The Tommyknockers (1993)

Directed by John Power [Other horror films: Alice to Nowhere (1986)]

When I first saw this mini-series, adapted from a Stephen King novel, I’d not read the source material beforehand. Ultimately, while I know I watched the mini-series, I recalled very little about it. Having in recent times, read the novel, and watching this with the novel in mind, it’s not only forgettable, but somewhat terrible.

A little back-story, though, which might alleviate some of the sting of those words. Though I’ve only a single read-through to base this on, I didn’t care for The Tommyknockers. I liked it more than the Dreamcatcher novel (I think, but it’s a close call), but of the King books I’ve read, it’s solidly in the bottom half. I didn’t entirely mind the disjointed feel the meat of the book had, but I did think that portions of the came out a bit of a mess.

For much of the mini-series, things follow the novel closely enough to not warrant too many disagreeable portions (though I’m not fan of the novel, following the source material is probably the way to go when making a movie based of Stephen King’s work). Until the end, that is, when they take a very family-friendly approach to the conclusion, deeply neutering it.

It was neutered long before, though, what with being a television production. Much of the epic feel of the novel is entirely lost in the execution here. Some of the coolest scenes of the novel are nowhere to be found here, and those that make it are changed into a hideously friendly-for-television feel. Certainly other King mini-series have suffered from this (such as It), but because I have no nostalgic feelings for this one, there’s nothing to protect it from my less-than-charitable thoughts.

The cast was mixed bag. I really liked E.G. Marshall in his role as the grandfather, and if there’s any reason to really commend the acting, it’s him. Playing the sheriff, Joanna Cassidy does well, and doesn’t feel too dissimilar from her novel counterpart. John Ashton (Taggart from Beverly Hills Cop) was sort of nice to see, but was nothing like his counterpart from the book, nor was his path here nearly as interesting.

Pretty much everyone else ranges from mediocre to bad. Jimmy Smits didn’t do a thing for me as the main character (and it didn’t help that he didn’t look anything like I imagined the character in the book to). I was neither impressed nor displeased with Marg Helgenberger. Both Cliff De Young and Robert Carradine have a bit of charm to them, but ultimately, I think both are forgettable. Traci Lords, though, does pretty awful here (I’m guessing it’s intentional), and Allyce Beasley (who I recognize solely from an episode of Gotham, believe it or not) is utterly laughable during plenty of her screen-time.

I’ve seen The Tommyknockers twice now (despite, like I said, barely recalling my first experience with it), and it’s not a mini-series that I have any desire to see again. There’s plenty of King’s mini-series’ I’ve not seen yet (Golden Years and Rose Red, to name a few), but The Tommyknockers is a very forgettable and somewhat bad example of a book that, if adapted better, could produce a moderately entertaining movie.

Love the laser lipstick, though. Solid stuff.

4/10

Spontaneous Combustion (1990)

Directed by Tobe Hooper [Other horror films: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), Eaten Alive (1976), The Dark (1979), Salem’s Lot (1979), The Funhouse (1981), Poltergeist (1982), Lifeforce (1985), Invaders from Mars (1986), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986), I’m Dangerous Tonight (1990), Night Terrors (1993), Body Bags (1993, segment ‘Eye’), The Mangler (1995), The Apartment Complex (1999), Crocodile (2000), Shadow Realm (2002), Toolbox Murders (2004), Mortuary (2005), Djinn (2013)]

It’s a shame that this movie, despite the potential I sense, is such a mess. To me, that seems clearly due to the script, which doesn’t really feel right.

I have two big issues with this film. One, as I mentioned, is the story itself. The prologue takes 22 minutes to get through, and once we do, we’re stuck with characters that seem interconnected but don’t know they’re interconnected, a secret plot, some radio psychic, mysteries from the past coming back to haunt a character, some subplot about a nuclear plant that doesn’t seem related at all to the rest of the story, and syringes of glowing green stuff that was never once explained.

The plot goes all over the place, and I don’t think things were put together particularly well. That prologue took way too long to get through, and most of the present-day story isn’t overly captivating either. Some of the special effects (and I really mean some, as there are some really bad scenes here) work out well, but the story itself is just a mess. Maybe I just missed something, but it seems to me there were still quite a few unanswered questions by the end of the film, and it just grated on me. Things just felt disjointed at times.

