Werewolves on Wheels (1971)

Directed by Michel Levesque [Other horror films: N/A]

Werewolves on Wheels? Sounds like a fun time. Instead, this is an ultimately dull and really forgettable experience with very little going for it.

And I do mean little. Most of the movie is tedious bike-riding or just the bikers chilling, not doing much of anything aside from arguing about the validity of tarot cards. The werewolf attacks are fine, but there’s only two in the first hour and ten minutes, and the ending, which certainly increases the death toll, is virtually incomprehensible.

What hurts Werewolves on Wheels most is that none of the characters, and I mean none of them, are memorable in any way. I didn’t feel anything for any one of them, aside from Donna Anders, who had a nude scene with the Satanic monks (not as exciting as it sounds, I’m afraid to report).

I’m not saying that Werewolves on Wheels didn’t have potential, because, I mean, it’s called Werewolves on Wheels. But for most of the film the story dragged something awful, and there’s very little here that’s worth remembering or seeing the movie again for.

4/10

Dark Skies (2013)

Directed by Scott Stewart [Other horror films: Legion (2010), Priest (2011), Holidays (2016, segment ‘Christmas’)]

I knew next to nothing about Dark Skies before starting it, and that probably worked in it’s benefit. For much of the film, it’s a slow-burn, and though I saw the ending coming a mile away, I do like the way this movie approached the finale.

The main family cast were all decent. Josh Hamiliton (who I swear I must recognize from a miniseries he was in called The ‘60’s) was my favorite, but Keri Russell (who played his wife) was great too. The two kids, Dakata Goyo and Kadan Rockett, were as okay as young actors are, and though neither were great, I had no issues with them.

It’s the story more than the performances that’s of interest here, what with a lot of mysterious things going on around the house and no one in the family has any idea what’s going on, giving the movie a very Poltergeist-like feel (including a similar kitchen scene, now that I mention it). It’s a slow-burn, yes, but it’s interesting in the moment and worth the wait, so everything worked out well.

Dark Skies is a movie that I think works best without preconceptions. I knew one thing about this movie going in, and that shaped a lot of the thoughts I had about how the film would progress, but I was entirely wrong (which was amusingly somewhat lampshaded by J.K. Simmons’ character in the movie). Once I knew where this was going, I was both surprised and impressed, which pretty much covers my feelings on this one. Certainly a movie worth checking out if you’ve passed over it in the past.

8.5/10

The Unknown (1927)

Directed by Tod Browning [Other horror films: London After Midnight (1927), Dracula (1931), Freaks (1932), Mark of the Vampire (1935), The Devil-Doll (1936)]

The Unknown is one of those silent classics that often gets labeled horror when in reality, I feel that’s a harder case to make. I see enough horror here to keep referring to this as such, but it’s definitely much lighter on outright horror than many other silent horror films at the time were.

Plot-wise, it’s a somewhat interesting love story, and of course Lon Chaney has a fantastically expressive face, but aside from the somewhat thrilling conclusion, I don’t think The Unknown necessarily has a whole lot going for it. I mean, of course, there’s a pretty nice psychological feeling here, and there’s a few scenes that are pretty good, but at only 50 minutes, I don’t know it this has ever made an amazing impression on me.

I’ve seen The Unknown quite a few times, and it’s probably one of the silent horror movies I’ve seen the most (the short runtime being one possible reason), but it’s never been one that blew me away. It’s above average, without a doubt (if only because of the strong performances of both Chaney and Joan Crawford), but when it comes to silent horror, I want a bit more than what The Unknown has to offer, and this is far from my go-to, and farther from my recommendations to those delving into silent horror cinema.

7.5/10

Pet Sematary (1989)

Directed by Mary Lambert [Other horror films: Pet Sematary II (1992), Strange Frequency (2001), Urban Legends: Bloody Mary (2005), The Attic (2007), Mega Python vs. Gatoroid (2011)]

I first saw this film before reading the book, so I couldn’t really judge it much against the source material. It didn’t really matter, because I didn’t care much for it, but when I read the book and discovered I didn’t care much for that either, I was interested in seeing this again. And guess what? While I admit it follows the novel pretty close, I still don’t feel much an affinity toward it.

Why is that? Well, I found the book well-written (as is mostly anything of King’s, even the stuff I didn’t like), but the story itself wasn’t really doing it for me at all. Jud was an interesting character, as he is here, but that’s not enough, and some cool imagery (such as the graveyard and the burial ground) don’t make up for that.

The main performances (Dale Midkiff, Fred Gwynne, and Denise Crosby) were all fine, but if the story’s not interesting to me, then I’m not biting. Perhaps the coolest aspects of the book (being the history of the burial ground which Jud delves into, along with the story of Baterman) are really neutered, and the tall shape Louis sees while walking to the burial ground in the book, along with the accompanying insanity, is nowhere to be seen.

