Fear Street: 1994 (2021)

Directed by Leigh Janiak [Other horror films: Honeymoon (2014), Fear Street: 1978 (2021), Fear Street: 1666 (2021)]

Released to quite a bit of excitement and hype, I found Fear Street a decent movie. Not great – no doubt it had potential – but pretty good, and I think that it’ll stand out primarily for being one of the biggest supernatural slashers in the last couple of years. I sort of wonder, though, how memorable the film will be years down the line.

The story was pretty solid. Since this is the first movie of a planned trilogy, there were pieces of set-up that weren’t fully touched on (such as the events of Camp Nightwing and C. Berman’s story), but in a case like this, I think that’s fine. I’m not overly fond of the idea of a witch sending out deceased previous killers, as I’m more the down-to-Earth slasher type, but as far as the story is concerned, it made sense, and the killers that popped up (especially the Nightwing camp killer) looked good. Also, the central, Skeleton costumed killer, was quality.

Lead Kiana Madeira (from both The Night Before Halloween and Neverknock) did a fantastic job, from the action sequences to the more emotional moments, and I was surprised how well she worked with Olivia Scott Welch (who also did great). I didn’t really get Julia Rehwald’s character, and for that matter, the same can be said for Fred Hechinger, but both gave perfectly good performances. Benjamin Flores Jr. took a bit to grow on me, but grow on me he did. Ashley Zukerman was a bit on the ehh side, but I think that’s more due his character being a bit of a blank slate as opposed to anything else.

For a movie based off a R.L. Stine series for teens, Fear Street does have pretty solid gore. The opening sequence was a nice portent of things to come, and throughout the film, we get some slit throats, axes to heads, gut stabs, and most impressively, someone has an unfortunate mishap with a bread slicer, to gory effect. That was the goriest kill, to be sure, but I think my favorite would be a slow-motion death near the beginning. The movie doesn’t hit you over the head with gore, of course, but if that is something you look for in a movie, you should have a home here.

To an extent, I do think that it could be said the movie ran on a bit longer than necessary. At an hour and 47 minutes, this isn’t a quick romp through the park, and though it mostly keeps you engaged throughout, and rarely feels as though it’s dragging, I don’t really know if the 107 minute runtime was justified. Luckily, I don’t think it really impacts the film that much.

What has a lot of people happy is the nostalgic feel of the film, since the story takes place in 1994. The music is totally 90’s, which, if you’re a fan of 90’s music, might be a good time. Personally, I could take or leave the soundtrack, but I do think it at least fit the movie. Even ignoring the music, the movie had a style to it, and while some of the quick cuts felt a bit silly, like the music, I thought it went well with the movie.

One thing that I personally liked, and didn’t know beforehand, was how some of the central characters are a lesbian couple. Given the Fear Street books are from the 1990’s, they feature as heteronormative a cast as you could possibly imagine, so the fact that we get a same-sex relationship, and not only that, but a believeably-flawed one, was a nice touch, and something I appreciated, and I can imagine plenty of others will appreciate also.

There are points toward the second half of the film where I’m not entirely sure where things are going, or a bit worried about how they’d finish the story off, especially with a few different moments where it seems the story might end at, but I’m generally happy with the conclusion. At the very least, the next Fear Street movies will pick up some of the unanswered questions, so I think it’ll likely end up satisfactory.

I wouldn’t say that Fear Street is a great movie. I did have a reasonable amount of fun with it (though small things, such as the amount of information shoved into those opening credits, sort of bug me), and I thought the characters, even the ones I didn’t really get, were solid. Like I suggested earlier, I’m not entirely sure that this movie will end up being that memorable in the coming years, but it worked a decent amount this time around, and hopefully the sequels will make things even better.

7.5/10

The Fly (1958)

Directed by Kurt Neumann [Other horror films: Secret of the Blue Room (1933), She Devil (1957), Kronos (1957)]

Filmed in glorious color that, for 1958, looks damn good, The Fly is a classic piece of science-fiction horror. Personally, I like most things about it, and it always warrants a watch when the movie comes on. With a great cast, interesting and engaging story, along with a very solid reveal that possibly even rivals the 1925 classic The Phantom of the Opera, The Fly is a movie that’s recommended to all fans of the classics.