Secondly, and this may be controversial, but I was deeply underwhelmed by Brad Dourif’s acting throughout this whole film. I know his character is in an odd place, so some of it can be excused, but it wasn’t just the odd scene out where I thought he was just a bad actor. I loved hearing Chucky’s voice, and I get the fact his character’s going through a confusing and emotionally-wrecking period, but his acting didn’t do it for me here at all, which is shame, as he generally is pretty enjoyable (such as his role in Death Machine, which came out four years after this).

I’m not saying that Spontaneous Combustion doesn’t occasionally have charm, but from a personal standpoint, I don’t think I’d watch this again anytime soon, as I honestly enjoyed very little of this film, despite the potential I really thought it had. I could tell from the beginning that the tone just felt off to me, and it pretty much stayed that way throughout, all the way to the ending which also just didn’t do it for me at all.

Tobe Hooper has, no doubt, done a lot for the horror genre, but this one is definitely not one of his better works in my view.

4.5/10

Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence (1992)

Directed by William Lustig [Other horror films: Maniac (1980), Maniac Cop (1988), Maniac Cop 2 (1990), Uncle Sam (1996)]

I didn’t love the second Maniac Cop, but I did think it was a bit above average. Unfortunately, but not unsurprisingly, this sequel doesn’t fare nearly as well, and I generally didn’t care for it whatsoever.

It’s not like the movie’s awful or even that much worse in quality from the second, but I didn’t care much for the route the story took, what with a corrupt cop (Robert Z’Dar, our titular maniac cop) trying to protect an injured corrupt cop (Gretchen Baker) while another corrupt cop (Robert Davi, returning in his role from the second film) does other stuff.

The beginning of the film mentions that Cordell’s character was ‘framed’ and sent to prison. I won’t deny that whatever crime he was thrown into prison for might have been a frame-up, but I will point out that Cordell should have gone to prison anyway, as he absolutely partook in police brutality, the same as Baker’s character, it seems. And on that note, Baker had every right to shoot when she did, but she was using an illegal weapon and illegal ammunition (yet she’s still cleared in the mind of her corrupt cop peer, Davi’s character), so Baker’s character also should have gone to prison had her outcome in the film been better.

My point is that there’s no likable characters in the film. Even the one with potential, a doctor (played by Caitlin Dulany), then falls in love with a cop who just literally tortured her patient minutes before. Again, jail time would be nice.

I don’t like cops, and I don’t respect cops, but this hasn’t really hurt my feelings on the first two movies (though from the beginning, I scoffed when Cordell is called ‘sympathetic’, as he’s not at all). Here, though, it grated on me because there’s not one likable character in the bunch, and their behavior appears to have zero consequence (the video that was uncovered that would have ‘cleared’ Baker’s character, again, still showed multiple illegal actions), but that’s par for the course as far as the corrupt institution of the police force goes.

Throughout the film, there are some okay kills, mostly with firearms, but a solid stabbing is thrown in. As it was, the ending rubbed me the wrong way, also, mainly because I absolutely refuse to believe that someone on fire could drive a car for twenty minutes without 1) melting the seat, 2) causing the gas lines to malfunction, 3) effect the engine, or 4) screwing up the steering wheel. Did it look cool? For the first minute or so, but then it just keeps going. And using the burning arm to light a cigarette, eliciting laughs from his new love? Ugh, kill me now.

Despite all of this, I wouldn’t even be averse to watching this again, as there were some decent scenes, but it’s definitely nowhere near as good as the first movie, and doesn’t much come close to touching the second. It’s not terrible, but it’s not good, and I wouldn’t really go out of my way to recommend this unless you’re already a fan of the series, in which case you’re like to be disappointed anyway.

5.5/10

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

Psycho (1998)

Directed by Gus Van Sant [Other horror films: N/A]

Pretty much a scene-by-scene remake of the original classic (perhaps one of the most well-known horror movies that has yet existed), this movie’s not terrible. The problem is, and this is a big problem, that it’s been done before, and it’s been done so much better that this movie just comes out entirely pointless.

I liked most of the principal cast, which is something I can’t say for other films. Anne Heche (from a favorite of mine, Volcano) played a cute Marion Crane. Chad Everett played the best exuberantly wealthy Texan this side of Rex Linn (Better Call Saul). William H. Macy didn’t blow me away, but what can I say, I like the actor (from Fargo to Pleasantville, this guy’s fun), and he was fun to see.

