Die Säge des Todes (1981)

Directed by Jesús Franco [Other horror films: Gritos en la noche (1962), La mano de un hombre muerto (1962), El secreto del Dr. Orloff (1964), Miss Muerte (1966), Necronomicon – Geträumte Sünden (1968), The Blood of Fu Manchu (1968), Der heiße Tod (1969), Marquis de Sade: Justine (1969), The Castle of Fu Manchu (1969), Paroxismus (1969), De Sade 70 (1970), Il trono di fuoco (1970), Nachts, wenn Dracula erwacht (1970), Les cauchemars naissent la nuit (1970), Vampyros Lesbos (1971), Sie tötete in Ekstase (1971), Jungfrauen-Report (1972), Drácula contra Frankenstein (1972), Der Todesrächer von Soho (1972), La fille de Dracula (1972), Dr. M schlägt zu (1972), Les démons (1973), La comtesse noire (1973), La maldición de Frankenstein (1973), La nuit des étoiles filantes (1973), Los ojos siniestros del doctor Orloff (1973), Al otro lado del espejo (1973), La noche de los asesinos (1974), Les possédées du diable (1974), La comtesse perverse (1974), Les gloutonnes (1975), L’éventreur de Notre-Dame (1975), Sexorcismes (1975), Frauengefängnis (1976), Jack the Ripper (1976), Un silencio de tumba (1976), In 80 Betten um die Welt (1976), Die Marquise von Sade (1976), Greta – Haus ohne Männer (1977), Die Liebesbriefe einer portugiesischen Nonne (1977), Die teuflischen Schwestern (1977), Der Ruf der blonden Göttin (1977), El sádico de Notre-Dame (1979), Mondo cannibale (1980), El caníbal (1980), La tumba de los muertos vivientes (1982), La mansión de los muertos vivientes (1982), Revenge in the House of Usher (1983), El tesoro de la diosa blanca (1983), Macumba sexual (1983), Sola ante el terror (1983), Sangre en mis zapatos (1983), Mil sexos tiene la noche (1984), El siniestro doctor Orloff (1984), Lilian (la virgen pervertida) (1984), La esclava blanca (1985), Faceless (1987), Killer Barbys (1996), Tender Flesh (1997), Mari-Cookie and the Killer Tarantula (1998), Lust for Frankenstein (1998), Vampire Blues (1999), Dr. Wong’s Virtual Hell (1999), Helter Skelter (2000), Vampire Junction (2001), Incubus (2002), Killer Barbys vs. Dracula (2002), Snakewoman (2005), La cripta de las mujeres malditas (2008), La cripta de las mujeres malditas II (2008), La cripta de las condenadas (2012), La cripta de las condenadas: Parte II (2012)]

Commonly known under the title Bloody Moon, Die Säge des Todes is a tedious film. Aspects of it are worth seeing, such as the generally decent kills, but boy, do the plot and characters really grate on me after a time.

There are so many plot issues that it’s hard to fully delve into. For instance, a young woman is running and screaming that a killer is after her, and her friends laugh it off. Or that same girl running from the killer again, only to see a silhouette figure in front of her – she should know it’s not the killer, as, well, the killer is behind her. So you would think she would run to the figure for potential safety.

She doesn’t.

So part of the issue is that the central character, Angela (played by Olivia Pascal) very quickly becomes hysterical at everything. She sees a friend get murdered, but when she tries to show someone else the body, it disappears, so for a time, she was convinced she was dreaming. She spends much of the next day searching for the murdered girl. Then someone saves her from a snake, but because she didn’t see the snake, only a bloody pair of shears, she’s convinced that guy is the murderer.

My point is that it doesn’t take long for this character to become scared and suspicious of every little thing, and it sort of gets old, especially when it leads to terrible, illogical decisions that keep happening throughout the movie. It’s hard to state just how many times in the movie I was bothered by plot points like this, and that goes a long way to making this not as fun an experience as you might hope.

I can’t hold that too much against Olivia Pascal. I’m sure she did what she had to do with her role. Nadja Gerganoff was a more interesting character, but we never really get to understand that much about her. It’s similar with Christoph Moosbrugger, and while Peter Exacoustos’ character was perhaps one of the most sensible in the movie, even he made more mistakes than you’d hope for.