The cast here is moderately small but all the better for it. Patricia Owens did most commendably in her role, and you really feel the emotional upheaval she’s going through. At times, her hysterics do become a bit much, but unfortunately for this era, there’s not really much she could have done. David Hedison’s performance too was fantastic, and he’s perhaps one of my favorite versions of a work-obsessed scientist.

Though his role isn’t quite a big as the name would imply, it’s always great to see Vincent Prince in an early horror appearance (certainly some movies, such as The Invisible Man Returns, House of Wax, and The Mad Magician predate it). Price’s character is also solidly sympathetic, and especially toward the end, when with Herbert Marshall’s character, you really get some feeling from the both of them.

Another thing that I adore about this film is the presentation and set-up. We get thirty minutes of story before we finally get the extended flashback that tells us how the actions at the beginning of the movie occurred and make sense. Invasion of the Body Snatchers from two years previously did the same thing, as certainly did The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, but neither one had a thirty-minute beginning before jumping into the flashback, which is something I always forget when I saw this as a kid, but thought was sort of nifty when I see it now.

On a related note, the fact that this movie’s in color really solidifies the opening scene as pretty graphic, especially with that blood splatter. This is the late 1950’s, about six years before H.G. Lewis would craft Blood Feast, so even though it’s not that much in comparison to later works, it really stands out in color. Also, speaking of gruesome, that final scene, while somewhat memorable for it’s hokey feel, was pretty terrifying. I know it looked, for lack of a better word, somewhat bad, but still, the implication was certainly depressing.

This is rightfully a classic, and like I said, it’s always worth a watch, and perhaps the best movie featuring a fly ever.

8.5/10

The Crooked Man (2016)

Directed by Jesse Holland [Other horror films: YellowBrickRoad (2010), Chilling Visions: 5 Senses of Fear (2013, segment ‘Listen’), We Go On (2016)]

Well, it’s not Syfy’s worst movie in the last five years, but it’s certainly not their best. Honestly, The Crooked Man is almost decent, and I like some aspects about it, but I’d rank it between the rather forgettable Karma and the decent-yet-flawed Stickman.

The origin of the Crooked Man is fine, but nothing special (given this is a Syfy original, I doubt that would come as much a surprise). It’s the design that I thought was more interesting. The hat is whatever, but the way the creature sort of glitches in and out, like some sort of corrupted computer program, was unique. It didn’t always look good, but it was passable, more so than most of the other special effects from the film.

My biggest issue here is that the kills were pathetic across the board. There was one solid scene of a character getting their head ripped off, but otherwise, I wasn’t impressed at all with the direction the kills went in, which ranged from broken bones to falling out of a window onto a car (which also includes some broken bones, now that I think of it) to being strangled. Just very little there to do anything for me.

Performance-wise, again, the movie’s passable. I find it laughable that Michael Jai White is on the cover of this movie, yet appears maybe a total of seven minutes in the film (and none of it is all that noteworthy), but Angelique Rivera and Cameron Jebo made an almost-acceptable couple. Rivera was pretty cute, and Jebo got a few funny lines in, so despite some character faults, I generally liked the pair. Though she didn’t appear a whole lot (though still more than White), Reilly Brooke Stith was decent also.

Overall, though, The Crooked Man is just barely decent. Like I said, it’s not near as forgettable as Syfy’s Karma, nor near as terrible as Dead in the Water. But it’s not even close to being as good as Neverknock or House of the Witch, and even a below average movie like Stickman beats it out. The Crooked Man isn’t that good, and some issues with the ending come into play. For a Syfy movie, you certainly could do much worse, but overall, I’d only go out of my way to see this once.

6/10

The Haunting (1963)

Directed by Robert Wise [Other horror films: The Curse of the Cat People (1944), The Body Snatcher (1945), The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), Audrey Rose (1977)]

This is a classic I’ve seen only once before, and while I appreciated it, I didn’t particularly love it, and the same can be said with a rewatch.