Neither Julianne Moore (Hannibal) nor Viggo Mortensen really worked in my opinion, but they didn’t bring the film down, which is more than I can say for Vince Vaughn. I liked Vaughn in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, but whoever thought he could replace Perkins as Norman Bates went more than a little mad. It’s no knock at Vaughn, who technically did fine. It’s that Perkins felt so much better in the role.

The main problem here isn’t the fact that it’s a remake, nor is it Vaughn’s portrayal of Bates. It’s that this doesn’t feel inspired whatsoever. There are some movies that it’s pointless to remake, and I’ll go ahead and say that Psycho’s one of them. In 1960, the story was surprising and shocking (both the twist thirty minutes in and the finale), but here, we know exactly what’s coming, but despite some scenes being filmed in the exact same way (such as the stairway sequence), there’s no magic here.

Psycho lacks magic, and that’s the problem. It’s such a well-written story, but this version wasn’t able to capture almost any of it, and ultimately just wasted our time when it could be better spent with the 1960 classic.

4/10

Nightworld: Lost Souls (1998)

Directed by Jeff Woolnough [Other horror films: Strange Frequency 2 (2002), The House Next Door (2006)]

Known best as just Lost Souls (if it’s known at all), this television movie didn’t reinvent the wheel, but in it’s low-budget tackling of a somewhat common story, I found the movie quite serviceable.

Now, I saw this once before many years back, and about the only thing I remembered was the conclusion, so I didn’t get to relive the surprise, but even so, I like how the film focuses on the mystery of unsolved murders and throws multiple suspects out at us, many of them feeling like real possibilities. The idea of supernatural forces from beyond the grave helping people solve an old murder isn’t new, but it was done well, and with feeling.

Communicating through an autistic girl was a nice touch, because both parents here (played by John Savage and Barbara Sukowa) got to see their daughter do more than she’s been able to do (such as sing), and though it’s just a cheap television flick, I still liked that this had heart.

On that note, the horror here isn’t nearly what many fans might be looking for. It might even feel more like a supernatural drama at times, but when you throw in mystery and the decently suspenseful conclusion, I don’t see why all that many people would have an issue seeing this as a horror film, light as it might be.

John Savage is a bigger name, though I’ve only seen him in a handful of low-budget horror movies (such as The Attic). He does pretty well here, and I love the lengths he goes through to both figure out the answer to the old crime and protect his family. His wife, played by Barbara Sukowa, didn’t nearly interest me as much, but both children (Nick Deigman and Laura Harling) are solid, with Harling’s performance perhaps being the best. Richard Lintern was pretty good too.

Nightworld: Lost Souls isn’t anything that special, but I find myself enjoying it more than expected. I definitely liked it the first time I saw this, and it’s pretty much had the same impact on me this time around. It’s not stellar as far as made-for-television horror goes, but hell, I liked it. Sue me, brahs.

8/10

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

Meridian (1990)

Directed by Charles Band [Other horror films: Crash! (1976), Parasite (1982), The Alchemist (1983), Ragewar (1984, segment ‘Heavy Metal’), Pulse Pounders (1988), Crash and Burn (1990), Trancers II (1991), Doctor Mordrid (1992), Dollman vs. Demonic Toys (1993), Head of the Family (1996), Hideous! (1997), The Creeps (1997), Blood Dolls (1999), Puppet Master: The Legacy (2003), Dr. Moreau’s House of Pain (2004), Decadent Evil (2005), Doll Graveyard (2005), The Gingerdead Man (2005), Petrified (2006), Evil Bong (2006), Dead Man’s Hand (2007), Decadent Evil II (2007), Dangerous Worry Dolls (2008), Evil Bong 2: King Bong (2009), Skull Heads (2009), Evil Bong 3: The Wrath of Bong (2011), Killer Eye: Halloween Haunt (2011), DevilDolls (2012), The Dead Want Women (2012), Puppet Master X: Axis Rising (2012), Ooga Booga (2013), Unlucky Charms (2013), Gingerdead Man vs. Evil Bong (2013), The Haunted Dollhouse (2013), Trophy Heads (2014), Evil Bong 420 (2015), Evil Bong: High 5 (2016), Ravenwolf Towers: The Feature (2016), Evil Bong 666 (2017), Puppet Master: Axis Termination (2017), Evil Bong 777 (2018), Puppet Master: Blitzkrieg Massacre (2018), Deadly Dolls: Deepest Cuts (2018), Death Heads: Brain Drain (2018), Vampire Slaughter: Eaten Alive (2018), Bunker of Blood: Chapter 6: Zombie Lust: Night Flesh (2018), Bunker of Blood: Chapter 8: Butcher’s Bake Off: Hell’s Kitchen (2019), Corona Zombies (2020)]