Obviously, this isn’t a problem with this movie alone, as plenty of horror films have characters that make bad decisions. It just seemed so much more prominent here, and it’s quite possible that wasn’t helped by shoddy dialogue and a somewhat poor dubbing job. On the plus side, the setting of this movie is rather beautiful. I’m not sure where this was filmed, but it had a unique look to it, and the scenes on the dock were quite lovely.

What the film tries, and mostly succeeds, in doing right would be the kills. Centerpiece among them, I’d argue, would be the decapitation of someone with a saw blade (and in fact, the original title of this film translates to Saw of Death). It looked excruciatingly fake, but that’s half the fun. Someone was stabbed through the neck, another stabbed through the chest, and even another killed with a power saw (or at least that’s what I think it is – think an ultra-thin chainsaw). The kills here are decent, and if that’s your main interest, then Bloody Moon is worth seeing.

And personally, this is a movie that I’ve wanted to see for a long time. Being a Jesús Franco movie, I wasn’t necessarily expecting much, and ultimately, I may have ended up enjoying it about as much as I thought I would. Because of plot elements and characters that drove me up the wall (not to mention the least-surprising ending I’ve ever seen in a movie), it’s not a film I liked that much, but at least for the gory elements, it’s worth experiencing once.


Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)

Directed by Michael Curtiz [Other horror films: Alraune (1919), The Mad Genius (1931), Doctor X (1932), The Walking Dead (1936)]

I can’t say for sure how long it’s been since I’ve last seen this one, but I definitely know it’s at least been six years. I think I’ve seen it twice before, making this my third time watching this classic, but from my faulty memory, you wouldn’t know it.

Part of this may come from the fact that House of Wax, a 1953 remake of this movie, is just naturally fresher in my mind. Not only have I seen it moderately recently, but the story itself is a bit more striking (in that film, Price’s character has a wax house of horrors – here, it’s more beautiful wax figures without the horrific charm).

All that said, I was deeply interested in revisiting this one, and while it didn’t quite hold up as much as I was hoping it would, I had a decent time. I think the story is a little bit more streamlined in the 1953 movie, and of course, they had Vincent Price, so that’s going to be hard to beat anyway.

What Mystery of the Wax Museum did have, though, was beautiful color. To be sure, we’ve seen color before (in fact, the director of this film, Michael Curtiz, also directed Doctor X, another early horror film in color), but it looked a lot fresher here, and I imagine that’s partly due to the restoration the print has had done to it.

Though not all of the elements of the story come together (I’d have liked more background on the revenge Lionel Atwill’s character got on Edwin Maxwell’s), the little mystery here is pretty solid, and having a reporter running around and trying to figure things out does keep things decently engaging. Of course, the main problem then becomes that the woman running around, being Glenda Farrell, wasn’t playing the most likable character.

Which isn’t to say that Farrell didn’t do a great job. As a snappy, witty reporter, she did quite well, but her character irked me far more than she endeared me. Somewhat amusingly, though, Fay Wray bothered me more – she was no doubt a beautiful woman, but honestly, 90% of what she did in this movie was scream. It wasn’t her choice, I imagine, but the point remains. Lionel Atwilln (Murders in the Zoo, Doctor X, The Vampire Bat, etc.) did great as the tragic character that was Ivan Igor, and I definitely felt for him.

It’s hard for me to quantify the nature of my issue with this one. I don’t dislike it – Mystery of the Wax Museum possesses a good, quick story, and things move along at a nice pace with occasionally great scenes (not to mention beautiful color) – but I didn’t love it either. I think it stood out to me more positively the first time I saw it than it did this time around.

As rough as the Technicolor looked in Doctor X, I think that story was perhaps just a bit more fun. And while I ultimately might enjoy House of Wax more than this original story, Mystery of the Wax Museum is still worth seeing, but personally, at least with this viewing, I wasn’t overwhelmed with glory.


