The Prowler (1981)

The Prowler

Directed by Joseph Zito [Other horror films: Bloodrage (1980), Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)]

The Prowler is one of those early 80’s slasher classics I’ve just seen once before. Truth be told, I only remembered the vaguest of scenes, so it was nice coming into this one as an almost-new viewing. While the story and conclusion are a bit lacking, The Prowler more than makes up for it with it’s atmosphere and fantastic gore effects.

The setting for this one is pretty good also – it’s nothing overly special, just a college campus (of sorts), but I liked how everything happened so close to each other. In one scene, the main actress is walking out of a dance, tons of people and energy, and then just two blocks away, the streets are dark and empty. I’m not sure why, but I just really dug that.

Of course, when anyone talks about this one, they’re going to bring up the gore, and for good reason. I don’t think there was a single death in this movie that disappointed me. The bayonet through the guy’s head (from top of skull, coming out his jaw) was fantastic, as was the double pitchfork impalement at the beginning. Even better, the shower-pitchfork scene, which was fantastically gory, along with providing a bit of welcomed nudity to the film. Let’s not forget the head being blown off with the shotgun, though – in pure Maniac style, that scene was great.

Which makes complete sense, given that the same individual behind the special effects for Maniac, Tom Savini, was behind these also. If you want to see a slasher that’s not afraid of showing some gore, this one is perfect.

I don’t want to give off the impression that the film is without downsides, though. The motive behind the mystery killer are never really explained, leaving the kills without context, and in fact, the identity of the killer is almost pathetically easy to ascertain pretty early on (many of the red herrings were obvious, and we’re pretty much left with a single suspect in mind). Also, while the atmosphere never falters, it did feel a bit sluggish toward the end before the conclusion. And on that note, there’s a scene in the conclusion that just feels overly silly (I’m guessing that, if you’ve seen this, you know which one I’m talking about).

It’s also worth noting that the cast isn’t really amazing either, but for an early 80’s slasher, I pretty much think most of those involved did fine. Vicky Dawson was a pretty fair main character, and Christopher Goutman, while a bit generic, did okay as a co-protagonist. Neither one, by the way, had much a career in movies, which I find a bit interesting. I wish he had appeared more, but Farley Granger was fun while on screen, and I have no idea who Bill Nunnery is, but his short scene is pretty amusing.

It’s the lack of motive that bothers me most about this one, and all other complaints can mostly be swept under the rug. I don’t get why they didn’t throw in a short relevant flashback, or a Dear John letter, or something to indicate why the killer went out of his way to kill again after so long. It was noticeably weak, which is a shame, as otherwise, The Prowler is a solid movie. Even so, the special effects here are damn good, and if I’d recommend it for anything, along with the classic feel, I’d recommend it for that.


Candyman: Day of the Dead (1999)


Directed by Turi Meyer [Other horror films: Sleepstalker (1995), Alien Express (2005)]

I can’t even remember the last time I saw this flick – it’s easily been over eight years. This isn’t surprising, considering how utterly sub-par the movie is, even compared to the below-average Farewell to the Flesh.

Certainly, I understand some of what they were going for. They had a lot more skin and scantily-clad women in this one, and seemed to up the amount of gore. The story wasn’t anything new, though, and it just came across as pretty pointless, especially when the second film was pointless enough.

One of the things that bothers me about the Candyman films are the titular character’s angle. In this film, he keeps talking about how, once his descendant is his victim (willingly, as for some reason that matters), they’ll become myths whispered about in reverence by their congregation, and become immortal due to that. First off, I don’t think it’s a surprise that someone would refuse such if, to get there, they had to be impaled by a hook, but ignoring that, once Candyman discovers an actual newly-formed congregation, devoted to his myth, he just kills them all.

I really don’t get what Candyman’s going for. It’s not even revenge against the people who wronged him – he’s literally going after his descendants, who you would think he’d want to protect, if anything. It’s just one of those things that has been a somewhat constant annoyance, and while it didn’t much impact the first film (because it was otherwise a fantastic horror-fantasy mix), it bothered me throughout this one.

Of course, Tony Todd himself is a pretty threatening presence on screen, and despite not understanding his motivations, he brings the character to life. Robert O’Reilly and Wade Andrew Williams did pretty good as some racist cops. Ernie Hudson Jr. was solid in a few scenes as a black police officer, and I wish he had gotten more screen-time.

On the other hand, it’s obvious why they chose Donna D’Errico (who was in Baywatch, apparently) as the main actress, and it has to do more with her breast size than acting ability. Oh, make no mistake, she was smoking, but I wasn’t overly convinced with her performance throughout the movie. Jsu Garcia (credited as Nick Corri) was sort of nice to see (he played Rod Lane in the first A Nightmare on Elm Street), but his performance here wasn’t overly spectacular, and generally, he came off a bit generically.

