Schatten – Eine nächtliche Halluzination (1923)

Warning

Directed by Arthur Robison [Other horror films: Nächte des Grauens (1917), Der Student von Prag (1935)]

Known most commonly as Warning Shadows, this German classic, originally titled Schatten – Eine nächtliche Halluzination (what a mouthful that is), is a somewhat difficult movie to talk about. On one hand, I deeply appreciate and like the idea of what director Arthur Robison was going for, but on the other hand, past a certain point, I can’t help but think that the movies drags.

It’s not a lengthy film, at only an hour and 23 minutes. But most silent films have intertitles (in order to get dialogue across to the audience), and Robison decided to opt out of using those. Which means without paying attention to the characters and their relationships with each other, given there is zero dialogue given throughout the film, you’ll most likely feel lost.

Which is, in theory, a neat idea, and really lends to the film’s expressionist and often moody feeling. But after forty minutes, it’s a bit much.

The plot, in which a shadow-player’s (think a magician of sorts who focuses on manipulating light and shadows) arrival at a dinner party exasperate the already struggling relationship between a baron and his flirtatious wife, is decently fun, although I do think there’s a few too many characters afoot. The route the film takes is an interesting one, and while I do think it drags, I’d say the story works out pretty well.

This is true, in part, due to many factors. Most of the actors and actresses do well at expressing themselves without the use of intertitles, with Alexander Granach (also in the classic Nosferatu), Fritz Kortner, and Ruth Weyher standing out the most.

The color scheme for the version I saw was mostly a purple tint, which I thought went a long way in helping create the moody atmosphere of the flick. The score, too, added to the effect. While the score I heard wasn’t at all the original (an electronic portion showcasing that much), it went from dark and brooding to festive in all the right moments. Lastly, the visuals of the movie were pretty cool, which, given it’s an expressionist movie, you probably wouldn’t expect anything less.

Given all of these positive elements, though, I just can’t get beyond the fact that, after half the run-time, I found myself losing focus. In truth, I feel sort of ashamed of it, as this is one of those classic movies you really want to like and spread the word on, but I was struggling to care past a certain point. Because of that, despite the plenty of positive aspects, I’m giving it a bit below average.

That said, this is one of those films I recommend anyone check out, because I think that it’s the type of movie that most people would get a kick out of, at least to a certain extent.

One last note: Arthur Robison, the director, made 21 movies, most of them lost with time. The only other movie of note is a 1935 version of Der Student von Prag, the 1913 version being the first intact full-length horror film, which was previously reviewed. Just a little factoid.

Warning Shadows is worth a watch, but like I said, don’t be surprised if you find it a little sluggish.

6/10

The Stripper Ripper (2017)

Stripper

Directed by Jake Aurelian [Other horror films: N/A]

Depending on your expectations, The Stripper Ripper might come across a hoot, or one of the worst things you’ve ever seen. Truth be told, I’m leaning toward the latter.

This comedy-horror spoof-type movie, at this point in time, doesn’t appear to have an IMDb page [and as I saw this in April 2018, it’s been a year, and still no page up], but information can be found out about it from various online articles.

Filmed entirely in Danville, Illinois, this movie, for the most part, acts as a documentary about a clown terrorizing Ripper County, delving into the victims of the so-called Stripper Ripper, copycat crimes, local reaction to the events, along with interviews from FBI profilers and a Sam Loomis-inspired character named, you guessed it, Dr. Pleasance (played by Shawn Hosseini).

It’s a very silly, slapstick movie, which is exactly what author and first-time director Jake Aurelian was going for. The thing is, I just don’t think it works well at all. Perhaps as a short, this could have been okay, and maybe mildly amusing, but at an hour and 22 minutes, it just drags on and on.

Sure, we have a plot of sorts: a clown is assaulting people by throwing pies in their faces, and Dr. Pleasance tries to get the local authorities to take the guy seriously, all the while the Stripper Ripper continues his reign of terror. But some of the sequences just run on far past the point of amusing. Indulge me, please, as I list a few examples.

Berating an impersonator, the Stripper Ripper complains for something like five minutes (occasionally impersonating Macho Man Randy Savage, for some reason) before finally punching out a guy who is mimicking the Ripper’s style. There’s an “interview” with a comedian who got arrested for threatening an audience member that he’ll pie her face (in the local climate, this came across as tasteless, apparently). It’s fine in theory, but again, it’s at least a five minute scene.