What the movies does well is instill a strong feeling of paranoia into the viewer, and some of the camera views match the atmosphere with a very frantic style. Related, the atmosphere here is solidly dense, and especially toward the end, things get ratcheted up and the spiral staircase sequence – talk about intense.

My issue is that, as the movie’s almost two hours long, and much of the first hour-and-a-half is composed of character-building and somewhat annoying arguments between the women, I find myself somewhat disengaged. The story’s great, and the opening’s amazing (‘Whatever walked in Hill House, walked alone,’ followed by a charming history of the domicile), but the movie as a whole? It doesn’t cut it for me.

This shouldn’t take away anything from Julie Harris’ performance, which is fantastic, and toward the end, she really comes across as unhinged, so kudos there. I do think that some of her first-person narration got a bit hokey, but I suppose that’s part of the charm. Claire Bloom’s character started out decent, but boy, does her personality really grate on me at times. Also, and this may just be me, but I was getting somewhat lesbian vibes from her, which, if intended, adds a somewhat cool little subplot and extra reason for her character’s annoyance at Richard Johnson (who was decent, but not a stand-out).

As decent as parts of this movie are, it’s not a movie I could see myself watching that many times in a given five-year range. Once is probably enough, and while it’s possible that my appreciation of this one will grow with my age, for the time being, I’d still call it a classic, and a good movie, but not really a great one.

7/10

The Greasy Strangler (2016)

Directed by Jim Hosking [Other horror films: ABCs of Death 2 (2014, segment ‘G is for Grandad’)]

I saw Triloquist recently, and gave it the low, low rating of 0/10, but there are gradients in atrocity, as I hated this even more.

Everything I hate about this film is intentional, from the terrible dialogue (it’s stilted, sure, but the dialogue, even ignoring delivery, is utterly cringe-inducing) to the really stupid chants (be it ‘free drinks’ or ‘disco cutie’), from the characters, and just everything.

I get that some people like this humor, and the movie boasts over a 5/10 on IMDb, but I don’t see it at all. To be honest, I don’t want to dwell on this, or think about it any more than I have to. Triloquist was a bad film, in my opinion, but this was even worse, and entirely void of enjoyable content.

Sorry, but that’s all I want to say about this waste of time.

0/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. Chucky (@ChuckyFE) enjoyed this one – I didn’t. Check the conversation out for a fun time.

Satan’s Little Helper (2004)

Directed by Jeff Lieberman [Other horror films: Squirm (1976), Blue Sunshine (1977), Doctor Franken (1980), Just Before Dawn (1981)]

A mostly enjoyable addition to the genre, I will admit to being surprised by just how much I enjoyed a decent amount of this film. I do tend to think the movie runs on longer than it really needs to (there’s about an hour before we really get to the meat and potatoes of the story), but it still something I’d generally recommend regardless.

There’s not many performances in this film, so it’s a good thing that those involved did a pretty solid job. While it’s true that Alexander Brickel’s naive-kid act gets sort of old, he’s also quite young, so I won’t hold that against him. Stronger are Amanda Plummer and Katheryn Winnick, both of whom are really enjoyable to behold.

I really liked Plummer’s character of the mother, who was offbeat and always fun. Every other line she came up with was at least partially funny, and overall, were it not for Winnick, I’d say she was the best here. Winnick, though, stole my heart, as she put in a fantastic performance as well as showed the goods while still maintaining some modesty. In her Renaissance maid costume, she was a cool customer, and a very attractive lady.

Satan’s Little Helper wasn’t focused on gore or creative kills, but occasionally some would pop up, such as a somewhat surprising scene toward the end of the movie. We did see some entrails ripped out, so while they looked quite, quite fake, that’s still something, right?

Another thing I wanted to bring up was the design of the killer. He changes costumes a few times, but the main design he had was fun. It was obviously a costume, but at the same time, it made sense in the context of the story, and despite being somewhat silly-looking at times, I really did think it was effective.

Two small notes before I get to the main issue I had with Satan’s Little Helper. One, that game that sort of started this whole thing looked like perhaps the worst game ever made (intentionally, I’m sure), and two, that cat death was almost needlessly brutal, but then again, this is Satan we’re talking about.

