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

The Blackburn Asylum (2015)

Blackburn Asylum

Directed by Lauro David Chartrand-DelValle [Other horror films: N/A]

This was an overly generic movie through-and-through. Basically, it’s as if Wrong Turn, with the occasional element of The Hills Have Eyes remake, was made 13 years later. It’s just a poor shadow of these older films, really, with not much going for it.

Some of the main characters are okay, and seeing Lochlyn Munro (of Freddy vs. Jason fame, also in 2015’s The Unspoken) was decently nice, but the plot has been done to death. Escaped mental patients stalking down college kids can be a fun experience, but this added nothing to the table. Some okay blood (if CGI’s your thing), but the only decent kill is a blowtorch to the face, which wasn’t so much gory as it was painful to witness.

Some portions of this film just felt too glossy, also, especially during the origins of the escaped mental patients. Didn’t care for the sappy ending. Didn’t care much for most of the film, really. Honestly, the opening is moderately solid, but it all goes downhill from there. A really generic movie, with unimaginative killers (sorry Ken Kirzinger – you were better as Jason) and a completely forgettable experience.

4.5/10

Schloß Vogelöd (1921)

Haunted Castle

Directed by F.W. Murnau [Other horror films: Satanas (1920), Der Bucklige und die Tänzerin (1920), Der Januskopf (1920), Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922), Faust: Eine deutsche Volkssage (1926)]

Directed by F.W. Murnau (who later directed both Nosferatu and Faust), Schloß Vogelöd (or The Haunted Castle) does a pretty good job at creating an interesting early mystery/horror hybrid, held back by it’s length and related, some of the scenes.

This compelling story, revolving around possible lies about a three-year old murder, has a lot of mystery and secrets, with a twist or two, throughout. It has a moderately dark atmosphere, and is overall a fun movie.

It does run on a bit longer than it really needs to, though. At an hour and 22 minutes, I can’t help but think that things dragged a bit through some of the acts (this movie is divided into five acts), especially the second and fourth. There’s a dream sequence that, while not overly lengthy, feels a bit out of place, and I could have done without that.

Arnold Korff (who played the host) and Paul Hartmann (Oetsch, who was accused of killing his brother) both do really well in their roles, and while no one in this movie does a bad job (aside from maybe Julius Falkenstein, and that may have just been because his character was more comedic relief than anything else), Korff and Hartmann stand out the most.

To many, if not most, The Haunted Castle would be a minor German movie, a silent mystery, of little interest. Personally, I think the story is very solid, and while many may not, I’ve seen this movie twice and still consider it a horror flick, albeit one very borderline. Regardless, though, if you like silent movies, or are willing to give one a shot, aside from the fact that this runs a bit long (though I would recommend the 1 hour and 22 minute version over the 55 minute, more common, cut), I think you’d enjoy this one.

7.5/10

Child’s Play 3 (1991)

Child's Play 3

Directed by Jack Bender [Other horror films: The Midnight Hour (1985)]

If Child’s Play 3 has any real drawback, it would be that it lacks some of the spirit of the first two flicks, along with possessing some occasionally shoddy acting. To be honest, though, again, I was moderately surprised by just how solid this movie was upon rewatch.

The main problem, as I alluded to, is that this flick lacks much of the magic of the first two. Why exactly that is, I’m not sure. It did, to a certain extent, feel a bit rushed, and while there was a kid in danger, being at a military academy, it’s hard to compare that to Andy being locked in a mental institution with Chucky coming after him. There were some tense scenes throughout, but nothing that much felt like the first two films.

As for the kid, Jeremy Sylvers, he did pretty well with his role, though not nearly as well as Vincent did. And the character Botnick, played by Andrew Robinson (who, interestingly enough, played Larry in Hellraiser) was a bit over-the-top, enough so to make his scenes feel rather ridiculous.

But plenty of other actors did quite well: Justin Whalin (Andy), Perrey Reeves (De Silva), Travis Fine (Shelton), Dean Jacobson (Whitehurst), Dakin Matthews (Cochrane), and Peter Haskell (Sullivan, the only familiar face from the last film) all did varying well with their roles, though somewhat problematically, none of them really stood out one way or the other.

The kills throughout the film were pretty damn good. Some slit throats, a good garbage truck crushing, slow motion bullet wound (during a fantastic war game sequence), Child’s Play 3 didn’t skimp out on gore. Even Chucky’s demise (at least, insofar as this movie goes) was beautifully bloody. And that heart attack scene? I’m still laughing at that. Related, I still get a kick out of the “Hide the Soul” game (originally brought up in the second film); I remember, even as a kid, how funny that was.

The whole ending sequence (from the war games to the carnival) was fantastically fun. The haunted house finale, while not as good as the final fight in the second film, was an absolute blast, which included heavy duty fans, swinging scythes, and a mountain of skulls. While this doesn’t possess the charm of the first two movies, Child’s Play 3 is still a very solid sequel and film, and any fan of the first two flicks would do well to check this one out.