At seven minutes, there’s a sequence where the Ripper gets pulled over by a police officer for not using his headlights, and the officer asks a barrage of questions. And at eight minutes, there’s a FBI profiler who take the time to explain why the Ripper is the man he is. Eight fucking minutes.

Out of those four scenes, 25 minutes total have passed. And nary a chuckle was to be found.

Certainly, there were some occasionally funny moments, such as the “Run, Lola, Run,” line, and Shawn Hosseini’s acting is just so unbelievably amusing. But for a movie that is first and foremost a parody, the laughs are too few and far between.

One more positive thing I’ll say for it – the actress Chloe Miller (playing a character named, get this, Laurie Lee Curtis) was moderately decent in her role. With the few scenes she had, she definitely seemed a bit of a highlight to me.

Many portions of this film mimic well-known scenes from Halloween, which is all well and fine, and perhaps if the movie focused more on parodying that classic, I might have enjoyed it more. But slapstick has never been my thing, and this movie just went overboard on everything (don’t even get me started on the narrator – the narrator was almost worse here than in Curse of the Faceless Man). These individuals may have had a great time making this, but I just had a horrible time watching it.

1/10

Häxan (1922)

Haxan

Directed by Benjamin Christensen [Other horror films: Hævnens Nat (1916), The Haunted House (1928), Seven Footprints to Satan (1929), House of Horror (1929)]

Häxan is a deeply interesting movie. Part documentary, part dramatized sequences of things from torturing the confession of witchcraft out of women and covens of old women crafting potions, Häxan isn’t a movie that you’re soon to forget.

Throughout the film, we’re given some information and historical context for the belief in the devil and, more specifically, witchcraft and the trials of those accused of such black magic. These portions, while to some may seem dry, are pretty interesting, especially from a modern-day perspective. At times, sure, you might wish they focused more on the dramatized sequences as opposed to a lecture, but I thought it was balanced decently well, a section on middle age torture devices standing out.

There’s some wild stuff in this movie, too. Perhaps not surprisingly gruesome given the subject matter, there’s all manner of torture and depictions of Hell through the film, and while the demons and Devil have a certain whimsical feel to them, there are still some horrific stuff being done.

Many of the special effects are pretty cool, especially a sequence showing witches flying over a small village. Some of the costumes are a bit ridiculous, but at the same time, it’s a Swedish movie from 1922, so I’m not inclined to judge that too harshly.

There are a few of the dramatized scenes that run a bit long, I think, without much interesting content, and the movie does run an hour and 45 minutes (at least the print I saw this time around), so at times it can feel like a bit much. Still, the visuals and effects the movie boasts certainly makes it worth a look.

Directed by Benjamin Christensen (who also directed the 1929 Seven Footprints to Satan, a movie I deeply enjoyed when last I saw it), Haxan is an interesting experience that, if you’re a fan of silent films, is very much worth looking into. While it’s arguable that it loses some of the power with rewatches, having seen the movie twice, perhaps three times now, it’s still a solid viewing.

8/10

Seed of Chucky (2004)

Seed of Chucky

Directed by Don Mancini [Other horror films: Curse of Chucky (2013), Cult of Chucky (2017)]

Perhaps it was just my mood, but I found this film wholly unjustifiable. To be honest, though, my mood aside, I cannot imagine a situation in which I could ever find this movie acceptable.

Bride of Chucky damaged the series by creating a more light-hearted experience, but there was still plenty of elements to moderately enjoy. Seed of Chucky has virtually nothing.

Two of the deaths in the film were okay (a disembowelment and a flamethrower kill). A few of the lines made me chuckle (such as the jab at Tilly’s voice). Hannah Spearritt was cute (though her character was extraordinarily idiotic).

But as far as positives go, that’s it.

The biggest problem for me is that I just didn’t like the story at all. It’s such a stupid concept. Toward the end, it felt rushed, and the epilogue was just terrible, but the bigger issue is there wasn’t a single thing about the plot that I thought was good or worth seeing. Not a single thing.

The addition of Glen/Glenda was misguided (just as shooting oneself in the face is misguided). I don’t know if I can even expand on that. It was just a stupid idea, and it’s a damn shame that the series fell to this level.