If there’s one thing I liked about this film, it’s how it portrayed the racism that Latino communities face from the police, and along with the somewhat solid ending, it ends up being one of the few true high points of the film. Otherwise, there’s no real reason to go out of your way to see this one, unless you’re a die-hard Candyman fan.

Day of the Dead is worse than Farewell to the Flesh, and both are below-average, which is a real shame, considering that the first movie proved that, done right, the idea of Candyman could be rather effective. Sadly, this late 90’s sequel focuses more on nudity and gore, and fails to realize that potential.


Recovery (2019)


Directed by John Liang [Other horror films: N/A]

I’m not going to go as far as to say Recovery is a perfect movie. In fact, it may not even be a great movie. It is, however, very strong at certain points, and while the different aspects of the movie don’t always blend together the best, I was overall quite happy with this one.

At times, Recovery’s an emotional ride. On the surface, that might be expected, given that the plot revolves around patients at a heroin treatment center, but this throws in some bonus points in that the new patient Ronnie (played fantastically by Stephanie Pearson) was a soldier, and so you have some PTSD action going on.

Not only that, but the main doctor (Hope Quattrocki) had a brother who was also a soldier, and developed addiction problems when he got back, giving her a deeper insight into Ronnie’s situation. The two of them share a fantastically emotional conversation about a third of the way into the movie, and boy, when this movie did something right, they really do it right.

Combining a very well-developed drama with a slasher made sense in the context of the story, but I’m of mixed views on it. On the one hand, I really think this movie would have been stronger had a different direction been taken (not even a non-horror one, just a non-slasher one), but then chances are lower that I’d actually see it, which would have been a shame.

Also, and perhaps I’m being nit-picky, but when the killer is revealed, I wasn’t always overjoyed with their performance. At times, it was really good, emotional even, but others, it felt like the caricature of a psychotic killer, which was a bit disappointing.

Recovery isn’t a film I want to harp on much, though, because I really thought it did something special. It’s true that some of the characters sort of faded into the background, and when they died, it didn’t mean much to me (and I confused Ariella Hader’s character with Andi Rene Christensen’s for a bit, which confused things), but that’s more on me than anything.

If I could have changed one thing, it would have been to give each character a little more time toward the beginning to really get their face and name clarified, which wouldn’t have even been a drag, because there’s not a bad performance in here.

Though it’s been said once, I’ll repeat myself: Stephanie Pearson does fantastic in this. Her character is quite complex, and though I felt pity toward her, I also felt a deep sense of respect. When she was comparing soldier to civilian life, about the lack of a purpose that civilian life boasts that life as a soldier had in spades, I definitely felt for her. She was a strong character, and incredibly memorable and well-acted.

No less impressive was Hope Quattrocki, playing another complex character. At times, I really thought she was going about events the right way (the approach taken by her superior, Mike Starr, seemed much less personal), but you could definitely argue she made some mistakes here (especially superimposing what she knew of her brother’s situation onto another patient simply because both were soldiers). Still, Quattrocki did well throughout, and when talking about her brother with Pearson – again, fantastic.

Others who definitely warrant a positive mention are Liz Fenning and Arielle Hader (who played a very loving couple really well), Mike Starr (when he’s yelling at Quattrocki’s character, you could tell that he felt up against a wall), and Aily Kei. Kei’s best moment may not be until the end, but she was good throughout.

As for the kills, there’s nothing really amazing here, but I did like a quick slice of the Achilles’ tendon (I cringed at that one, and it was well-shot), and there was another scene in which a character got stabbed through the neck. The kills here weren’t much the focal point, but they got done what they had to.

Like I said at the start, Recovery isn’t a perfect movie, and it may not even be that great. Really, the plot itself isn’t all that original; it’s just that the setting and characters made the film a lot more memorable. I know this much, though – despite not being as great as it could have been, Recovery deserves more than a single watch, and I applaud it for what it got right.


The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake (1959)

Four Skulls

Directed by Edward L. Cahn [Other horror films: Creature with the Atom Brain (1955), The She-Creature (1956), Voodoo Woman (1957), Zombies of Mora Tau (1957), Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957), Curse of the Faceless Man (1958), It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958), Invisible Invaders (1959), Beauty and the Beast (1962)]

While perhaps a little hokey, The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake is actually somewhat progressive as far as horror flicks from the late 1950’s go. I noticed this when I first saw it in October of 2017, and reaffirmed it just now, which certainly helps it stand out among a crowded field of peers at the time.

