust: Love of the Damned (2000), Beyond Re-Animator (2003), Rottweiler (2004), Beneath Still Waters (2005), Amphibious 3D (2010)]

To quote from a Stephen King novel, Duma Key, ‘I never imagined it could get so bad, and God punishes us for what we can’t imagine.’ This is the punishment I never expected, and it came as quite a surprise to me.

Now let’s be clear – the second film of this series was far from stellar, and I personally thought it was a ways away from good. It was tepidly average at best. Here, they change things up a little, and take another route that I just couldn’t have cared about in the least, removing the comedic influences altogether and inserting a romance that’s doomed to fail because the young woman has become a zombie.

Removing the comedic influences was a bold choice, as The Return of the Living Dead, at least back in the early 1990’s, was probably one of the most popular zombie-comedies in existence, but it didn’t have to be a bad choice, and, if the film had gone in an entirely different direction, might even have been a heralded one. It’s also worth pointing out now that this film amazingly has the same rating as the second one on IMDb (or did at the time of this writing – it now looks like this film is rated 5.9/10 whereas the second is rated 5.7/10), and most of my friends in the horror community find the film moderately enjoyable.

All of that said, I found this movie absolutely and utterly horrible, and would never, under any circumstance, want to sit through this again.

The main problem is the romantic relationship between Melinda Clarke and J. Trevor Edmond. I was okay with them during the first scene, and when Edmond was breaking away from his father (played by Kent McCord), I was somewhat applauding them, but pretty much every moment after that, I just couldn’t stand them. As soon as, in pain and misery, Edmond brings Clarke back from the dead, and she starts eating people and becoming, you know, a zombie, and he sticks with her through it all (and I do mean all – far past the point where any reasonable person would have done so), I just wanted it to be over.

But the movie runs for an insane hour and 40 minutes instead of making it a more reasonable 70 minute film, which, while I wouldn’t have enjoyed it much more, at least would have felt more digestible.

The best character was played by Basil Wallace, who gets killed by Edmond’s idiocy, and later comes back as a zombie and helps out Edmond’s character despite the fact that the only reason he died was due to Edmond. None of that really mattered, as the final 15 minutes of this film was needlessly tacked on anyway, but there you go.

Oh, and Mike Moroff’s character was rather terrible also, but at least it fits in with the movie.

The special effects are decent, I’ll give it that. Though again, I don’t think that really matters as soon as Clarke’s character starts threading metal through her body and becoming a HARDCORE ZOMBIE CHICK. I cringed as soon as I saw that. It just looked awful, and it looked stupid, and I hated every second of it even more than the hate I had for it during the previous scenes.

Plenty of horror fans, as I’ve said, seem to enjoy this film, or at least enjoy it as much as they enjoyed the second film. Like I also said, the second film wasn’t great, but I just don’t get the love this one has. I don’t see it, and I don’t understand it, and I never want to cross paths with this movie again.

3/10

The First Power (1990)

Directed by Robert Resnikoff [Other horror films: N/A]

I knew next-to-nothing about this film before going in, so much so that, upon learning that Lou Diamond Phillips was starring, I was pleased that I’d have something to look forward to (I don’t even particularly know Phillips from much, but a familiar face is a familiar face). It’s good that it did, because while The First Power started out reasonably strong, it sort of fizzled out halfway through.

The film does have it’s moments. For instance, the opening, when the Pentagram Killer (Jeff Kober) is attacking a female police officer, or that scene when a guy gets trampled to death by a horse, or even those after-effects of that one kill, with the body hanging in the sky. The First Power isn’t a movie without promise – I just think the promise failed to fully pan out.

Story-wise, it was interesting enough. Having a psychic help an atheistic officer feels a little bit stereotypical, but Phillips worked well with Tracy Griffith, so I don’t think it came out too poorly. Where the film starts to lose me, though, is when the nun (Elizabeth Arlen) joins in on the fun, especially because I don’t think Arlen was given much of a character to work with.