It may be worth mentioning that unlike the first four films in this series, I’ve never seen this one before, for exactly the reason that I thought it sounded idiotic. I did try, at the beginning, to go in with an open mind. But when the opening sequence is revealed as a dream, and Glen/Glenda wakes up and had a British accent, I was done.

A God-awful experience, perhaps one of the worst sequels to an otherwise decently solid series that I could possibly imagine. Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood was better and more entertaining than this shit. The rating is for the two solid kills, the few humorous lines the movie possessed, and Spearritt.

2/10

If you want to hear me spew hate on this, check out our review from Fight Evil’s podcast, episode #33, as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one.

Pet (2016)

Pet

Directed by Carles Torrens [Other horror films: Emergo (2011), ABCs of Death 2.5 (2016, segment ‘M is for Mom’)]

This was an interesting film. While I expected some of the twists throughout the film, others came as a surprise, which is a positive thing.

The shift in the film that occurs a little over halfway into the movie was a unique one, and changes the dynamics of the movie and the characters. Hell, for the most part, I even liked the ending. It’s not perfect, of course. I thought portions were extremely unrealistic, especially toward the end, and I have doubts about the “solution” to the problem, as it was. I have to admit also, as much as I thought the main twist was interesting, I lost interest a bit, as the rest of the movie seemed to fall into a suspected mold.

All-in-all, though, the positives outweigh the benefits. The problem is, while it’s a technically fine film, and I had little qualms with it aside from what’s been mentioned, the movie didn’t do a lot for me. It’s reminiscent of Green Room, actually – I liked the movie, but beyond a slightly positive outlook, it didn’t stand out. While Pet’s plot is a memorable one, I find myself feeling lukewarm toward it. It’s not that it’s a bad movie, it just didn’t do much for me. Because of that, I’ll rate it around average, though to others, I’d suspect a warmer reception to it.

7/10

Mikey (1992)

Mikey

Directed by Dennis Dimster [Other horror films: N/A]

This is a moderately interesting little movie, if not potentially somewhat forgettable.

Staring Brian Bonsall (who was on Family Ties for three years), Mikey’s a story of a psychotic kid, though without the flair of The Bad Seed or the religious nature of The Omen. Just a kid who gets off on killing people.

It’s a simple affair, and Bonsall does his role pretty well. Generally speaking, most of the main cast does also. Mikey’s adoptive mother, played by Mimi Craven (who had a small appearance in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street), is memorable in her role. Whit Hertford (Jacob from the fifth A Nightmare on Elm Street and also having a minor scene in Jurassic Park) was pretty decent as a neighbor of Mikey’s (though really, he never goes anywhere).

Lyman Ward (who, funnily enough, had a small role in Freddy’s Revenge as Ron’s father) was pretty fun as a school psychologist, though I wish he had gotten more scenes. Quite attractive in her role, Josie Bissett played Hertford’s sister pretty well, though again, like Ward, I wish they did a little more with her in the movie.

The unsurprising standout, though, is Ashley Laurence, who is most well-known for her role of Kirsty from the first two Hellraisers (well, and Hellseeker, but let’s not talk about that). Mikey comes across as a lower-budget flick, so how they got Laurence, I don’t know, but she shines in every scene, and her interactions with Ward were always enjoyable.

The thing that stands out most about Mikey, Laurence aside, is the low-budget feel the movie has. At times, it reminds me of The Stepfather, in that it occasionally feels much like a television movie. While there’s not really a ton of gore (the most common form of execution is electrocution), there’s a few solid scenes of individuals beaten with hammers and bats, or shot with arrows. For the most part, though, they don’t really stand out one way or the other.

One small last thing, the setting of this film, being Arizona, was sort of interesting. While most of the time you couldn’t tell one way or the other, a few of the shots that showed the moderate sparse locality just felt interesting. For one reason or another, though it made zero difference insofar as the plot’s concerned, it stood out to me.

Mikey’s occasionally slow throughout the film, but with as many interesting actors and actresses as there are, I was never quite bored. The final twenty minutes were pretty fun (as was the entirely expected last minute scene), but I wouldn’t quite say the movie was entirely worth watching. Having seen it twice, I personally find it a decent flick, but it’s one of those movies where it’s not quite good, but has some charm to it. I would probably put Mikey somewhere marginally above average, but if you go in looking for The Omen, or even The Good Son, you probably won’t be happy.