I went into this one with lower expectations, but was pleasantly surprised at first. But then the movie kept going down paths I didn’t much care for, and come the end, I found Meridian a somewhat tedious and difficult film to fully enjoy.

Of course, being a Full Moon flick, Meridian does have some charm to it, and it also boasts some decent performances from both Sherilyn Fenn and Charlie Spradling, not to mention Hilary Mason, and though some of the ideas themselves were interesting, the movie evolves into a messy romantic flick à la Beauty and the Beast, and not a particularly worthwhile version.

The main idea and setting here are both fine. The two girls seeing the traveling magic troupe was solid, and the variety of troupe members was admirable (which led, on a side note, to a scene that reminded me a lot of the 1932 Freaks, in which a dwarf is walking down a table and pouring wine in peoples’ cups). It’s true that dinner sequence, followed by a drug-induced rape scene, held a certain engagement to it, but then the movie spirals into unenjoyable territory.

What’s the main issue, then?

After Fenn’s character is raped, she falls in love with the individual who raped her. That alone pissed me off, if truth be told. Drugging women then raping them, and then having one of the women in question subsequently fall for one of the guys involved is beyond the pale, and past that point, I couldn’t bring myself to care for Fenn’s character, nor Malcolm Jamieson’s (he played a pair of twins, Lawrence and Oliver). And once this happened, it only left one central character to root for, being Spradling’s, but funnily, past this point, she only appears sporadically, and is of little importance to the rest of the story.

I’ll admit that both Sherilyn Fenn and Charlie Spradling were pretty attractive, which is definitely true during their nude sequences (Spradling being my preferred of the two). I don’t know Fenn from anything, but Spradling was in both the disappointing Mirror Mirror and the promising Puppet Master II. I liked her character here, quite a lot more than I liked Fenn’s, but like I said, past a certain point, she doesn’t really add much, aside from occasionally being seen working on uncovering a supposedly plot-important painting. Hilary Mason was fun, and there’s a somewhat cool twist involving her character, but much like Spradling, she doesn’t do that much.

Malcolm Jamieson was a fine actor here, but I didn’t care for either of the characters he played (and their on-screen conversations were just melodramatic to the extreme), and ultimately, while he probably did a perfectly fine job, I just didn’t care much for him, much of which can be put on the route that Meridian went.

I knew next to nothing about this movie before watching it, and that’s good, because I already went in with somewhat low expectations, so if I knew where this one went, it would have been even harder to get through this one. Meridian is somewhat interesting, and it definitely could have been a good film (another Full Moon feature, Subspecies, came out the following year, and is pretty good), but this one just doesn’t have what I’d hope for.

5.5/10

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

Maniac Cop 2 (1990)

Directed by William Lustig [Other horror films: Maniac (1980), Maniac Cop (1988), Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence (1992), Uncle Sam (1996)]

Having not seen this sequel before, I wasn’t overly sure what to expect. I’d mostly heard positive comparisons to the first movie, and I wasn’t disappointed, as it’s a solid sequel and an enjoyable film, though I believe the first is a bit better.

The cast was decently solid. I truthfully didn’t care much for Robert Davi’s character, but the performance, as a lead, was pretty solid. Claudia Christian was decent, and gave a great performance at times, such as that rather thrilling handcuffed-to-a-car scene. I was somewhat taken aback by the route Bruce Campbell’s character took, but in retrospect, while disappointing, it made sense. A few interesting faces pop up, including Clarence Williams III (who I know best from Tales from the Hood) and a small cameo from Danny Trejo.