Mountaintop Motel Massacre (1983)

Directed by Jim McCullough Sr. [Other horror films: N/A]

With a title like Mountaintop Motel Massacre (which is quality alliteration, by the way), I’d sort of expect the film to be a bit more cheesy. As it is, this film isn’t terrible, but it doesn’t feel at all like most 80’s horror, and almost possesses a bit of a somber feeling to it.

It also stands apart by not being the natural slasher that one might expect by reading the plot. There is some slashing, but beforehand, we’re given something like twenty minutes to get to know the killer, an older woman recently released from a psychiatric institution. It feels more like a character piece at the beginning, the horror not fully kicking in until would-be victims rent a cabin from her.

And because of that, things don’t really pick up until forty or so minutes into the film. It doesn’t help that, at the beginning, our insane woman is content with just scaring her many guests (by letting snakes, rats, and roaches into their rooms). It sort of helps with creating a dark atmosphere, what with her creeping around in underground tunnels and letting bugs loose into peoples’ cabins, but it’s not always the most enthralling material.

Anna Chappell was perfectly acceptable as a woman who’s lost it, but after a while, with little character insight, I can’t say she made an amazing impression. Most of the rest of the cast are in the same boat, sadly. Amy Hill and Virginia Loridans looked good in white, wet t-shirts, and Will Mitchell rocked a solid moustache, I guess. I did sort of like Major Brock in his sole movie role, and Bill Thurman did have some feeling, but these two are the only ones that really stand out.

If it weren’t for the sluggish nature of a lot of the film, I think I’d like the movie more. Once the killing starts, it’s not too shabby. Chappell’s character uses a sickle to kill, which is an inspired choice, and the special effects aren’t half bad. A woman gets badly struck in the face, someone loses a hand, another has their throat slit. When things actually start going down, they go down well. It’s just getting there that’s half the battle.

Now in this movie’s defense, I do appreciate how it attempts to stand out from many of the other horror films at the time by avoiding 80’s sensibilities, such as fun. That might sound like an insult, but it’s more me trying to say that this movie feels much more like a product of the late 70’s than it does the early 80’s. It’s not campy whatsoever, and while there’s an amusing line here and there, the whole atmosphere is somewhat oppressive and somber.

Even so, it’s not my piece of cake. When I first saw this one many years back, I think I was similarly befuddled, because I don’t recollect too much about my reaction, and seeing it with fresh eyes, I can get why a younger me would be confused. Mountaintop Motel Massacre is a movie that should be a cult classic, and perhaps it even is, but it’s not my thing. It’s still worth seeing, to be sure, but if you go in expecting a traditional 80’s slasher, you may not be in for a good time.


Ghost Stories: Graveyard Thriller (1986)

Directed by Lynn Silver [Other horror films: N/A]

I first heard about this over ten years ago from a VHS-collecting friend of mine, and it’s from him that I also heard last about this. That may be written poorly, but my point is that Ghost Stories: Graveyard Thriller is quite obscure, and after finally seeing it, it’s not difficult to see why.

If you’re familiar with An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe, then you’ll understand what this straight-to-video movie was going for. If you’re not, here’s a little background: An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe was a 50-minute movie in which Vincent Price recited four stories written by Edgar Allan Poe. They weren’t normal anthology stories – it was purely spoken word. And because Vincent Price was reciting them, it’s a nifty experience.

This movie was going for the same thing – we have a host (Bob Jenkins) who is walking around the Tuesday Hill Boneyard (classy cemetery name) and introducing extended family members (cousins, a brother-in-law, that type of thing), each of whom have a story to tell. They tell their story – occasionally with props (such as a coffin, a bolt, or a severed hand) – and it’s onto the next tale.

Overall, the whole thing lasts 56 minutes or so, and while perhaps the most low-budget thing I’ve seen in my life, I can’t say I wasn’t occasionally entertained. Only two of the five stories are really worth it, but it’s more the whole of the product than the individual pieces, and this was just fascinating.

Though it’s not listed anywhere in the credits, I believe this was filmed in South Carolina. Not only was South Carolina mentioned at least three times throughout the film, but also the production company is named Alamance Entertainment – Alamance is one of the counties of South Carolina. That goes a long way to explain some of these accents, some of which are quite southern, and adds a little spice to the recited stories.