At least the ending was moderately unchanged, but I still think the novel did it better, ending on a more open-ended note than did the movie. Another small thing that bothered me was Pascow’s character. At first, it’s fine, but he keeps popping up with the wife near the end, and it bordered on comedic, which really didn’t fit the dark themes of the movie.

I’m not a fan of this movie, I don’t think it’s horrible, but both before and after reading the novel, it does little for me (and to be fair, the same can be said for the novel), and that’s problematic. I know that many out there enjoy this, but Pet Sematary doesn’t work for me.

5/10

The Black Scorpion (1957)

Directed by Edward Ludwig [Other horror films: N/A]

The last time I saw The Black Scorpion, I thought it was a bit below average, so seeing it again with fresh eyes, I have to admit that I had no idea what I was thinking. It’s not that this film is utterly amazing, and I don’t care that much for the final 15 minutes or so, but for much of the movie, I thought it was a very effective and occasionally suspenseful creature feature.

Richard Denning, Carlos Rivas, and Mara Corday all did well, but I don’t really think any of them were spectacular, especially trapped within the generic 50’s character roles. I did like Rivas’ character quite a bit, but of course the female protagonist fell for the white guy instead.

Special effects in The Black Scorpion were mostly well done. The scorpions looked mostly fantastic (until there was a close-up on it’s face, in which case they looked goofy), and the cave sequence was very solid (which included the best scene in the film, being a tense rope sequence), so there weren’t many issues there.

I think that The Black Scorpion is mostly solid with some decent sequences, such as the aforementioned rope scene, along with the the train derailment. I won’t say that it’s amazing, but I had a lot more fun with this and the initial mystery of the deaths than I did when I first saw it.

7.5/10

They Found Hell (2015)

Directed by Nick Lyon [Other horror films: Species: The Awakening (2007), Zombie Apocalypse (2011), Rise of the Zombies (2012), Foreclosed (2013), Bermuda Tentacles (2014), Isle of the Dead (2016)]

Sometimes Syfy gets it right. It happened on such occasions as Neverknock, House of Bones, and a few other occasions. I can’t say this is quite as good, but it was a very solidly made film, though ultimately, I think it’s around average.

The story here is somewhat interesting. A teleportation experiment goes awry, and a bunch of college kids gets trapped in a Hellish dimension, and do their best to survive. The dimension in question is solidly creepy, with a bunch of decently spooky imagery (from a multitude of dead and disfigured bodies to hanging suicide victims to forest and jungle areas, etc.), and I found myself interested in learning more about this place.

The cast isn’t great, but a few solid performances stood out, such as Katy Reece, Kabby Borders, Chris Schellenger, Mirela Burke (who was quite cute here), and James Sobol Kelly. I expected Kelly’s character to matter more, but I’m happy with the restrained route they took. Also, two attractive young women, Katy Reese and Mirela Burke, made out, and that bumped the score a whole point. Hubba hubba.

They Found Hell isn’t amazing, and I don’t want to mislead anyone into thinking it is. While the environments in the Hellish dimension are mostly solid, I didn’t like what they did with Hunter Canedy’s character, and the CGI for the creatures (such as the Hellhounds and the Flying Demons, or whatever they are) is about as bad as Syfy often does. Also, and this might just be me, but that opening seemed really odd, and almost disconnected from the rest of the story in a laughable way.

Still, I found this one a lot more palatable than I do many Syfy movies, and I can easily imagine giving this another watch.

7.5/10

6-Headed Shark Attack (2018)

Directed by Mark Atkins [Other horror films: Evil Eyes (2004), Halloween Night (2006), Haunting of Winchester House (2009), Sand Sharks (2012), Alien Origin (2012), Knight of the Dead (2013), A Perfect Vacation (2015), Planet of the Sharks (2016), Empire of the Sharks (2017)]

I think that this is probably the second-worst entry into the [Insert random number here]-Headed Shark series, which is a shame, because as the second film (3-Headed Shark Attack) showed, these movies could almost get sort of close to okay. Here, though, there was little to really watch for.

Are some of the characters okay? Not really. Pretty much, every character here is either generic or disappointingly portrayed. The hippie couple (Chris Fisher and Megan Oberholzer) could have been great, but like everyone else, they just got on my nerves. The one outlier was Jonathan Pienaar, who was so serious (yet over-the-top), he cracked me up. And Nikita Faber was quite attractive, so there’s that.

Also, did you know sharks could walk? Well, they can if they have six heads, because four of the heads can be used as legs, because that works well. The CGI looks great, guys, I promise.

I really don’t know why Syfy bothers with these types of films, but then again, I watched all four of the movies (if they make another one, though, I can’t promise I’ll see it), so what do I know? Pretty pitiful, and were it not for a few okay characters or small bikinis, this wouldn’t be getting the already bad score it is.

