Ghostwatch (1992)

Ghostwatch

Directed by Lesley Manning [Other horror films: N/A]

This British entry to ghost films is immensely creative and enjoyable. First airing on BBC1 on Halloween, 1992, Ghostwatch is shown as a “live” television special about examining the supernatural, hosted by long-time broadcaster Michael Parkinson.

Throughout the event, he speaks to callers, guests who both believe and disbelieve in the supernatural, and learns about the supposedly supernatural happenings at a house in northern London, a live investigation (led by real UK television personality Sarah Greene). Even now, in 2017, it’s an immersive experience, unlike almost any other movie I’ve seen. It feels real, in short.

And I can only imagine, back during the Halloween of 1992, it felt real to the viewers too. Such was the furor and fright of the reactions that BBC actually placed a ten-year ban on the program before it could be aired again. And the film still holds up today.

When I first saw it, during one of the October Challenges of year’s past, I rather loved it, and it stood out easily. Luckily, a re-watch doesn’t dull the immersive sense of the film. A movie I totally recommend, and one of the highlights of the 1990’s. Lastly, kudos to Michael Parkinson – he did immensely well here, and I see why his own program lasted as long as it did. He has both a soothing voice and fantastic presence.

8.5/10

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Directed by Don Siegel [Other horror films: N/A]

The intense paranoia present throughout this fantastically-done science-fiction/horror movie only add to the final product – one that is, at any point in time, a thought-provoking and terrifying film.

The film, in which pod people begin taking over the citizens of a moderately-sized California town, highlights how, even in suburban, run-of-the-mill locations, terror and panic can spread. While potentially anti-Communist propaganda (which would be the single flaw of the film, were it intended), the struggle for individuality and love versus complete conformity is still thrilling to this day – plenty of the scenes still stand strong even now, such as Kevin McCarthy’s character running down the highway, screaming for people to listen to him, or the chasing of McCarthy and Dana Wynter’s characters by the pod people that used to be their friends.

Telling the story in the past-tense, and book-ended by events that take place almost a day after the core of the film, was a somewhat questionable choice, and one could certainly argue the movie would be better (if not more downbeat) had the movie ended without the final framing sequence (in fact, that’s exactly how the original creators had preferred it to end), but I still find it an acceptable finale.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a fantastic film, well-worth the highest honor among horror films for both the decade of the 1950’s and of all-time. If I had one complaint, it would be that occasionally, I felt it became a bit too melodramatic – luckily, if that’s the case, it doesn’t happen that often, and shortly afterward, we’re back to action of some form or another. In short, this is a great film, and comes highly recommended.

9.5/10

Pray for Morning (2006)

Pray for Morning

Directed by Cartney Wearn [Other horror films: N/A]

This movie feels a bit longer than it actually is. While clocking in at a normal 90 minutes, Pray for Morning suffers from various problems that seem to drag the movie out.

In it, a group of friends breaks into an old hotel, which has been uninhabited for at least thirty years, and is the scene of brutal deaths that took place years past. Not a bad plot, but not overly creative either. Truth be told, I can’t even describe all the problems this movie has, but believe me, they’re there.

Firstly, it takes a little while for each of the eight main characters to get fleshed out, meaning that before that happens, we’re left with pretty much interchangeable characters. Even toward the ending, though, none of the remaining characters stood out. The constant teleportation got a bit annoying (especially when one of the characters keeps insisting they’re just lost – as if popping up in a room on a floor you weren’t on seconds ago isn’t an indicator of a bigger problem than being lost), but that’s marginalized a bit by the fact that the malevolent spirit they’re facing was a magician in his previous life.

Elements of the movie fall flat, and this is most clearly seen in the final twenty or so minutes, in which a plot twist arises, followed by an explanation of something that doesn’t make much sense. Not to say that answers weren’t provided, but I felt as though I was missing something.

Just to note, the movie isn’t a terrible one – there are some decent scenes, even some more experimental scenes, that stand out, despite the low budget (through most of the film, a bright light represents the spirit of the magician). That said, just like most of the characters in the film, Pray for Morning just comes across as bland. A mostly forgettable experience, all-in-all. Robert F. Lyons and Udo Kier do well in their respective roles, at least.

5/10

The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)

Slumber Party Massacre

Directed by Amy Holden Jones [Other horror films: N/A]

My views on this film haven’t much changed since I last saw it.

It’s a quick-paced, fun, cheesy slasher movie. The 80’s soundtrack is both fun and nostalgic, and the female nudity is both memorable and captivating. At under 80 minutes, this movie doesn’t take long for things to begin happening, and given that the story’s moderately paper-thin, that’s only a positive.

The killer is a bit uninspired, but I do like the his choice of weaponry, being a drill. Gore throughout the film is pretty good, and given the quick-paced nature of the movie, it really doesn’t seem like all that long a time.

The Slumber Party Massacre is a simple movie, and while most of the characters are decent, none of them really stand out (though the neighbor, played by Rigg Kennedy, is a damn cool cat), it’s a fun movie that is always a good time. Not a long review, but don’t really have much to say. A good slasher worth watching.