7.5/10

The Lesson (2015)

The Lesson

Directed by Ruth Platt [Other horror films: N/A]

The United Kingdom has brought us this interesting, if not muddled, tale a few years back, though to little fanfare. The Lesson, though I rather liked it, seems the type of movie to divide those who see it – some will be bothered by the seemingly meandering first thirty minutes, while others may take issue with the last six minutes of the film as being unnecessary. Others still may not find the gore and torture to their tastes.

The centerpiece of the film was the lesson these two young men were forced to sit through, and overall, I actually thought much of what the insane teacher had to say was interesting. Of course, I’d be less fond of his intellectual discourse if he kept coming after me with a nail gun, and my best friend was bleeding to death beside me due to blunt-force trauma. Still, the focus of the film, being the teacher’s ramblings on how much of the youth have zero respect for learning, is an interesting one, and not altogether incorrect.

Before the torture, we get thirty minutes of our two main characters hanging out, talking about what they want to do in the future, robbing stores, disrespecting teachers’ vehicles, and smoking weed. In a way, I think the beginning really humanizes the characters – we get many a scene of the small things that make us human, such as being unsure as to what the future will bring, or the feeling of being trapped in one place, with no real prospects of leaving. Couple that with some pretty decent music throughout, and the horror portions aside, you have a rather moving drama film.

Personally, I thought most of the film worked well together, though I’ve heard others say that the movie didn’t know what it wanted to be. I disagree – I think the movie knew what it was going for, and it worked out pretty well. A few elements leave a bit to be desired, such as the subplot of one of the characters’ flashbacks of his mother, or a somewhat out-of-place romantic portion, and a scene near the end which was unrealistic, but overall, I think The Lesson worked out well.

The torture, though simplistic and lacking in variety (biggest change was when the teacher went from using a hammer and nail to using a nail gun), came across as pretty brutal, and some thumbs even got cut off in the process. It really was a bloodbath toward the end. What also should be mentioned is the final six minutes – it tacked an epilogue of sorts, and that’s something I’ve not really seen often in horror films. For that reason, it felt slightly out of place, but at the same time, came across as refreshing. The Lesson is not at all your typical horror film, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. If you want something different, this UK flick may be worth checking out.

8/10

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)

hellraiser-ii-e1558485223431.jpg

Directed by Tony Randel [Other horror films: Children of the Night (1991), Amityville: It’s About Time (1992), Ticks (1993), Rattled (1996)]

As much as I enjoy this sequel, there’s no denying it lacks a bit of cohesiveness. Maybe a lot.

Immediately following the first movie, the first thirty minutes or so are decently fine (though I’ve never been a big Julia fan). But after a certain point, the movie takes a moderately odd turn once Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) and Tiffany (Imogen Boorman) enter the labyrinth. It feels a lot more disjointed, and some of the things that occur, I just don’t get (for instance, why does Channard immediately become the most powerful Cenobite there? – seems a bad idea, truth be told).

Which isn’t to say that Hellbound isn’t an enjoyable movie – it is. The special effects are fantastic, as are the multiple set pieces (the labyrinth, overall, looks damn cool). Some great ideas (though not fully developed) and badass lines (“We have an eternity to know your flesh,” not to mention, “Your suffering will be legendary, even in Hell”). It’s a fun, occasionally mindless, 80’s horror flick, so what’s not to love?

Elements feel, as I mentioned, underdeveloped. The whole idea that Cenobites were once humans themselves doesn’t really seem to mean much, and Channard’s power level seems off the charts, which seems a bad design for a newly-created Cenobite. What exactly Leviathan is, from my understanding, is never made clear, nor is what happens near the end (all you had to do was mess around with the puzzle more, and you destroy hell?). And then at the end, the pole popping up from the bed showing the tormented faces of Pinhead, Channard, Julia, etc, means what, exactly?

Visually-speaking, this movie is fantastic. Story-wise, it’s okay near the beginning (though not using Kirsty’s boyfriend from the first film certainly seems a noticeable weakness). Kenneth Cranham can be a little campy as his portrayal of Channard, and William Hope’s Kyle doesn’t really seem to have a point, but overall, most of the actors and actresses did fine. It’s just the lack of coherent plot that pulls it down a bit.

Common consensus, at least from my view, puts this movie around being just as good as the first one, and by-and-large, I don’t think that’s wrong. The first movie had a more streamlined plot, but I did like the almost epic feel this one had, or at least was aiming for. Despite my concerns, it’s still a solid movie. Just not as solid as the first.