8/10

This has been covered on Fight Evil’s podcast, episode #20. Listen to hear Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and myself discuss this one.

Cabin Fear (2015)

Seclusion

Directed by Joe Bandelli [Other horror films: N/A]

A pretty standard slasher fair, Cabin Fear (also known under the title Seclusion, which is how I saw it) features a group of friends who are slowly killed off while they’re at an isolated cabin for a destination wedding.

As this movie is mostly moved by characterization, and there’s not that many characters to speak of (eight total cast members, not counting the extras at the beginning), it’d have been really easy for the movie to fail, but actually, it mostly worked out moderately well. While the plot isn’t overly creative, the interaction between the characters seemed real and accomplished it’s goal.

As for the identity of the killer, that’s more a mixed bag. There’s plenty of red herrings throughout the film, and while they skirted that with the reveal, things still weren’t done as well as they could have been. I don’t even know if the killer could have realistically killed those that died, as the time-frame seems off. That’s not mentioning a scene prior to the reveal, which seems to contradict what was revealed after. Basically, a few scenes needed tightening up a bit.

Another thing worth mentioning is the music, which seems to be stock violin music. It’s difficult for me to explain, but the music sounded really cheap, for lack of a better word, and they definitely should have thought twice before using it.

To end on a positive note, though, most of the actors and actresses did a pretty fine job. Nicole Pacent (who’s character I am still mixed on) stole the scenes she was in, Alyson McKenzie Wells did a perfect blonde airhead slut, and while Matthew Wise wasn’t remarkable, his character wasn’t either, so all’s well there. The only problem I had insofar as acting’s concerned is Clea Alsip. Throughout the film, she was a sappy newlywed, never missing a chance to tell her new husband that she loves him. I know there are people like that out there, but in the situation they were in, it sort of got on my nerves.

Seclusion isn’t going to win any awards, but it was a pleasant enough movie made average by a failure to fully explain a scene or two, and adding in some unnecessary red herrings. All things considered, this probably falls somewhere around being average. It’s not really something I’d recommend to others, but I wouldn’t run the other direction if offered it.

7/10

Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990)

Leatherface

Directed by Jeff Burr [Other horror films: The Offspring (1987), Stepfather II (1989), Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings (1993), Puppet Master 4 (1993), Puppet Master 5 (1994), Night of the Scarecrow (1995), The Werewolf Reborn! (1998), Phantom Town (1999), Straight Into Darkness (2004), Frankenstein & the Werewolf Reborn! (2005), Devil’s Den (2006), Mil Mascaras vs. Aztec Mummy (2007), Resurrection (2010), Puppet Master: Blitzkrieg Massacre (2018)]

Finally, a Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie I can enjoy.

Keeping things simple, this flick is basically a more polished version of the first movie, and drops the atrocious black comedy tone of the second, much to it’s favor. While I’ve only seen it twice now, I find it a very enjoyable movie to just sit back, relax, and watch.

The Sawyer family here is far more functional than they were in the first two movies (how the family got anything done in the second is utterly beyond me), and more so, the members themselves are more enjoyable. Leatherface (R.A. Mihailoff) is pretty much as he always is, but the additions of Tex (Viggo Mortensen) and Tinker (Joe Unger) were strong indeed, Tex especially for his strong charisma. Alfredo (Tom Everitt) was the weak point, being this film’s answer to the first film’s Hitchhiker and second film’s Chop Top, but he was still infinitely less annoying than the earlier renditions. In short, the family felt more functional, and that really helped with enjoyment.

More important, though, is Ken Foree (of 1978’s Dawn of the Dead fame), who plays a survivalist named Benny. Benny is a badass – he knows how to fight, shoot, and come out ahead. I was pleased with his presentation and his story throughout the film, and Michelle (Kate Hodge) should feel quite lucky he popped up when he did.

The gore in this film is slightly muted, I feel, but there’s still some decently good stuff (such as a painful scene where Michelle tries to free her nailed-down hands from a chair), and though it’s not made a priority, the implication of more gore is always there (an off screen head-smashing, some chainsaw action, etc.). Apparently much of this was because the producers wanted to avoid an X-rating, so screw them.

While this film went back to the basics, it wasn’t able to catch the same level of grittiness the original movie had (though, to be sure, I think it’d be close to impossible for any 90’s movie to match the grittiness of a 70’s flick), which has it’s pros and cons. That said, there’s little to complain about here. You have a good setting (that bog of bodies was beast), occasional action, some amusing lines (“You never heard of pizza?”), solid suspense and acting, and lastly, Ken Foree. A very solid movie, and perhaps one of the best this series has been able to make.

8.5/10