7.5/10

Broken Notes (2008)

Broken Notes

Directed by Alex Slevin [Other horror films: N/A]

If you’re a fan of Silent Hill 2 (the video game, to be clear), then you may get a kick out of this moderately obscure Spanish flick. It’s basically a live-action version of the game, which has it’s pros and cons.

Pros being, if you’re a fan of the game, then you’ll probably enjoy how closely the movie follows it. But if you’re like me, and know next to nothing about the games, then the movie seems mostly like a mess.

There’s a plot, being a man going to Silent Hill in order to find his wife (who died three years earlier, but as he got a letter from her, he’s understandably hopeful), but it feels rather disjointed. The dialogue is both stilted and awkward (though that may be partially due to the fact the game’s dialogue, to my understanding, is much the same), and some things don’t make much sense. Almost everything’s a metaphorical representation of something, and while occasionally deep, that doesn’t do much for me.

Parts of the movie just don’t seem to follow the previous scenes, and that’s not something I care much for. What also has to be discussed is the audio quality of the film. There’s not a whole lot of talking in this movie, but there’s also not much “in-world” sounds, and by that, I mean if a character hits another character with a crowbar, there’s no thump. It’s just silent, as if it’s in a vacuum. It happens throughout the film, and it’s at best mildly distracting.

The color scheme of the film (sort of a faded palate; you can see different colors, but the only one that really sticks out is red) was unique, and did help with the dreamy quality of the film. That’s one thing the film should really get props for – the dreamy atmosphere. It’s helped along by the aforementioned disjointed scenes, odd dialogue, color scheme, and audio. So basically, everything in this movie adds to the dreamy atmosphere, which does come across as cool, but again, that’s not something I’m a big fan of.

It’s somewhat similar to another obscure film titled Silver Cell (2011), though I actually liked that one quite a lot more. Broken Notes seems to be for hardcore fans of Silent Hill 2, but anyone else who watches it, while they can get a plot out of it, will feel as though something’s missing. So for the right crowd, this movie may actually be, if not a fun ride, an interesting one. For me, though, given it’s hour and 40 minute run-time, it was just tedious. I felt the same when I first saw it, and sadly, little’s changed.

4.5/10

Nightwatch (1997)

Nightwatch

Directed by Ole Bornedal [Other horror films: Nattevagten (1994), Vikaren (2007), The Possession (2012)]

When I first saw this film, I rather enjoyed it. Or at least that’s what my IMDb rating (an 8/10) would lead me to believe. Perhaps the second viewing of this film falters for everyone, or it’s not nearly as good as I remember it being, though, as I was mostly not that enthralled with it this time around.

The whole atmosphere of the film seems sort of off, especially regarding Martin’s (Ewan McGregor) friend James (Josh Brolin). James just doesn’t seem to care about anything, and his attitude is one that’s difficult to relate to. He’s just an odd character, and didn’t feel right to me. The movie’s decently slow – it doesn’t really pick up until an hour and 15 minutes (the whole run-time is an hour and 40 minutes), which was a major detriment.

We had some memorable actors, such as Nick Nolte (who had a great role), Brad Dourif, and John C. Reilly (who was, for some reason, uncredited, despite having significant screen-time near the end), but the story itself didn’t do much for me this time around. It’s a disappointment, really: I was rather excited about seeing this one again, but not only does it not live up to what I remembered, and not only did it feel average, overall, I thought the film was a bit below average.

Truth be told, I don’t have much more to say about this one. It had solid actors, moderately decent gore, and it picked up near the final thirty minutes, but everything beforehand fell a bit flat. Despite previously enjoying this, it just doesn’t hold up.

6.5/10

La bestia uccide a sangue freddo (1971)

La bestia uccide a sangue freddo

Directed by Fernando Di Leo [Other horror films: N/A]

La bestia uccide a sangue freddo, more popularly known as both Asylum Erotica and Slaughter Hotel, is an Italian movie that came as something as a disappointment. What I was hoping would be a decent giallo with good kills turned out to be more a soft-core pornographic flick.

There’s a lot of nudity in this one, folks. Self-fondling, lesbianism, nymphos, a little bit of everything besides male nudity. 😛 The story’s simple enough: at a secluded clinic for women, a killer proceeds to whack off quite a few people. With various suspects and red herrings, will they discover who is behind these heinous acts?

Well, that’s not completely accurate. It’s not until 75 minutes into the movie that anyone knows there’s a killer on the loose, and once the police get there, there’s only ten minutes left in the movie. In fact, the whole ending seemed rather rushed. Not that it’s a bad thing – rushed action is better than no action at all, and to tell you the truth, I got tired of the sex and self-fondling a few minutes into the first sequence. But they keep on coming (wink wink).

And when we do get kills, they’re not overly inspired. Sure, the crossbow kill was pretty cool, and the iron maiden death was decent, but everything else just fell flat. For Pete’s sake, there’s a bloodless decapitation in the movie. We can’t have such an utter lack of gore like this and expect much of the kills to be memorable. For most of the film, I was just bored with the red herrings and consistent nudity, truth be told. While the ending was rushed, along with the explanation of why the murderer is offing people, at least we got some type of payoff for our troubles. A pretty tedious flick, but if a lot of nudity’s your thing, give it a go.