7.5/10

Bride of Chucky (1998)

Bride of Chucky

Directed by Ronny Yu [Other horror films: Jui gwai chat hung (1983), Lung hei bik yan (1984), Meng gui fo tiao qiang (1988), Freddy vs. Jason (2003)]

I will admit, this was a deeply disappointing rewatch.

Much of the gore and death sequences in this movie are solid. Electrocution scene, well-done. Nails to the head, pretty good (though I could’ve done without the Pinhead reference). Waterbed death – good idea, not that great an execution. Overall, though, the movie is best when it focuses on these scenes.

Because nothing else is really worthy of much praise.

Jennifer Tilly’s voice annoys me, I won’t lie. But what annoys me so much more is all of the in-jokes this movie had, from the aforementioned Pinhead reference, to a joke about the amount of sequels this series has, and even throwing in artifacts from other famous slashers (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, etc.). It felt off. Not stupid exactly, but just too close to parody.

An even bigger problem is the story, though, which I just didn’t care for all that much. Because of it’s lighter tone, it’s missing almost all of the suspense that the first three movies possessed, and because of the nature of the plot, it felt extraordinarily ridiculous at times, pretty much all stemming from Tiffany’s character.

Acting was a mixed bag, with some good (Katherine Heigl and Lawrence Dane), some eh (Nick Stabile and Gordon Michael Woolvett), and some atrocious (Michael Louis Johnson is the biggest problem here). John Ritter’s character was a piece of trash, but it was nice to see a friendly face. Brad Dourif did just as good in this performance as he has before, but the script really didn’t help him out. And as much as I don’t want to bash on Tilly, I didn’t care for her character whatsoever, even before her soul went into the doll.

This is a steep decline from the first three movies. The third certainly wasn’t perfect, but it’s tone was still pretty menacing at times. This flick just felt glossy, a bit ridiculous, somewhat vapid, and aside from the gore, not really worth that much. And the ending was just terrible, I thought. Perhaps the most disappointing rewatch in a while, Bride of Chucky didn’t really do it at all for me this time around.

5.5/10

Bride of Chucky is one of the film’s Fight Evil has covered on our podcast, episode #31. Give Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I a listen as we discuss this sequel.

Exeter (2015)

Exeter

Directed by Marcus Nispel [Other horror films: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), Frankenstein (2004), Friday the 13th (2009)]

This film was exceptionally atrocious and mind-numbingly stupid. I could end the review there, but I’ll delve into why I believe this is so. A bunch of teens have a party at an old children’s mental hospital. One of the patients comes back from the dead and possesses someone. Stuff happens. Actually, given the “twist” at the end, this plot isn’t even accurate, but they never bother explaining anything.

So much of this film relied on logic being on a separate plane. For instance, after some creepy stuff begins to happen, the teens decide not to call the police (which might make a modicum of sense, because one of the members of the group hit someone with his car, and they don’t want to go to prison).

But later on, once the building locks itself up, and the teens find the body missing (meaning no potential jail time), they don’t even considering calling the cops. Keep in mind, they have internet service, so even if a call can’t make it through, they’d still be able to potentially contact the outside world. But no. What do they use their phones for? To look up how to perform exorcisms.

It’s as though logic would be a nice idea, but for this film, it was an afterthought they never got to. None of the characters were remotely likeable. Many of the scenes don’t make sense in retrospect. The jump scares are underwhelming.

There are a few things that can be said that a good, though: for one, the film does have a more comedic take on things (evidenced by a few characters), but don’t get the idea it’s a comedy-horror; it’s not. It’s simply light-hearted every now and again. Secondly, much of the gore is actually pretty decent (save a CGI face-being-cut-in-half scene). There was even a funny line that made me smile. But that’s it.

Directed by Marcus Nispel (who directed not only the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, but the Friday the 13th remake also), Exeter is a poor, poor film. See, a film like Jockstrap Slaughterhouse may not appeal to many people; it was ultra-low quality and had some overly silly scenes also. But that movie didn’t take itself nearly as seriously as this movie did. More so, I actually had fun watching Jockstrap Slaughterhouse. For Exeter, I just wanted the suffering to end (and as it’s an average 90-minute length, it’s Hell to get there). Exeter is a piece of shit, to be nice about it. The gore is about the only thing going for it, and that’s not nearly enough.

3/10