In a Dark Place (2006)

Directed by Donato Rotunno [Other horror films: N/A]

This would be the third time I’ve seen this film, and I have the same lukewarm reaction I did the first few times. In a Dark Place, another rendition of The Turn of the Screw (the most famous being 1961’s The Innocents) is not really a bad film. But it fails to really go above and beyond what it could have been.

The ambiguity (is it a ghost movie? are the children possessed? is our main character just losing it?) inherent in the original story certainly remains in this rendition, to the annoyance of some viewers. By the end, nothing is necessarily for certain, though I personally feel clues do lead to one central conclusion.

The acting here isn’t overly stellar, and the lesbian subplot just seems a tad odd, but I appreciate them wanting to add a little something to the story. In some ways, this feels like a slow-burner, though whether it pays off at the end is up for each viewer to decide. I’m not a giant fan of the ending, but then again, I wouldn’t have expected much else. In a Dark Place isn’t a bad movie. It’s just not that memorable.

6.5/10

The Hornet’s Sting and the Hell It’s Caused (2014)

The Hornet

Directed by Dustin Mills [Other horror films: The Puppet Monster Massacre (2010), Zombie A-Hole (2012), Night of the Tentacles (2013), Bath Salt Zombies (2013), Easter Casket (2013), Trashtastic Trailers from the Underground (2013), Skinless (2013), Theatre of the Deranged II (2013, segment ‘PlateFace’), Kill That Bitch (2014), Her Name Was Torment (2014), Snuffet (2014), Applecart (2015), Invalid (2015), Halloween Spookies (2016), Her Name Was Torment 2 (2016), The Hornet’s Disciple and the Scars She Left (2018), Slaughterhouse Slumber Party (2019), Ouija Blood Ritual (2020), RIP: Rest in Pieces (2020), Benny and Steve Almost Die (2020)]

At the time I saw this, IMDb didn’t have a plot for this movie, and only 53 people had rated it. More so, it’s only an hour long. So what I was getting into, I had absolutely no idea.

When I started this film, I didn’t even know for sure I was watching the right thing. The title screen doesn’t pop up until 13 minutes in, and before that, you have an amateur actress being interviewed and then stripped nude and tied up at gunpoint. In fact, for about 50 minutes of this hour-long movie, nudity is present. And I do mean full nudity. Both males and females, though admittedly focusing on females.

The story is simple, once you get past the opening 13 minutes – a photographer named Rose abducts women and men, sexually abuses and tortures them, and sells the photos she takes to clients of hers. Now, that said, while scenes can sometimes be grueling to get through, outright violence is, generally speaking, low. A woman forced to use a pair of scissors to cut into one side of her cheek was about the worst we got (which was filmed in a way to make me cringe, I admit).

This movie isn’t all nudity and sexual abuse, though – there are some cleverly filmed scenes, and in fact, good usage of animation about half-way through the movie. Dustin Mills, the director, certainly has an artistic streak, and while it popped up only a handful of times, they were definitely noticeable. One note, the nudity, while constant, was very rarely titillating, which in a movie like this, I can say is only a positive thing.

The story here isn’t that strong, and delving into our characters, the few there are, isn’t really done, so it’s sort of hard to get a good feel for them. It’s for that reason why the ending could come across as slightly controversial (in a movie filled of sexual abuse and torture, it’s the ending I find controversial – ironic, I know). For an extremely low budget film, I think that this did what it was trying to do, but it’s just not my type of thing. Artistic scenes really helped out out though.

6/10

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

Stanley (1972)

Stanley

Directed by William Grefé [Other horror films: Sting of Death (1966), Death Curse of Tartu (1966), Impulse (1974), Mako: The Jaws of Death (1976), Whiskey Mountain (1977)]

I last saw Stanley back in 2009 for my first October Challenge. In the many years that had passed, I forgot how much I enjoyed it.

Part of this may well be the fact the version I watched back in 2009 was a 90 minute version, whereas what I watched this time around was 105 minutes. Truth be told, I couldn’t tell you what scenes have been added, but the additions did seem to flesh out the main character’s motivations better.

The main drawback this movie possesses is the long set-up time. It takes 45 minutes, thereabouts, for us to really get introduced to the horror elements. Beforehand, we’re meeting various characters, most of whom who are killed in the last hour of the film. While that in itself may seem strenuous, with the 70’s music in the background, and the lack of editing out small things, it just feels grueling. But once it picks up, I think the pace sails along pretty nicely.

The kills are nothing overly special, but I do rather enjoy some of them. The freeze-frame when one of the characters jumps into a pool filled with snakes was overly ridiculous, and I loved it. Truth be told, while it’s slower at the beginning, once the kills come along, Stanley does well for itself. The ending is a bit to be desired, but I don’t fault it all too much. One last note – one of the characters, a pill-popping, cocaine-sniffing ‘psycho’ was consistently one of the funniest around for his short screen time. A sluggish pace, yes, but this movie, I personally feel, was worth it.

7.5/10

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

Piranha 3D (2010)

2879-E_PIRANHA 3d ART 70x100 OP 50%.indd

Directed by Alexandre Aja [Other horror films: Haute tension (2003), The Hills Have Eyes (2006), Mirrors (2008), Horns (2013), Crawl (2019)]

I don’t think anyone would claim this movie amazing, or I hope no one would, anyway. But it does accomplish it’s goal, and that’s to entertain the hell out of the audience.

Most of the characters are annoying idiots, but as half of them get eaten in the fantastic piranha rampage about halfway through the movie, I can’t rightly hold it against them. Some of the characters are solid, though – Sheriff Forester does all she can to both ensure the safety of her own children and her community. Deputy Fallon goes all out in trying to save people during the rampage. Jake’s valiant attempts to save Kelly, a character herself who sort of got pulled into this whole thing, show him a person of high worth. So we have some solid people, who I feel make up well for the Derricks of the world.