Like I said at the beginning of this, I think the main flaw this film has is that it runs on a bit long. I can’t say for sure what should have been cut, but at an hour and forty minutes, I think they could have found something. I just know that while I was engaged through the end, there were times when I was wondering just how much longer the movie had.

That’s a small criticism in the scheme of things, though. Satan’s Little Helper isn’t my favorite comedy/horror mix from even 2004 (Broken Lizard’s Club Dread, along with the classic Shaun of the Dead, both came out the same year), but it is a fun movie that may be worth throwing into your Halloween collection.

7.5/10

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

The Children (2008)

Directed by Tom Shankland [Other horror films: w Delta z (2007)]

I forget exactly when I first saw this British addition to the killer kid sub-genre, but I suspect it was during an October sometime between four to seven years ago. From my vague recollection, I didn’t much care for this one, and seeing it again with fresh eyes, I hate to agree with that earlier assessment. The Children may not be a bad film, but it’s certainly not as good as many seem to think, and I genuinely find the movie unremarkable with a hint of frustration.

Make that a lot of frustration, actually. Maybe this is simply because I’m not a parent, but if someone is trying to stab you, you have every right to defend yourself, no matter if the assailant is a kid or not. Yet the parents here wore blinders when it came to the fact that their children weren’t just a little dangerous, but fatally so. It took a teenage girl (played fantastically by Hannah Tointon) to do most of the work, and what does she get out of it? Nothing but hatred and physical pain from the others.

She’s not entirely the perfect character though, either, especially toward the end. I’ll just say this so I don’t give too much away: STAY THE HELL IN THE CAR AND DRIVE BY, YOU IDIOT!!

Now that I have that out of my system, I can briefly try to explain why I didn’t care for this one. Partially, it has to do with the fact that both times I’ve seen The Children, I can never tell the children apart, and thus, I don’t know who’s who’s kid, and it just loses me with names of kids that I sure as hell aren’t going to remember. In all fairness, it was better this time around, but still, I didn’t love any of the characters aside from the teen played by Tointon, which hurt.

None of this is to say that Stephen Campbell Moore, Jeremy Sheffield, Rachel Shelley, or Eva Birthistle put in bad performances, but I pretty much thought all of their characters, save Sheffield’s, were terrible. It’s probably a good performance that made me dislike their characters so, but either way, the only one here I really liked was Tointon’s character (who looked smoking in that unseasonably drafty short skirt, if I may say so).

This reminds me of one thing I did rather like about the movie, being it’s setting. It takes place in a decently-sized house in the country during winter, with a bit of snowfall toward the end, which looked pretty cool. It’s just a shame the story they came up with (and ‘twist’ to follow, if you want to call it that) wasn’t great.

Was the gore okay? Reasonably, when the movie deigned to go in that direction. At the same time, while it was nice finally seeing kids meet the grisly end they’re so often denied in horror films, I don’t know if anything here was particularly memorable, problematically. There was potential during a few scenes (the kids had plenty of sharp instruments at their disposal), but it never quite got there.

I can’t exactly pinpoint why I don’t like this one more. It’s not like I think the movie’s terrible, but I definitely find it underwhelming despite some decent tension of Tointon’s performance. When it comes to killer kid movies, I’d go as far as to recommend Peopletoys, also known as Devil Times Five or (get this atrocious reissue title) The Horrible House on the Hill over The Children, or even Mikey, or hell, even The Good Son. But this British movie isn’t one I enjoyed either time I’ve seen it, and though it really feels like it should be better, it’s a consistently disappointing film.

4/10

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

Scream 2 (1997)

Directed by Wes Craven [Other horror films: The Last House on the Left (1972), The Hills Have Eyes (1977), Stranger in Our House (1978), Deadly Blessing (1981), Swamp Thing (1982), Invitation to Hell (1984), The Hills Have Eyes Part II (1984), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Chiller (1985), Deadly Friend (1986), The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), Shocker (1989), The People Under the Stairs (1991), New Nightmare (1994), Vampire in Brooklyn (1995), Scream (1996), Scream 3 (2000), Cursed (2005), My Soul to Take (2010), Scream 4 (2011)]

I think most people agree that this sequel isn’t anywhere near as good as the first movie, and I concur. I thought Scream 2 started out well, began to move a bit more toward a generic direction, but then bounced back up again toward the last hour. I think there’s some things to really like here, but ultimately, I feel the movie definitely hovers around average.