Of the five stories (‘Where Have You Been Billy Boy, Billy Boy,’ ‘Mr. Fox,’ ‘Buried Alive,’ ‘Hunting Werewolves for Uncle Albert,’ and ‘Reunion’), the only two that I’d recommend based on content would be ‘Where Have You Been Billy Boy, Bill Boy’ and ‘Mr. Fox.’ ‘Mr. Fox’ is narrated by one Laura Kay, and while she’s not great, the story itself is sort of fun. ‘Where Have You Been Billy Boy, Billy Boy’ is nicely narrated by Ralph Lucas (who also wrote the story), and the story is perhaps the best written, what with an asylum, disfigured patients, and rats who sexually assault women.

‘Buried Alive’ isn’t the most original nor most interesting tale, but it does possess a deeply amusing aura, as it’s narrated by one Sandra McLees (who in fact not only wrote ‘Buried Alive,’ but also wrote ‘Mr. Fox’). McLees is a Southern woman through-and-through, and her dramatic recital of this story is just great (“Oh God, they’re gunna bury me alive!!”). It’s what men refer to when they speak of the ‘higher arts.’

‘Hunting Werewolves for Uncle Albert,’ which is actually a story told by our host Bob Jenkins, is just too silly to really get into. It has some okay portions (such as Uncle Albert telling the host that if he were a jaybird, “it’d fly backerds” [my attempted phonetic pronunciation of how this guy pronounces ‘backwards’]), but it also has Frankenstein’s monster chewing tobacco with the main character, and just has a terrible ending.

Somewhat related, the final story, being ‘Reunion’ recited by Maria Hayden, was occasionally funny, but mostly a generic yarn about witchcraft.

I probably enjoy this more than I should, but that doesn’t mean I’m fooling myself into thinking it’s a good movie. No doubt it’s interesting, and were it a play, it might go over well, but despite some good recitals (Sandra McLees and Ralph Lucas) and an animated, occasionally-amusing host (Bob Jenkins), this really isn’t a movie I think would appeal to many.

Because I love cheap, SOV horror films, I knew I had to see it, and I’m happy I did. Even more, it wasn’t near as dull as I thought it’d be. Despite all of that, though, it’s definitely not a good movie, and more a curiosity than anything else.


Valley of the Zombies (1946)

Directed by Philip Ford [Other horror films: N/A]

Possessing a somewhat misleading title, Valley of the Zombies is an okay way to spend 56 minutes. It’s a lower budget film, to be sure, but it still has that snappy dialogue that made the time period so fun, and an occasionally interesting (if not original) plot. 

From the title, one might expect some voodoo shenanigans (as that was the cause of zombies pre-1968, the most classic examples being I Walked with a Zombie and White Zombie), but that’s not what this is at all. There is someone who might count as a zombie, and there is in fact a reference to the “valley of the zombies,” but the bigger culprit is occasional hypnotism.

I don’t know the name, but Ian Keith did a pretty solid job as the menacing killer. He just has that face, and despite the cheapness of the film, did have a good presence. Not unexpectedly, Robert Livingston (Riders of the Whistling Skull) was a bit generic, but he still worked well with Lorna Gray, and the pair had some good snappy dialogue, which is always a joy to hear.

Of course, this being an older movie, Gray didn’t have that great of a range. She was great with her quips, no doubt, but she also got scared at the sound of a windowblind crashing down, not to mention fainting when she heard the word ‘zombie.’ Fainting. sigh Sometimes the sexism and racism (as Gray here took the place of someone like Mantan Moreland à la King of the Zombies) in these older films are hard to swallow, and I just wish they didn’t have to throw in “Oh, the woman is scared of everything” trash. It just gets old.

Otherwise, Valley of the Zombies is competent. The finale (taking place on a fog-covered building roof) was pretty solid, and like I said, Ian Keith did really good in his threatening role. It’s also quite digestible, at a solid 56 minutes. To be sure, there’s nothing spectacular here, but there’s also not anything making the film unworthy.