If there’s one acting misfire here, it’s from Leo Rossi, who played a talkative serial killer who just got on my nerves, and seemed to add a somewhat lighter feel to the film (at least in his scenes) than I would have hoped for, and overall, I really didn’t care for the addition of his character. It didn’t particularly seem necessary, and didn’t do the atmosphere any wonders.

Otherwise, the movie’s pretty solid, with a good plot, great massacres (I really liked both the police station and prison scene), and a couple of memorable kills, including a quick neck-snap that I really appreciated. Perhaps one of the best scenes takes place in a shooting range, but there were plenty of great scenes throughout the film.

I don’t think Maniac Cop 2 is quite as good as the first movie (a lot of it has to do with Rossi’s character), but I do think it’s a pretty solid film, and well worth the watch. If you enjoyed the first one, I’d guess this one would come across as rather palatable also.

7.5/10

This was covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. If interested, listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one below.

Needful Things (1993)

Directed by Fraser C. Heston [Other horror films: N/A]

Some Stephen King movies are hard to talk about because they may be competently-made for the time, and possess different stories, but the source novels are far superior. Needful Things is one of my favorite Stephen King books, and as such, this adaptation is one of the least enjoyable versions of a good story I’ve seen.

When watching this, my brother said that it was like the creators of the film read the dust-jacket plot and set out to make the film without reading the full book, and that seems apt. There are so, so many things left out or minimized, and some of it was just terrible to leave out, such as:

Pangborn’s wife and child having died, Brian’s suicide while his brother (completely omitted from the film) watched, Polly’s life in San Francisco, Norris Ridgewick’s fishing pole and helping defeat Gaunt, Ace and his assistance of Gaunt (again, entirely omitted), the majority of Cora Rusk’s story, Lester Pratt and Sally Radcliffe, toning down the Catholic vs. Baptist conflict, leaving out most of Frank Jewett and George Nelson’s conflict, the same with Sonny Jackett and Eddie Warburton, and entirely messing up the ending.

The book is a gourmet feast of characters and information, whereas the film is an unfulfilling cup of Ramen soup.

Leaving out Pangborn’s bout with depression following the death of his wife and child really strips the character of feeling, and taking out his amateur magician hobby strips him of life. In the movie, Pangborn (who was played by Ed Harris here, despite the fact that in the very same year, The Dark Half came out, which also had Pangborn, only played by Michael Rooker) just didn’t feel like the Pangborn I know at all. And in the novel, he didn’t meet Gaunt until the final 15 pages, whereas in the movie, he meets him something like twenty minutes in. It’s utterly ridiculous. Also, Pangborn doesn’t even defeat Gaunt here, that’s given to Buster Keeton, which is just terrible.

Now, before I go further, I do know that a three-hour version of this exists, a TV extension done by TNT. However, that’s never been put on DVD, and is somewhat difficult to find outside of torrents, so I watched the two-hour theatrical version. The extended version does, to its credit, add in Brian’s mother, Cora Rusk, and her own dealings with Gaunt, and likely some other stuff, but given that version is not commonly available, I can only go off what I saw.

There’s a whole point in the book about Polly’s past in San Francisco and the death of a young child, which later comes up as Gaunt’s messing with people’s relationships. In the movie, all of this is removed, and instead we get Polly thinking that Pangborn is involved in an embezzlement scheme with Keeton. They also left out the spider from the amulet, but of course they did.

Ace is a character that was used in the coming-of-age movie Stand By Me from 1986 (based off King’s novella The Body), and reappeared in a significant role in the novel Needful Things. Here, he’s not even on the radar, and the plan to blow up Castle Rock entirely abandoned.

One of my favorite portions in the book is the conflict between the Baptists and the Catholics, led by Reverend William Rose and Father Brigham. This involved twenty or so named characters, and ends in a massive and bloody brawl in the streets of Castle Rock during a rainstorm. The movie’s version in pitiful. Instead of a massive fight, William Rose and Father Meehan (he was renamed in the movie for God knows what reason) themselves punch each other out for a minute, and that’s it. Also worth noting, Nettie in the movie was apparently Baptist, when she had literally nothing to do with the conflict in the novel, nor would she have had been capable of dealing with such tension, so it was idiotic of the movie-makers to throw that in.