We have plenty of returning characters, such as Sidney (Neve Campbell), Randy (Jamie Kennedy), Dewey (David Arquette), Gale (Courtney Cox), and Cotton (Liev Schreiber), in a very much expanded role, so we have a great feel of continuity. I do wish that Dewey’s sister, who was killed in the first movie, was mentioned more than once here, but it seems she’s mostly forgotten, which is a shame.

Campbell, of course, does a great job, and Kennedy too did really well, especially during the rather tense phone-call scene. Dewey and Gale were decent, and I did like a rather brutal attack on Dewey near the end, but I’ve never loved Gale’s character, even with her being a bit more understanding. As for Cotton’s return, it makes sense in the context of the story, and I like how the film ends, with Sidney giving him more limelight. Also, on a small note, I liked seeing Omar Epps (most well-known for his long-lasting role on House) in the opening.

The fun thing about Scream 2 is the large amount of potential killers. Up to a point, who couldn’t think that Randy was involved, or Hallie (Elise Neal)? I suspect most people think that Dewey’s in the clear, but Gale, or her camera-man, Joel (Duane Martin), who disappeared at a rather convenient time? Even the drama professor Gus Gold (David Warner of The Omen and Nightwing fame) seemed suspicious, which is where a lot of the fun comes from. Who’s the killer, or are there multiple killers? Let the guessing begin.

As it turns out, I wasn’t overly satisfied with the answer to that question come the end. I understand the thought process behind the killer’s actions, but I just don’t think it’s nearly as memorable as the first movie’s finale was, not by a long-shot, which isn’t really surprising, but it was somewhat disappointing. On a side-note, when the killer first revealed her/himself, I entirely forgot who the character was, which made it lack some punch.

The opening of this film, which takes place during a showing of the movie Stab (which is based off the events of the first Scream) cements this series as one with a particularly meta feeling, from the argument in film class about sequels and their comparison with the originals to the argument that the violence in movies causes people to commit violence in real life (‘The Christian Coalition will pay for my legal fees’). Scream 2 has a great meta feeling going for it, and of course, even one of the characters sprouts off an impressive list of slashers while taunting the killer, such as The House on Sorority Row, The Dorm That Dripped Blood, Splatter University, Graduation Day, and Final Exam. I always love a character that knows his slashers.

Some great sequences are in the film, from the fun opening to the great killing in the middle of the movie, not to mention the tense car scene near the end, nor the enjoyable Ghostface chasing Gale and Dewey in the college. These scenes may not quite be able to match the glory of the first movie, but that scene with Randy might stand up pretty well.

I don’t think Scream 2 is as good as the first, nor is it even that close. You have a few silly scenes, such as that guy singing to Sidney while standing on the lunch tables, but overall, I do think Scream 2 is decent. It’s been so long since I’ve last seen it, by the way, that I actually forgot who the killer ultimately was, so it did make a film a bit more fun as a rewatch than usual. If you enjoyed the first Scream, I think you’d probably enjoy this, but it’s just not near as good.

7/10

Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008)

Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman [Other horror films: Saw II (2005), Saw III (2006), Saw IV (2007), Mother’s Day (2010), 11-11-11 (2011), The Devil’s Carnival (2012), The Barrens (2012), Angelus (2014), Tales of Halloween (2015, segment ‘The Night Billy Raised Hell’), Alleluia! The Devil’s Carnival (2016), Abattoir (2016), St. Agatha (2018), Death of Me (2020), Spiral: From the Book of Saw (2021)]

So I’ve seen this about three times, and it’s still not really my go-to when it comes to horror musicals. The style is something I don’t care too much for, and some of it’s just a bit too slapstick for me, but at the same time, I do think it’s a movie worth experiencing at least once.