When watching horror films from the 1950’s, it’s easy to forget that not too long after the end of the decade, H.G. Lewis came onto the scene and significantly altered what directors dared to show, all in dazzling color. Here, while still in crisp black-and-white, we happen upon some rather grisly scenes for the time (after-effects of decapitation, sandals made out of human skin, the process of making shrunken heads shown in more detail than anticipated), as though expecting a more violent turn in just four years’ time.

It’s certainly a movie that feels ahead of it’s time, and the unique story (a curse by headhunters on the Drake family due to their actions centuries past), combined with the early gore, really create a pretty fun, if not sometimes hokey, experience.

Most of the cast, at least to me (and I admit I have limited experience with non-horror flicks prior to 1970) are unknowns, but most do a reasonable job. Both protagonists, played by Grant Richards and Valerie French, felt a bit stale at times, but generally were good on screen. Eduard Franz was better, though admittedly, his character didn’t do that much over the course of the film. The antagonists, though, were both enjoyable – Henry Daniell had sort of a cheap, knock-off Lugosi feel to him, but he was always a good presence, and his henchman, played by Paul Wexler, certainly looked good, and the effect of his lips being sewn together was pretty creepy.

Edward L. Cahn is a director I’ve spoken about before (a few of his movies, such as the woeful Curse of the Faceless Man and fantasy-filled Beauty and the Beast are both on the site), and of the movies I’ve seen directed by him, this is one of the best. It! The Terror from Beyond Space and Zombies of Mora Tau may both exceed this one insofar as personal enjoyment is concerned, but this film is still a lot of fun even after multiple viewings.

The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake may not appeal to many horror fans of the more modern tastes, but if you’ve a liking to some of the classics from the 1930’s through mid-1960’s, I’d consider giving this one a go. I think this movie will come as a pleasant surprise.


Ma (2019)


Directed by Tate Taylor [Other horror films: N/A]

Well, Ma isn’t a terrible movie, but I don’t really think it has enough going for it to really stand out. There’s some decent tension at certain points, and I think the ending’s okay, but for the most part, I found the film somewhat lackluster.

As far as positives go, I did like the lead here, being Diana Silvers. She consistently reminded me of someone, and I still can’t quite place it, but she did great in her role, and of the teen characters, she was easily the most memorable. Octavia Spencer was also pretty good as a mentally-unstable middle-aged woman, and boy, she was creepily possessive at times, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say I was blown away by her. Though she had only a few scenes, I also liked seen Allison Janney (The West Wing) here.

Otherwise, the cast was just sorta there. The same can be said for much of the story, to be honest. While aspects were moderately interesting, such as the slight mystery of why Ma was doing what she was doing, more often than not things just went down a generic road with little standing out.

Honestly, I wouldn’t even call the movie necessarily bad. The problem with Ma is that save a few scenes near the conclusion, and some decent performances by the main characters, I don’t see how this is all that memorable. I can’t say I’m really surprised by this (after this movie was released, I pretty much heard nothing about it), but it was certainly disappointing. Not an awful film, but probably still a bit below average, and definitely not memorable in many ways whatsoever.


Ma was covered by Fight Evil’s podcast on episode #25, so you can listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one.

Hellbent (2004)


Directed by Paul Etheredge [Other horror films: Buried Alive (2007)]

When I first saw this, I was pretty impressed with it, especially with it being both a lower-budget slasher, along with being more oriented toward the LGBT community (if I recall, I think I saw this first on LOGO). Even if you’re not gay, though, there’s plenty of fun, albeit relatively mild, to be had here.

Taking place during the West Hollywood Halloween Carnival, the story itself is somewhat thin. A masked man follows and begins to kill off a group of four gay guys with a scythe. It does take about forty or so minutes after the initial kill to really pick up, which gives us some character building, which, given the characters in question are mostly interesting, works out well.

Dylan Fergus is pretty sympathetic as the main character, and has a nice background to him. I felt worse for Hank Harris’ character, though, especially after being turned down by his crush in a club. Harris, on a side-note, seems to be the only actor here who still appears in movies, which is sort of interesting. Lastly, playing the killer (of whom no background is given at all), Kent Bradley James certainly plays the threatening type well.

For the most part, I liked the kills, though, for decapitations, there were a bit light on blood. What probably didn’t help was that at times, the lackluster lighting caused a few scenes to come across as rather dingy. Another slight issue I had was with the utter lack of information on the killer – I liked his physique and style, but we don’t learn a thing about him. I get the appeal, but that always sort of bothered me a bit. Sadly, the last few seconds are pretty laughable also, which is a shame, as the rest of the finale was actually pretty thrilling.