I will give the movie some credit for showing Frank Jewett, but for leaving out his story-line, along with the interesting triangle that was Sally Radcliffe, Lester Pratt, and John LaPointe (one of the officers), I condemn the lot of them. At least they kept in the conflict between Hugh Priest and Henry Beaufort, which was a surprise.

Brian’s story follows the novel decently well until the end. In the movie, after some cringe-worthy dialogue (‘I gotta go to Hell now’), he attempts suicide in front of Pangborn. In the book, he commits suicide in front of his little brother Sean. It’s when Pangborn interviews Sean in the novel that Pangborn finally pieces everything together, but who needs that when you eliminate Sean’s character? Also worth noting, the fight between Nettie and Wilma (which, in part, Brian was responsible for initiating) didn’t happen at Wilma’s house as in the movie, but in the streets, causing quite the scene and made for a memorable moment.

One last thing before I rate this abomination, what they do with Danforth ‘Buster’ Keeton’s character is despicable. In the movie, they make him out to be a hero, blowing himself and Gaunt up, finally killing him (it doesn’t work, but of course it doesn’t). Keeton’s no hero – he’s a paranoid and corrupt town selectman who, just hours before, killed his wife. His story in the book is a lot more fitting, and more so, the fact that they gave Keeton the final act of heroism against Gaunt as opposed to Pangborn (who just made a ridiculous speech in front of the town) was a kick in the face to fans of the novel.

Max von Sydow did decent as Gaunt. Not amazing by any means, but decent. I sort of like how they throw in an ability for him to see years in the future, but it doesn’t really add much aside from some cool lines at the end of the film.

If you’ve not read the novel, Needful Things might be a decent movie. If you have read the novel, though, and make it one of the books you read about once a year, this film feels utterly hollow and an insult to the source material. I didn’t like it much when I first saw it, and I’m bitter in my old age of 25 (at the time of this writing), so I hate it more now.

3/10

This is one of the films reviewed on Fight Evil’s podcast, so if at all interested, give a listen as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss Needful Things.

Subspecies (1991)

Directed by Ted Nicolaou [Other horror films: Ragewar (1984, segment ‘Desert Pursuit’), Savage Island (1985), TerrorVision (1986), Bad Channels (1992), Bloodstone: Subspecies II (1993), Bloodlust: Subspecies III (1994), Vampire Journals (1997), Subspecies: The Awakening (1998), Ragdoll (1999), Urban Evil (2000), The St. Francisville Experiment (2000), The Horrible Dr. Bones (2000), I, Vampire (2000, segments ‘Spawn of Hell’ & ‘Undead Evil’), Puppet Master vs Demonic Toys (2004), The Etruscan Mask (2007), DevilDolls (2012), Deadly Dolls: Deepest Cuts (2018), Vampire Slaughter: Eaten Alive (2018)]

One of the first American films made in Romania, Subspecies has a very authentic feel to it, and while I don’t necessarily love the story, I do think that this movie has a lot going for it.

Full Moon Productions, who also brought to life the Puppet Master series, along with the enjoyable Castle Freak, did quite well with Subspecies, especially given the fact I’m not really much of a vampire fan. Here, the design of the antagonist Radu (played by Anders Hove) is pretty damn good, reminiscence of Orloc from Nosferatu with his abnormally long fingers. The vibe to the film is great, and any scene that took place in the Romanian woods, or near a castle, or even in the small village, had a lot of atmosphere.

Ivan J. Rado was perhaps my favorite performance from the film. He doesn’t shine from the beginning, but once things get going, he proves to be a very useful person to have on your side. Of course, Hove does fantastic as the villainous Radu, and has a very threatening feel to him. I wasn’t deeply enthralled with Michael Watson or his character, but it still worked out decently. Laura Mae Tate did great as the lead woman, though, and it’s a shame that she wasn’t really in many things aside from this (only thing of note was 1991’s Dead Space, a disappointing remake of 1982’s Forbidden Planet).

I don’t love a whole lot of vampire films, and I certainly wouldn’t say that I love Subspecies, but I did enjoy it a lot more this time around as opposed to when I first saw it. The story isn’t really what my go-to horror is, but given that the film carries with it such a solid vibe (filming in Romania really did a lot for this one, I think), I can forego any strong feelings of dislike concerning the story.