Really, this isn’t a good movie, but it’s definitely not what I’d call a bad movie. Even for the time, it might have been a bit outdated, but it was serviceable, and while below average, when it comes to 40’s horror, you could certainly do a lot worse.


Wicked Little Things (2006)

Directed by J.S. Cardone [Other horror films: The Slayer (1982), Shadowzone (1990), Shadowhunter (1993), The Forsaken (2001)]

I can’t say that I love Wicked Little Things, because I don’t, but I do find it a moderately enjoyable film a lot of the time, and though I don’t think it’s great, at the very least it’s a movie that might be worth seeing a couple of times.

The emotional turmoil the main characters are going through (a mother with two daughters who has recently lost her husband) adds a lot of feeling to the film. Lori Heuring works great with Scout Taylor-Compton, and I buy the mother-daughter relationship. Throw in some political messages, and Wicked Little Things shows it has a bit more to offer.

Luckily, I don’t have much cause to speak about my politics in the course of reviewing movies. It may be relevant on occasion (The Thaw, for instance), but for the most part, the fact I’m on the far-left doesn’t really come into play. Here, though, we have children that were killed in a mine accident in the 1910’s coming back for revenge, which I certainly can’t fault them for.

Labor laws in the USA are still quite horrible (look at the lack of power so many unions have – any union that has a no-strike clause is functionally pointless), and if capitalism could get away with it, children would still be working in mines. You can work at 14 years old in many places (with restrictions). God bless capitalism, amiright?

Now, I think a fair point could be made that Wicked Little Things didn’t focus on this that much – even facing a descendant of the mine owner, none of this was on the forefront. Still, if you enjoy the eight-hour workday and the end of the worst of child labor, thank your local socialists and communists, as it’s due to their fight that we have those nowadays.

I wasn’t blown away by Lori Heuring (Hunger), but she did decent, and shined in her scenes with Scout Taylor-Compton (who went on to play Laurie in the Halloween remake). Taylor-Compton was perhaps my favorite performance here, on that note – she did great with the emotional scenes, and possessed a good strength. Chloë Grace Moretz (who later played Carrie in the 2013 movie, and also starred in 2018’s Suspiria) was decent as a child actress, though it’s hard to say that she really stood out.

Not a lot of other performances need be mentioned. I admit I liked seeing Geoffrey Lewis (The Devil’s Rejects), but he didn’t have a whole lot to do. Ben Cross did an okay job, and no doubt Martin McDougall did well as a dickish rich guy, but I do think his character could have done with, well, more character.

I do wish the movie had a bit more oompf come the finale, I admit. There were some elements that I was hoping would be delved deeper into, such as the miner’s lease or the relationship the Tunny family had with the mine-owners (the Carlton’s). I just got the sense a little more could have been fleshed out about some of this, and though the ending was okay, I feel it was weaker than it could have been.

Wicked Little Things isn’t above average, but I don’t think it’s really below average. I guess it’s fair to say, then, I think it’s average. I’ve seen this once before, and I think I enjoyed it more the first time I saw it, but that said, I didn’t have a bad time revisiting this. It’s not great, but it’s not awful, and certainly someone could do a lot worse.


Amsterdamned (1988)

Directed by Dick Maas [Other horror films: De lift (1983), The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Masks of Evil (1999), Down (2001), Sint (2010), Prooi (2016)]

Hailing from the Netherlands, Amsterdamned is a pretty impressive and unique addition to the slasher genre. While the story can occasionally feel plodding (due more to it’s run-time than anything else), there’s a lot in this Dutch movie to enjoy.

A big part for me would be the setting, taking place in, you guessed it, Amsterdam. Now, I will admit that I know very little about the Netherlands, and related, Amsterdam, but I do know that what with all of the canals and unique city design, it definitely stands out, and focusing strongly on that with a serial killer in a diving suit finding victims on the canals – it’s just a great idea, and leads to some very memorable sequences.

Of course, Dick Maas, the director, isn’t new to great ideas – he’s also the one who directed the 1983 classic De lift (The Lift), which is a movie I’ve only seen once, but it stood up just as strongly as this film did. With some fantastic sequences (the speedboat chase scene, for instance, or the underwater struggle one character had with the killer) and great suspense, Maas knew what he was doing when he made this.