From my understanding, Hellbent isn’t the first gay-themed slasher, but it does seem to be one of the most well-known ones. It certainly adds an interesting twist on what otherwise would be a pretty by-the-numbers slasher. Ultimately, I think it’s just about average, and personally, I don’t know if it has a whole lot of rewatchability. That said, it’s worth at least that first viewing.


Swamp Shark (2011)

Directed by Griff Furst [Other horror films: I Am Omega (2007), Wolvesbayne (2009), 30 Days to Die (2009), Lake Placid 3 (2010), Maskerade (2011), Arachnoquake (2012), Ghost Shark (2013), Ragin Cajun Redneck Gators (2013), Starve (2014), Cold Moon (2016), Trailer Park Shark (2017), Nightmare Shark (2018)]

I first saw this some years back during an October Challenge I took part in. As such, I barely remembered any of the specifics, and the movie came across as new, which is probably a good thing, as overall, aside from a somewhat fun cast, this is the normal, sub-par Syfy fare.

It’s some of the performances here that give the movie’s otherwise stilted story and terrible effects more heart than it should. None of them are names I particularly know, but Kristy Swanson (who was in Deadly Friend back in 1986, along with Flowers in the Attic in 1987), Jeff Chase, and D.B. Sweeney all bring a little something to the table. For eye-candy, you have Ashton Leigh (who was in later Syfy films such as American Horror House, Ozark Sharks, and Mississippi River Sharks) and Sophie Sinise (honestly, she actually does pretty good, so she’s definitely more than just ‘eye-candy’). Jason Rogel’s character doesn’t have the character arc I was hoping for, and as much as I tried, I couldn’t see Robert Davi as anything other than a cheap Tommy Lee Jones clone.

So, as one can see, there’s a lot of performances here that, at the very least, stand-out, which is a good thing, given that every other thing the movie does is somewhat laughable.

Really, it’s the special effects that are the worst, though – just look at the scene where the shark jumps up and rips the guy’s head off. The unfortunate thing is that it was probably one of the few scenes of note in the film. I have to give it to the story writers that they did come up with an interesting way to finally kill off the shark (as ridiculous as it is), but that Jaws-inspired scene, I could have done without. The movie’s titled ‘Swamp Shark,’ for God’s sake, it’s not going to be anywhere near Jaws’ level.

Compared to other Syfy shark films, Swamp Shark might actually be a little better, if only because I sort of had a fun time with the group of characters going shark-hunting, and the whole ‘we have to hunt down this shark to save our restaurant’ theme they had going for it. It’s still a below average film, and although I don’t remember how I felt about this one the first time through, it’s one of those movies that I think’s okay, ultimately, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to find again.


Se7en (1995)


Directed by David Fincher [Other horror films: Alien³ (1992)]

In many ways similar to Silence of the Lambs, Se7en is one of those products of the 90’s that skims the waters of the horror genre. Personally, if it’s not been clear, I have a somewhat liberal view of what should be counted in the genre, and Se7en fits for me. Even if you don’t think it belongs, though, this movie is still a dark and often depressing masterpiece.

Rather moody and atmospheric (and perhaps too dark – the city, which always seemed to be enshrouded in gloom, was a bit much), Se7en has a lot of feeling to it. Once the killer comes forward and gives his reasoning for his actions, I suspect many out there would be sympathetic. The story’s tried and true also, with some solid twists.

An older, more-experienced cop (Morgan Freeman) partnering up with an often abrasive hot-head (Brad Pitt) always leads to some good scenes, and especially given the quality of the two actors in question, and it’s no different here. Freeman’s character is rather interesting, and has a depth to him, and while the same can be said for Pitt’s, Freeman was overall who I found myself consistently more interested in.

The story itself is overly solid also, and never really lets up. Plenty of potentially boring procedural sequences end up captivating due to, as aforementioned, the performances involved. The conclusion is a little shaky for a reason I’ll talk about in a bit, but overall, I don’t have any real complaints about the story here, other than that the city really did seem too grim (I mean, it’s not like this is Gotham).

Freeman and Pitt, who had mostly great performances, aside, there are plenty of others who stand out in this film. Kevin Spacey, who is perhaps one of my favorite modern day actors, does amazing here, with a fantastic calm, collected style and just steals the few scenes he’s in. Gwyneth Paltrow (who I know only from the MCU films) is an enjoyable presence also, though I sort of wish a bit more was done with her. Though small performances, both R. Lee Ermey (Full Metal Jacket and Mississippi Burning) and Richard Schiff (The West Wing) were nice to see also.