Lou Diamond Phillips (who I mainly know from the CBS show Numb3rs, of all places, where he was a character that popped up here and there) was decent in his role, and I don’t usually see him looking this young. Tracy Griffith was good – she had a serious, yet occasionally playful personality, and I thought her performance was actually better than I expected.

Jeff Kober was okay as the Pentagram Killer. I didn’t think he was great – I would have preferred a more serious Satanist as opposed to a killer concerned purely with screwing with someone, but to each their own. I enjoyed Mykelti Williamson, and sort of wish he appeared a bit more. Like I said before, Elizabeth Arlen’s character didn’t cut it for me, but as usual, that’s more on the script than on the actress.

I think the film has a bit of a TV feel to it. That’s not necessarily a negative, of course – there are plenty of fantastic made-for-television horror films (such as The Norliss Tapes from 1973), but for a movie like this, I think it can be a bit of a problem. It’s not as though there were any big special effect screw-ups or anything, but the vibe didn’t strike me as wholly worth theatrical release.

The First Power was a better movie than expected (even though I didn’t know much about the movie, my expectations for 90’s horror isn’t generally that high), and it certainly has it’s place (and it’s fans, as the film, at the time of this writing, sports a 5.7/10 on IMDb), but I think that it started strong and ended weak, at least with this first-time viewing.

5.5/10

The First Power is one of the films we’ve covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this film, if it tickles your fancy.

Bloodletting (1997)

Directed by Matthew Jason Walsh [Other horror films: The Witching (1993), I’ve Killed Before (1995)]

Filmed in Ohio, this rather low-budget horror-comedy, revolving around a serial killer and al young woman who wants to learn how to kill, is pretty terrible. I mean, it’s bad, from dialogue to story. I’ll be damned if it’s not a hell of a lot of fun, though, and while certainly below average, I’ll admit that I did dig this one.

If there’s one main complaint, it’s that the film didn’t need to be almost an hour-and-a-half. They could have shown some restraint and kept it around 70 minutes or so – there were definitely a few sequences that could have been trimmed a bit. I also wasn’t that fond of the ending (or more specifically, one of the twists, as it was), but I mean, for the most part, this movie is what you’d expect going in.

The dialogue is hilariously awful. I think that James L. Edwards, who plays the serial killer, has some of the best lines, and his hammy over-acting is just a pleasure to watch, but certainly Nina Angeloff (“A threesome?! Far-fucking out!”) and Ariauna Albright get plenty of terrible dialogue too.

By no means is this a dig at them as actors or actresses or at the movie’s script – it was clear that Bloodletting knew exactly what it was aiming for, and personally, as a fan of low-budget horror, I had a blast for a large amount of the time, and much of that is directly related to that lovable, horrible dialogue.

I don’t know James L. Edwards or Ariauna Albright from anything else (though the pair of them have been in quite the variety of lower-budget horror in the 90’s and 2000’s), but I thought they worked well together in this film as a bit of a messed up couple. Edwards, like I said, was my favorite performance of the film, but Albright did a great job too, and she was attractive to boot. The only other performance that I suspect I’ll remember was Nina Angeloff’s, who’s exaggerated southern accent (her character’s name was Bobbie Jo) was just heaven.

Sometimes the movie did focus a bit too much on the blossoming relationship, as it was, between the main characters as opposed to random kills. The kills we got weren’t great, to be sure, but the special effects were definitely okay for the budget, plus a – wait, maybe I shouldn’t spoil it. Let’s just say that maybe, if you’re lucky, a baby meets a terrible end via shotgun.

Yeah, that happened, and it was awesome, as it’s a taboo that few horror films seem to stoop to. Call me an edgelord all you want, but I was #ThereForIt.

Anyhow, Bloodletting was a lot more fun than I ever expected. I do wish it was a bit shorter, but beggars can’t be chooser, else wise winners become the losers. At least that’s what Gandhi said.

6.5/10