As far as downsides go, the fact that this is an hour and 54 minutes is a bit grueling. A lot of it can go pretty quickly, but there are times when things feel a bit bogged down, and while there’s not a lot that seems filler, I can’t say the almost two-hour runtime didn’t hurt. Related – though luckily, not the fault of the film – the copy I saw was dubbed, and I don’t particularly care for dubbed films. That won’t impact my rating, but next time I seek this out, I’ll aim for a subtitled copy, if such exists.

Most of the central performances here were good. I enjoyed Huub Stapel and Wim Zomer’s relationship, and I sort of wish Zomer’s character stuck around longer. Serge-Henri Valcke’s character was great (and quite amusing – when he falls off the speedboat right at the beginning of the chase sequence, that’s what I call good fun), and while Hidde Maas’ character could have been fleshed out a bit more, I still thought he did well. Monique van de Ven did well as the love interest, and she did get some licks in at the end, but for most of the film, out of everyone, she may have been the most lukewarm.

Gore isn’t that important a part to the movie near as much as suspense was, but we do see some decapitation, solid stabbings, and a slit throat. Oh, and that opening, what with the body dragging across the top of a tour boat, was ace. The suspense alone is great, though, and it’s helped that the diving suit the killer wears looks, as the kids say, hella beast. It’s a great design and idea for a killer, and I think they pulled it off well here.

I don’t think Amsterdamned would appeal to everyone, but it’s a nice mix of slashers and crime movies, with a beautifully unique setting. The finale might feel a bit on the generic side, but it’s still a movie I enjoyed both times I saw it, and I’d definitely recommend giving this one a look if you want something a bit different.


Wild Country (2005)

Directed by Craig Strachan [Other horror films: N/A]

As far as I can tell, there’s only a few things going for Wild Country, and none of them are enough to pull the movie up above average, or even anywhere close.

For one, I do appreciate the fact it’s a Scottish movie – gives it a bit more flavor, and though the accents take a bit to get used to, subtitles were in the copy I watched, so it was never too difficult to decipher the conversations. Related, this was filmed somewhat near Glasgow, and the fields and such did look quite beautiful and pastoral.

The special effects are pretty good here, especially for a lower-budget picture. It’s never the main focus, but you do see throats ripped out, a guy almost chomped in half (with some ribcage showing), and a few gory aftermaths here and there. Again, it’s never the focus, but for what they had, the special effects weren’t shabby at all. The werewolf design, though, is a different question.

Lastly, and this might be what draws most people to this film, you have about 15 minutes of Peter Capaldi. I know Capaldi best from his run as The Doctor on Doctor Who – I always felt he was an underrated Doctor who was dealt iffy stories. Seeing him here was sort of amusing (and it’s worth mentioning that while I have seen this before, when I first saw it, I didn’t know who Capaldi was), but he only pops up at the beginning and the final ten minutes minutes, so he doesn’t really add that much aside from the value of seeing a familiar face.

Samantha Shields did pretty good as the lead, and though she didn’t have much experience, her performance here was quite decent. She worked well with Martin Compston, who also stood out positively. As for the other three central performances, being Nicola Muldoon, Kevin Quinn, and Jamie Quinn, I had no great issues with them, but they didn’t really add a whole lot to the movie.

Being a lower-budget werewolf movie, I can appreciate that it didn’t try to overstay it’s welcome, as the film runs at an hour and 13 minutes. Funnily enough, I still think it runs a bit long, but that’s just due to not caring for some of the pacing here.

And related to that, the ending of this film was somewhat abysmal. It didn’t come as a surprise – somewhat early on, once the action gets going, you can sort of see where it’s going. Even so,it just struck me as a bit ridiculous, and just didn’t really do much to make me care for the movie any more.

Overall, some aspects of Wild Country are worthy of respect, such as some of the performances and special effects. At the same time, it’s not a movie that I enjoy too much, and while it might be worth a single watch, it’s not something that would likely make someone’s top werewolf outings.