As alluded to earlier, I don’t think the movie’s perfect. Again, while I know the movie was going for a gloomy and depressing feel (that ending quote always stuck with me), the city just felt unrealistically bleak, at least in my opinion. Also, while I mostly liked Pitt’s character, the famous sequence at the end doesn’t feel like his best work. The way he screams, ‘What’s in the box?’ just felt almost silly and too over-the-top. It’s a great sequence overall, but his acting on those lines sort of dampens the otherwise dark feel.

On a side-note, I didn’t notice until I began writing this review that I’d seen most of director David Fincher’s movies, favorites of mine including 1997’s The Game, The Social Network, and Gone Girl. Though it’s not particularly relevant here, I do appreciate the versatility of his work.

Se7en is a great crime flick which, while not overly violent, does have enough material in it to maintain the interest of most horror fans. It’s a captivating movie with a great cast and some classic scenes. Kudos to both Kevin Spacey and Morgan Freeman for being the two best performances in the film.


The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Silence of the lamb

Directed by Jonathan Demme [Other horror films: Beloved (1998)]

This is one of those very contested, borderline genre pieces. Personally, I find there enough qualities in this classic to consider it a horror flick, but if you’re one of the many who just don’t see the horror here, that’s understandable too. That discussion aside, The Silence of the Lambs is of course a solid movie, with it’s biggest strengths being the story and great performances.

It’s the combination of Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins that really give this movie life. Hopkins does a great job as Lecter, and despite his moderately short screen-time, he has a presence that really can’t be contested in the film. Playing Buffalo Bill, Ted Levine shows a fantastic, crazy side as opposed to Hopkins’ calmer form of insanity. Other performances worth noting are Scott Glenn (I love his rather straight-laced character here), Anthony Heald (who I saw somewhat recently in the 2006 comedy Accepted), and Frankie Falson (admittedly, he didn’t really do much, or get that much screen-time, but he’s still an actor I appreciate).

When you combine such a stellar cast with a pretty hypnotizing story, only good things can come from that, which I think is clear from the film. Though violence wasn’t much the point, there are a couple of standout sequences, such as Lecter’s breakout, that are well-worth seeing.

Quite often, this is a clever and psychological film, and it’s obviously very well-known, and for good reason. Many probably wouldn’t consider the film horror, but like other well-loved borderline flicks, such as Jaws and Identity, I certainly think it has its place in the genre. A great film with a lot going for it, this is definitely a 90’s film worth seeing, if for some reason you’ve not already.


Ominous (2015)


Directed by Peter Sullivan [Other horror films: Summoned (2013), High School Possession (2014), The Sandman (2017), Cucuy: The Boogeyman (2018)]

I’ll first say that this will be a shorter review than usual – I’ve seen Ominous twice now, and really, it’s not worth extrapolating on. Really, there’s only about one reason to see it, and that’s for a hilariously bad death scene. Everything else had been done before, and ultimately, this made-for-TV flick is just bland and pretty God-awful.

The cast is almost wholly poor. Mark Lindsay Chapman (who played Nick in The Langoliers, a fact I didn’t realize until after the movie finished) was the best of the bunch, and he had a solid, moderately sinister presence. None of the other performances did anything for me. There’s a few interesting names here, such as Barry Watson, who starred in 7th Heaven for quite some time, and Esmé Bianco, who I know mostly as a supporting character from Game of Thrones, but their acting didn’t come close to wowing me here.

A lot of the fault, though, can go to the uninspired plot. I just don’t get why anyone would want to see this film, in which bereft parents make a deal with the devil to raise their recently-deceased son from the dead, only to discover he’s the Antichrist, when they could stick with a classic like The Omen, or even a different take on the story, like the 2017 Little Evil. It’s a bad, low-budget television movie (which really shows in it’s special effects failures), so I just don’t get why anyone would opt into watching this willingly.

Admittedly, I’ve seen it now twice. Luckily, there are a few terrifically horrible scenes that make at least portions of this film bearable. In a classic sequence, a priest gets clobbered over the head by a falling cross, and then set on fire. In another, multiple people die from flying projectiles at a park. And then we have the bird attacks at the end – while slightly better-looking than Birdemic (which isn’t actually praise, believe it or not), the birds were horribly rendered, and it just looked so God-damned awful.

Which, when it comes down to it, is what this movie is. Ominous (which, by the way, is a terribly bland title) just sucks hard. It’s one of those modern-day television flicks which just reeks of pointlessness. As fun as some of the sequences are, it’s definitely not worth it to watch the whole of this film.