3/10

Haunted High (2012)

Directed by Jeffery Scott Lando [Other horror films: Savage Island (2004), Insecticidal (2005), Alien Incursion (2006), Decoys 2: Alien Seduction (2007), House of Bones (2010), Thirst (2010), Goblin (2010), Boogeyman (2012), Roboshark (2015), Suspension (2015)]

I saw this one once before shortly after it came out, back in October of 2012. As is the case with many Syfy movies, I thought it was rather awful. Seeing it again with a larger frame of reference though (American Horror House came out the same year, for example, and was quite a bit worse than this one), I can accept that while rather poor, I did gleam some amusement from this.

Let’s be honest here: the special effects are almost uniformly terrible, the antagonist is pretty awful (though M.C. Gainey is at least having fun), and it fails on most levels, but with at least some of the corniness and characters, it’s possible to have a fun time.

Most of the acting is about as iffy as you might expect. I certainly liked a few of the actors and actresses here, such as Lauren Pennington, Shawn C. Phillips (who has appeared in many a low-budget horror film), Jonathan Baron, Marc Donato, Danielle Greenup (who also stood out as the most attractive cast-member, in my view), and M.C. Gainey (who was hamming it up at every opportunity, which is a move I don’t think makes sense character-wise, but after reading the script, I can see why Gainey went that way).

The elephant in the room is Danny Trejo, who plays the janitor of this private school, and also knows all about the sinister and Satanic acts going on. Because of course he does. That’s how Trejo do – his character is often just important enough for him to get top billing, and it worked again. Do I have anything against Trejo’s performance here? Not at all. But seeing Trejo pop-up in ridiculous low-budget movies, be it this, 3-Headed Shark Attack, or On Bloody Sunday, just rubs me the wrong way. It doesn’t help that his story here is perhaps the most generic aspect of the movie.

Haunted High, known also as Ghostquake (which I regret to inform you is a term dropped in the movie at one point) is a terrible film, but like some other terrible films, such as the Satan’s School for Girls remake, it can be sort of fun. This is nowhere near as good as Satan’s School for Girls, no matter how much Gainey tries, but I did like it more this time around than when I first saw it, so hey, I guess that counts for something.

6/10

The Couch (1962)

Directed by Owen Crump [Other horror films: N/A]

This is a pretty unassuming movie, and I can sort of see why I’ve never heard of this one before (aside from the fact that some refer to it as just a thriller), but it’s a relatively tight story, some solid suspense, and comes across as something of a rough gem. Before I go on, if you’re into 60’s horror and haven’t seen this, I’d recommend checking it out.

From the get-go, we know the killer is Grant Williams, and the film is really a psychological probe into his mental state (plot twist: he’s not particularly the picture of mental health), which is pretty fun, because his physique isn’t really what you’d expect. His killing style, a quick jab with an ice pick, is fun to watch. Just an average guy killing a random person in a crowded area, and you can see why he’d get away with it.

Williams here is great. I don’t really know him, but based off this performance, he might have been able to give a good Norman Bates performance a few years prior in Psycho. The others here, including Shirley Knight, Onslow Stevens, and William Leslie, all do well, but this is really the Grant Williams show, which worked fine for me.

As far as mentally unstable characters go, the one Williams plays is pretty fantastic. He’s completely detached from reality at times, and toward the end, he gives us a really stellar conclusion, and as I mentioned, pretty tense at times also.

Any black-and-white thriller/horror dealing with a psychopath made in the immediate years following Psycho would have a harder time gaining traction, but I’d still recommend giving this one a look. Sure, some aspects are rough, such as occasional camera-work, but The Couch was still a mostly solid film, and I’m glad I took the time with it.

7.5/10

Identity (2003)

Directed by James Mangold [Other horror films: N/A]

This mystery/horror film has been a favorite of mine since I first saw it. The story’s great, with many decent performances, and the twists and turns here are just fantastic. Identity’s a pretty popular film, but if you’ve not seen, I’d do yourself a favor and give it a view.

Performance-wise, there’s little to nothing to really complain about. John Cusack is great, as are Amanda Peet, Clea DuVall (who was in some films, horror and non-horror, I enjoy, such as 2001’s How to Make a Monster and 2007’s Ten Inch Hero), Pruitt Taylor Vince (The Devil’s Candy), John C. McGinley (who played an entirely different type of character in The Belko Experiment), Holmes Osborne, Alfred Molina, and Ray Liotta (Hannibal). Liotta’s character has a twist up his sleeves, and while I sometimes think Liotta overacts, but he’s still solid.

It’s the twists and turns Identity takes that really makes it memorable. I remembered a couple of them, but even though I’ve seen it before, there were still a few surprises for me. It helps that the characters here, while not all likable, are all somewhat interesting, and we’re drawn into the mystery just as much as they are.

As far as the deaths go, there’s nothing really amazing, which I think can be excused as the story’s focused far more on the mystery than any other aspect. There are a few somewhat shocking deaths, though, so don’t think there’s nothing here to interest you if that’s your main point of interest.

Identity’s a movie I don’t really have any complaints with. The whole premise might sound generic (a killer knocking off people at a motel), but it’s done brilliantly, and is very much worth a watch, and with as popular as the film is, maybe you’ve already seen that to be true.

9/10