6/10

Cabin Fever (2002)

Cabin Fever

Directed by Eli Roth [Other horror films: Hostel (2005), Hostel: Part II (2007), The Green Inferno (2013), Knock Knock (2015)]

I’m not entirely sure what it is, but I’ve never much cared for this film. Perhaps it’s the stupid comedy that pops up every now and again. Perhaps it’s due the the last thirty minutes, none of which I care for (from the authorities to the store-owners, to the karate kid, etc.). Something’s just off with this movie, as far as I’m concerned.

Some of the scenes are decent, but most of the characters are atrocious, including the aforementioned authorities and particularly the party-loving cop (which was another element I thought was more than a bit idiotic). Few of the actions in the second half of the movie are logical, and it grew increasingly hard to care for characters who were so stupid. This movie just rubs me the wrong way.

Part of it might be the fact that the idea in itself is pretty cool – seeing a bunch of people slowly realize that there’s a disease in the area that’s highly contagious and they die slowly to it could be a really well-done psychological and serious horror film. But that’s not the direction that they took.

Instead they threw in humor that, for the most part, didn’t work (the ending scene with the black individuals being a case in point) and far from taking a serious, psychological look at how each character is affected by the knowledge of their mortality, we get subplots that make little sense and authorities who, for some unexplained reason, don’t mind if a disease spreads throughout their community. Eli Roth had a hit with Hostel, but it’s a shame his earlier hit misses the mark. Points for Karen (Jordan Ladd) being so cute, at least before her flesh got eaten off.

4/10

One Body Too Many (1944)

One Body Too Many

Directed by Frank McDonald [Other horror films: N/A]

Though with an additional comedic element, One Body Too Many has almost all the staples of 1930’s and 1940’s horror movies. A dark and stormy night, a crowded mansion, mistaken identity, reading of a will, secret passages, red herrings, the whole shebang. In fact, the only thing it doesn’t have is a gorilla. Still, I don’t say this as to portray the movie as being too generic – while that might be the case, I happen to love these dark and stormy night will-reading movies; they’re entertaining, and this one’s no different.

The aesthetics are pretty cool – thunder and lightning in the backdrop as multiple mysterious people are creeping through a silent dark house. While the copy I own (and that’s most widely available) is a bit on the grainy side, it doesn’t lose the effect. The downside of the film is two-fold, though: firstly, the while the plot is simple, throwing in ten to twelve different characters can come across as convoluted. When the killer was revealed at the end, I thought he had already been seen with the other characters in the previous scene. Lost a bit of the power they might have been aiming for.

Really, the main character (played by Jack Haley), Bela Lugosi’s character, and Professor Hilton (William Edmunds) were the only ones that I could easily tell apart. Most of the others were interchangeable. Still, that may be more a problem with myself than the movie. Secondly, though, is the run time. While the movie is just 75 minutes (an hour and 15 minutes), some sequences seemed to drag on a bit too long (especially one particular sequence involving secret passageways about an hour into the film). Had they just cut out ten to 15 minutes, I think the movie would have been a bit better.

The comedic elements overall weren’t too bad or distracting (the main character’s cowardice, not to mention a few of the antics, were a bit much), and some of it was actually rather amusing, such as the recurring gag of the butler (Lugosi) trying to serve seemingly-poisoned coffee multiple times throughout the movie, only to get consistently rejected. I have to admit, I got a kick out of that. When I first saw this film, I rated it slightly above average. It just doesn’t stand up to my memories, though. One Body Too Many is an amusing film, but the problems can be a bit glaring. Overall, I think it’s slightly below average. Likely still worth a watch if these films are your type of thing.

6.5/10

Killjoy (2000)

Killjoy

Directed by Craig Ross Jr. [Other horror films: Dead South (2016), Bunker of Blood 07: Killjoys Carnage Caravan (2019)]

If you’ve seen this flick, you know what a mess it is. But if you’ve watched it with friends, you also know what a hoot it can be.

I first saw this film for one of the October Challenges, watching it with a friend. Though the movie was atrocious in so many ways (acting, production value, audio quality), it was a fun time. Upon rewatching it, it still has that fun vibe, but it’s deeply muted.

I won’t waste time discussing the acting – in almost every way, the actors manage to fail, which admittedly is a bit of a feat. The story itself, while somewhat interesting, gets muddled down due to over melodramatic moments and a slow beginning. When things do pick up, it doesn’t much help, as Killjoy isn’t that fun a character. Basically, I just kept getting the mentally-challenged Pennywise-vibe from him. That said, an ice cream truck that can teleport you various places is sort of fun.

As for the audio quality, it’s not uncommon throughout the film that you’re unable to make out what someone’s saying. I don’t think it’s the fault of the DVD I own – I think it’s the best print they had to work with. The kills aren’t all that imaginative, and when they are, they include hideous early 2000’s computer effects. Can Killjoy be a fun movie in small doses when viewed among friends? Indeed. But it doesn’t really hold up with a second viewing, and overall, you can’t help but tell how poor of a movie it really is.

4/10