Kalifornia (1993)

Kalifornia

Directed by Dominic Sena [Other horror films: N/A]

This is a film that many, perhaps rightly so, wouldn’t consider horror – it should come as no surprise to anyone (especially those who follow me on Twitter) that my definition of horror, much like my politics, is decidedly more liberal than others. That said, while I do consider it a horror film, I understand that most probably wouldn’t.

Whether it’s horror or not, though, doesn’t take away from the actors – all four of the central actors did a fantastic job. Brad Pitt’s portrayal of a redneck serial killer is pretty eye-opening to watch. His empty-headed girlfriend, played by Juliette Lewis, was a sight to see, and how Lewis was able to keep the air-headed act up was amazing. Of course, David Duchovny was of good value – his character’s not too much different from Mulder in The X-Files, a serious, single-focused individual, not averse to having fun, but always keeping on track. Lastly, Michelle Forbes did a fine job as Carrie, Brian’s (played by Duchovny) girlfriend.

The cast is spectacular, to make matters short. Decent gore can be found a few places also, though it is rather limited. As for the story, I think it’s moderately decent, but not overly amazing. Really, the actors were the highlight of the movie. A bit of a hard one to rate, honestly, partially because it treads the line of horror/non-horror, but it was a decent movie with solid actors. Not overly crucial, and more so, not even that amazing compared to other films, but it might be worth checking out.

7.5/10

Buried Alive (1990)

Buried Alive

Directed by Frank Darabont [Other horror films: Nightshift Collection (1994, segment ‘The Woman in the Room’), The Mist (2007)]

This was a very solid television horror film, though I suspect many would see it as purely a thriller.

First thing I noticed was the familiar faces in the cast, three in particular: Our main character, played by Tim Matheson (the vice president for a good portion of The West Wing), William Atherton (most well-known for being the annoying, dickish reporter from the first two Die Hard movies), and Hoyt Axton (Billy’s father in Gremlins). Truth be told, aside from Jennifer Jason Leigh (who was in The Hitcher), these three characters are about the only important ones, so it’s fantastic to have actors that I recognize from other works.

The story, while not overly creative, was solidly put together, and rather suspenseful at some points. Since it’s a television movie, it’s extremely tame, but it does get its point across. Matheson does a fantastic job in his role, as does Leigh, his cheating wife. Some scenes struck me as comical (Matheson’s screaming while he’s having a heart attack), but overall, this was a very enjoyable film, and the ending was much better than I had thought it would be. A good film here.

8/10

End of Days (1999)

End of Days

Directed by Peter Hyams [Other horror films: The Relic (1997)]

Arnold Schwarzenegger never did much for me as an actor, and End of Days, though I’ve seen it three times now, never did much for me as a movie. Now, that being said, this is a mostly enjoyable film. But things fall apart at the end. Satan chasing after Arnold’s character and the girl who is supposed to deliver his spawn doesn’t do it for me.

It’s just run-of-the-mill, especially when other Satanic movies around the same time are so much better (The Ninth Gate, I’m looking at you). Honestly, I don’t have much more to say. This movie isn’t necessarily bad, but I wouldn’t go in expecting much.

5.5/10

The Mangler (1995)

The Mangler

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), Spontaneous Combustion (1990), I’m Dangerous Tonight (1990), Night Terrors (1993), Body Bags (1993, segment ‘Eye’), The Apartment Complex (1999), Crocodile (2000), Shadow Realm (2002), Toolbox Murders (2004), Mortuary (2005), Djinn (2013)]

This is a poor movie, and the fact it runs for an hour and 45 minutes does little to help it out.

Based on a short story by Stephen King that’s no longer than ten pages, The Mangler brings to us the story of an evil laundry folding machine. If the movie took itself a bit less seriously, it may have turned out okay too. But no. Director Tobe Hooper kept this movie serious, and while goofy acting by Robert Englund may make one question that conclusion, throughout the film, little humor is present.