The gore in the movie, at least to me, is the biggest selling point, and I feel they did pretty well. The aforementioned massacre has long been a favorite scene of mine – the blood, the chaos, all done so wonderfully. The nudity’s a bit less captivating, but I can only imagine it’d help pull some more people in to watch the film. Overall, this second Piranha remake (after the 1995 failure few recall) is quite enjoyable for what it is. It’s not amazing, not to me, but it does what it set out to do, and that’s all I can ask.

7.5/10

Criminally Insane (1975)

Criminally Insane

Directed by Nick Millard [Other horror films: Satan’s Black Wedding (1976), Doctor Bloodbath (1987), Death Nurse (1987), Criminally Insane 2 (1987), Cemetery Sisters (1987), Death Nurse 2 (1988), Dracula in Vegas (1999), The Turn of the Screw (2003)]

I’ve long heard of this one, but I never knew how much of a hoot it’d be. Which is sort of ironic, as, at least in my opinion, there was very little in the film itself that was meant to be light-hearted. But the idea of a morbidly obese woman going on a rampage to ensure she can continue eating food at her own pace is definitely liable to raise some eyebrows and cause a chuckle or two.

The quality was what you’d expect of a grindhouse horror film, but I liked it all the more for that. The death scenes weren’t amazing – the blood is among some of the fakest blood I’ve seen in some time – but at the same time, they had heart. And this movie, with the short running time of an hour and one minute, certainly had the deaths to keep in interesting.

The story’s not particularly deep, and the acting isn’t always amazing (though our murderess, Priscilla Alden, does a very solid job in her role), but it is a very amusing flick. There was a sequel released in the late 80’s, starring Alden also, but I hear it lacks much of what this provided. If you’re a fan of 70’s grindhouse horror, and don’t mind iffy quality, I’d recommend giving this a go. Worst case scenario, you’d out an hour of your life. I found it worth it.

7.5/10

Pontypool (2008)

Pontypool

Directed by Bruce McDonald [Other horror films: Hellions (2015)]

I think, if I recall, this would be the third or fourth time I’ve seen Pontypool. And I’m still not sure how I really feel.

On one hand, I wish they had delved into the logic behind the infection/disease a hell of a lot more. On the other hand, the characters present didn’t know, nor had any idea how to really find out, and were more concerned about their own survival as opposed to the hows and the whys of this disease. The doctor, who’s personality was deeply amusing, was of little help, and seemed moderately unhinged himself, but still did what he could to help out the main characters.

The chaos in this film is very heavy, and coupled with the fact that we really don’t have an answer as to how this infection came about by the end of the movie, really makes it a hard one to judge. The idea of hearing second hand the horrors going on outside was pretty cool, which reminded me of another film, being Dead Air (2009, starring Bill Moseley).

Stephen McHattie was a decent actor in his own right, but there are the occasional awkward scenes/lines. And the post-credit scene, well, I still have exactly zero idea what to make of that, despite the various theories I’ve read online. Pontypool is a mostly-claustrophobic film, some high-level suspense, and contains a somewhat confusing premise. Even after three or four viewings, I’m still not sure what to make of it. It definitely makes you think, though.

6.5/10

Pumpkinhead (1988)

Pumpkinhead

Directed by Stan Winston [Other horror films: Ghosts (1997)]

Personally, I never thought that Pumpkinhead got the love it deserved. For whatever the sequels were, the first Pumpkinhead, overall, is a damn solid film, and Lance Henriksen, an actor I generally don’t care for, put up a very good performance here. The set-up, showing a impoverished but loving father and son really allows us, as viewers, to understand why he wanted revenge after what happened to his son. And speaking of that, that scene in which he’s digging up the bones of Pumpkinhead has long been a favorite of mine, as the setting, a mist-covered, decrepit graveyard is truly a place you’d think twice before entering.

The on-going drama between the kids was less interesting, but as most of them die by the end of the film, such is life. Also, the fact that unlike many, if not most, 80’s horror films, Pumpkinhead is deadly serious has always struck me an interesting choice. There’s no humor to be found in this movie, not really even with the scenes featuring the kids. In many ways, it feels more like a 70’s movie than an 80’s one. One last note – the setting as a whole deeply intrigues me. Those people really look as though they’re living in 1920’s West Virginia poor communities. And yet, communities like that still exist, and certainly did back in 1988. Exaggerated a bit? Sure, but on the whole, that setting, for some reason, appealed greatly to me. Pumpkinhead’s a good film. Not perfect by any means, but a very solid title all the same.

8/10

Son of Ingagi (1940)

Son of Ingagi

Directed by Richard C. Kahn [Other horror films: N/A]

This is an oddity, one of the first all African-American casted horror movies. As such, it’s as Poverty Row as one could imagine. Also, the version widely available seems to be missing a minute or two halfway through the film (which is already short – clocks in at just over an hour). Sound quality, or video quality, for that matter, wasn’t up to par for even my standards of the time period, but it was just about as good as I remembered it.

Really, it’s just a generic movie, with some okay light-hearted comedic portions provided by one of the characters (who was actually played by a writer of the script) and an almost-threatening atmosphere. It falls short, though, of it’s aims, and overall, seems an overly forgettable movie, especially as so many other horror films, some great, came out around the same time. The points I give it are mainly for the setting itself (a house, which, while generic, was used to good effect in the film) and some of the more humorous lines.

5.5/10

(Note: This was one of the reviews I wrote early on, so it’s shorter and far less in-depth than my more recent ones. Should I rewatch the film, I’ll update my review.)