The Messengers (2007)

Directed by Danny Pang [Other horror films: Gin gwai (2002), Gin gwai 2 (2004), Gin gwai 10 (2005), Gwai wik (2006), Sum yuen (2007), Chung oi (2007), Tung ngan (2010), Tong ling zhi liu shi gu zhai (2015), Mo jing (2015), Wang xiang zheng (2016), Warning from Hell (2022)] & Oxide Chun Pang [Other horror films: Bangkok Haunted (2001), Gin gwai (2002), Gin gwai 2 (2004), Sei mong se jun (2004), Gin gwai 10 (2005), Gwai wik (2006), Mon seung (2006), Tung ngan (2010)]

More than anything, I think The Messengers strikes me as being a particularly tepid movie. There’s an okay story here, sure, but the execution is quite weak, and if you leave this movie finding much of it forgettable, I don’t think you can really be blamed.

Part of the problem is that elements of the story aren’t well expanded on, such as the presence of William B. Davis’ character, or the full extent of John Corbett’s character, or why some of these spirits took the actions they did. This stuff wouldn’t be hard to flesh out (well, most of it – trying to make sense of Corbett’s character might take a bit of work), and I think any mainstream horror film wouldn’t have a problem doing such, but for some reason, that’s just not the case here.

As always, the flaws of the plot are of no fault of the performances. Dylan McDermott (Hardware) is perfectly solid as the father here, and Kristen Stewart (Underwater) does quite well as the troubled teenage daughter. Penelope Ann Miller (The Relic) didn’t really do that much for me, and William B. Davis (of X-Files fame), while nice to see, didn’t really add anything but more confusion, but hey, at least John Corbett shone a few times.

The jump scares generally didn’t do much for me. They felt just way too Hollywood, and while the spirits looked occasionally okay insofar as design goes, that stuttering way they moved got sort of old quick. Related to the ghosts, their angle here just sort of bothers me. It’s not the concept, which is okay, and has been done before well, but the execution just struck me as quite weak.

Really, The Messengers might be okay for a single watch – I certainly had an okay time when I first saw this movie. But it really doesn’t hold up well to scrutiny with a second viewing, and just feels quite tepid and disappointing, which is a shame, because the setting at least has some potential.


The Gate (1987)

Directed by Tibor Takács [Other horror films: I, Madman (1989), The Gate II: Trespassers (1990), Rats (2003), Mansquito (2005), Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep (2006), Ice Spiders (2007), Mega Snake (2007), Spiders 3D (2013), Bunks (2013)]

Having seen The Gate once before, I can say that it’s a perfectly pleasant viewing experience. I don’t think it’s a great movie, but it does have that fun 80’s sensibility, and if you want a good time, giving The Gate a chance would be a fine idea.

Plot-wise, it’s not necessarily impressive, but I do think it did well, especially focusing on kid as the main character. What stands out more would be the quality special effects, which included some nifty stop-motion animation which looked pretty good. It may have gotten a little much come the finale, but the special effects overall were on the better side of the genre.

Though a kid, Stephen Dorff (who later stars in the neo-classic Feardotcom) does well, and perhaps stands out with the marginally-more emotional material, and his relationship with his sister (Christa Denton) is perhaps one of the more interesting elements of the movie. Denton herself does quite a decent job as a concerned older sister, and though past a certain point his character doesn’t matter, Louis Tripp did well as a friend of Dorff’s character.

Being a movie aimed toward a younger audience, The Gate isn’t really a violent movie whatsoever, and really, much like Gremlins (which is actually a movie I’d consider more tense), this could be a good onboarding film to get kids into horror. Plus, as I said, it has that 80’s charm, and what kids don’t enjoy that?

Though The Gate isn’t a favorite of mine, I do find the film rather fun at times. It’s not a go-to for me insofar as 80’s horror is concerned, but it was well-made, and never feels too campy or silly, which, based on some of the effects, people might be surprised by. It’s a movie worth seeing at least once, and could well make it’s way into your collection. I don’t love it, but it does what it has to, and if you’re a child of the 1980’s, you may already be charmed by this one.