The main characters are fine enough, but not overly enthralling. And some of the gore is good also, which is only a plus. But things don’t work together – the plot twist at the end seemed to be thrown in there, and just doesn’t strike me as overly realistic. The movie’s quite simply not good, and while I’ve not seen it in years before this rewatch, I recall not caring for it much then either. For good reason.

5/10

HauntedWeen (1991)

HauntedWeen

Directed by Doug Robertson [Other horror films: N/A]

This is why I watch obscure horror. While not necessarily a gem, this early 90’s slasher really made up for the not-so-great movies I’ve seen recently. While the budget is clearly low, and many of the kills uninspired, I certainly got the feeling that this Kentucky-based slasher had heart. That being said, as I’m a fan of virtually 3/4’s of the slashers from 1975 to 1995, that likely doesn’t surprise anyone.

I’ve wanted to see this for a few years now, and I’m just happy I’m not disappointed. The nudity was ample enough to warrant a plus in that department. The kills, while at first, not great, got better, and toward the end, I was quite happy with what I witnessed. The story, while lacking, wasn’t as big a factor, as few people really watch slashers for the story.

If you’re a slasher fan in particular, this may well be worth watching. I did see that after the credits, “Coming Soon… Hauntedween II” rolled across the screen. Sadly, this looks like it never happened, as it’d have been a hoot to see. The acting here was pretty bad, on one last note – one of the characters has a terrible accent that really grates on you. After a while, though, you start to love the guy. As for other characters, they’re nothing special. Still, this was a pleasure to see, and if this ever comes out on DVD (which, after twenty some years, looks like it has), I’m definitely picking it up.

7.5/10

Cube (1997)

Cube

Directed by Vincenzo Natali [Other horror films: Splice (2009), Haunter (2013), ABCs of Death 2 (2014, segment ‘U is for Utopia’)]

Cube has long been a small favorite of mine.

The plot itself is rather interesting – being trapped in a potentially deadly cube with no idea how you got there or how to get out is a cool idea (for the viewers, anyway). The characters here are interesting in that some go through phases – at first, I think many people would be behind Leaven, but sort of get turned off by her treatment of Kazan. Quentin really tried pulling people together at the start, but toward the end, he was arguably more dangerous than the cube itself.

The acting isn’t always amazing, I’ll grant that, but I think for the most part, people do their jobs well. As to the conclusion, well, I can understand why some would be turned off, but given the various theories discussed in the film, I don’t think anyone should really be surprised with how this movie ended. It’s further expanded in Cube Zero anyway, so I’d recommend that if this movie pleased you. Hypercube is a mixed sequel, but I won’t lie – I recall liking it also. Cube’s a solid movie, and it’s a cult classic for a reason.

8/10

The Dark (1993)

The Dark

Directed by Craig Pryce [Other horror films: Revenge of the Radioactive Reporter (1990)]

It’s been something like three years since I saw this last, and so I had forgotten the amount to which I enjoyed it.

First thing that came to mind watching this was the actors, a majority of which do a solid job despite the obviously low budget involved. Stephen McHattie (who played the main character in Pontypool over 15 years after this film) did quite well as this film’s protagonist. Dennis O’Connor, Cynthia Belliveau, Neve Campbell all do very well also (and seeing Campbell three years prior to Scream was interesting).

In fact, my favorite scenes early on was the believable chemistry between gravediggers Jake and Ed (played by Dennis O’Connor and Jaimz Woolvett, respectfully). Their friendship struck me as very realistic, and that surprised me in a movie of this budget. The actors I didn’t care for, including most prominently Brion James, were far outshone by those I did.

And that doesn’t usually happen – in fact, very rarely in most movies to actors stand out one way or the other to me. Here, they did. The actors really were the strong point of the film. That’s not to say the story was bad, but it wasn’t dripping in creativity. More so, the special effects, when need be, were lacking. And in fact, some of the scenes early on just felt wrong. That all said, I got a good feel for the characters, and deemed it enjoyable. In short, it’s low in quality, high in fun.

7.5/10