A big issue I have with Repo! The Genetic Opera is that I don’t really care for many of the songs. Many are in a very industrial style, and one’s randomly an Avril Lavigne-inspired punk song. Still, there are some I rather enjoy, such as ’21st Century Cure,’ ‘Genetic Repo Man,’ ‘Inopportune Phone Call,’ ‘Zydrate Anatomy,’ ‘Chase the Morning’ (my favorite song by far), ‘Let the Monster Rise,’ ‘I Didn’t Know I Loved You So Much,’ and ‘Epitaph’. That may seem like a lot of songs, but there were quite a few that I didn’t enjoy at all. Part of it was how half of the songs were more spoken than sung, such as ‘Shilo Wake,’ which I just found awkward.

The cast here, though, is pretty solid, save for some characters I didn’t care for. Alexa Vega (who I know best from Spy Kids, a series I watched when I was a kid) did very well with her character, and her songs with her father, played by Anthony Head, were highlights of the film (especially ‘I Didn’t Know I Loved You So Much’). Head was amazing, his tragic back-story was on point, and the two sides of his personality were fantastic.

Terrance Zdunich cracked me up with his ‘GRAAVVVEEESSS’ line from ’21st Century Cure,’ and I also really liked his style in ‘Zydrate Anatomy’ (some mighty fine print). I sort of wish his character was more involved in the plot, but he was fun regardless. Another solid casting choice was Paul Sorvino as the main antagonist, Rotti, who didn’t have any standout songs, but had a great character. Sarah Brightman’s last scene was great, as was her portion of ‘Chase the Morning,’ but her character wasn’t really on my radar most of time.

What bothered me most insofar as the cast was concerned were Rotti’s three children, played by Paris Hilton, Bill Moseley, and Kevin ‘ohGr’ Ogilvie. Technically, the acting was fine, but I really didn’t like the over-the-top nature of these three, especially Moseley. Otherwise, like I said, the cast is fine, but boy, these characters just got on my nerves.

Obviously, what with the repossession of organs being prevalent to the plot, there’s some decent gore here, but much of it is more for slapstick value than it is shock. It’s done decently well, and though not often the focus, does occasionally stand out, especially in a scene toward the end regarding eyes and an iron fence.

Having seen this musical multiple times, it’s still not something I find myself enjoying as much as I wish I could. Some songs are great, but others are just sort of there, and that combined with some ridiculous characters really brings this down. If musical horror is something you’re interested in (and there’s not many other choices save Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street), I’d give this a look, but you may not be blown away.

6.5/10

Another Son of Sam (1977)

Directed by Dave Adams [Other horror films: N/A]

What a poor, poor film. Sometimes called a proto-slasher, I was expecting quite a bit more from this, but I got oh so little.

The cinematography here is whack, and I mean whack. Some freeze-frames with dialogue of a different scene running (seemed to be a delay, or something), some slow-motion, rather inept editing that makes a few scenes difficult to really get a handle on. Pretty much everything about Another Son of Sam screams amateurish.

It’s also dull, which is in large part due to the procedural route this movie went past a certain point. The last forty minutes or so are spent in a dormitory (that looks nothing at all like a dormitory), and nothing very interesting happens. Nothing interested happened before, so it wasn’t a big loss, but even so, it’s just disappointing that a psychopathic serial killer can take down half a SWAT team and it’s still boring.

I’ll give a little props for a few cute girls (didn’t catch their names, but one might be Bonnie Schrier) and one solid scene of the killer’s hand coming up from beneath the bed of an unsuspecting victim. It was almost creepy, which is more than what I can say about anything else in the film.

Easily, I could see this movie, rough as it is, making it’s rounds in drive-in theaters toward the end of the 1970’s, and it may have even entertained some people. It does possess proto-slasher elements, and though very little is executed well, there’s a little here. It doesn’t matter, though, because Another Son of Sam has very little going for it. It’s not even a particularly gritty or gory film – it’s just dull, and certainly not worth another watch. It was barely worth the first watch, and I can’t, in good conscience, recommend it.

3/10