One small note – the stop-motion minions of Radu didn’t really look the best, and I don’t really think they were used enough to warrant their inclusion. Perhaps that changes as the series goes on (I’ve not seen, as of yet, any of the sequels), but here, they didn’t do that much, and looked somewhat goofy while not doing it.

There’s few vampire films that I really enjoy, but I do appreciate Subspecies, and I certainly think that the film isn’t anywhere near bad. It’s not my usual type of thing, but a lot is done right, and the vibe is to kill for. Definitely worth a look if you’re a fan of either vampires or other Full Moon Entertainment movies.

7.5/10

This was discussed on Fight Evil’s podcast. Check out Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this if interested.

Pledge Night (1990)

Directed by Paul Ziller [Other horror films: Snakehead Terror (2004), Swarmed (2005), Beyond Loch Ness (2008), Yeti: Curse of the Snow Demon (2008), Troglodyte (2008), Ba’al (2008), Iron Invader (2011), Ghost Storm (2011)]

In many ways, Pledge Night feels more like an 80’s movie than it does a 90’s, which probably makes the film a bit better. It’s not great, by any means, but there’s enough here to keep me entertained, and having seen this one twice now, I can say it’s somewhere around average.

There’s one thing I want to get out of the way first before jumping into this one: I detest and abhor fraternities and their hazings. It’s nothing more than psychological (and sometimes physical) torture, bolstered by nothing but pointless tradition and the psychology behind sunk costs. You can find a list of those who have died during hazing practices, and once you understand that many in Greek life still willingly join organizations that haze, and don’t speak up about it, you may be able to understand my utter disgust with sororities and fraternities.

I bring that up because the first forty minutes of this movie deals with the hazing of six pledges to [insert random Greek alphabet here]. Is some of it harmless? Sure, but almost all of it is psychological torture, and shows that the organization is not one worth being in to begin with. As a few of the pledges say, though, if they hadn’t attempted to pledge to a frat, their fathers would be disappointed (macho men wanting their sons to go through abuse – great parenting).

After forty minutes of this, we get to the horror, in which the zombie/demon of a previous pledge who died during a hazing (which is within the realm of possibility, as to this day, kids are still being killed by Greek life) returns and goes on a rampage. Oh, also another Greek brother also kills a few people, but it’s not entirely clear if that guy was just driven to his behavior by his own mental instability or somehow possessed by Sid, the returning pledge.

Of the six pledges, only James Davies fails to make an impression. It’s true that both David Neal Evans and Robert Lentini don’t add much, but as this is the only acting role from either, I don’t much hold that against them. Dennis Sullivan (who is memorable only due to his hella slick haircut) and Craig Derrick are both fun, but neither really gets that much to do past a certain point.

The two main characters, played by Todd Eastland and Shannon McMahon, are good, though I will admit to McMahon being virtually indistinguishable from the other Sorority girls there (all three had small nude scenes, so kudos there, I guess). Michael T. Henderson is pretty solid in his role, and Arthur Lundquist, who played the potentially possessed Frat brother, really did come across as reasonably insane at times (that cackle was top notch).

I wouldn’t say many of the kills are really good, but there are a few memorable ones here regardless, such as the cherry bomb scene, a strangulation sequence, an okay electrocution, and this dude getting stabbed in the back multiple times. That last kill mentioned was almost my favorite, but then a girl got killed by an electric egg beater, which wasn’t much in the way of gory, but it did have character.

The problem here is that the killer, Sid, spews these one-liners which really lack comedic value. Up until his appearance in the film, one could easily be excused for not seeing this as a comedy-horror, but then Sid comes in and ruins the perception. It’s not as bad as Freddy later got, but it wasn’t really worth it either. Related, there is one scene in which Sid emerges from someone’s body, which reminded me of a much lower quality version of the classic scene from Freddy’s Revenge, so hey, that’s worth seeing.

I will say, though, there was one funny line – ‘Maybe we should turn the light off as a group’ – that cracked me up considerably.

Pledge Night isn’t a movie I loved when I first saw it, but it is reasonably watchable. It’s enjoyable to an extent, and while I wish they had gotten to the horror aspects quicker (forty minutes in seems a bit of a long wait), it’s still okay. If you’re a fan of late 80’s horror, this movie fits the bill, so give it a go. Just be aware that it may not stand out come the credits.

6.5/10

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