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

Curse of the Faceless Man (1958)

Curse of the Faceless Man

Directed by Edward L. Cahn [Other horror films: Creature with the Atom Brain (1955), The She-Creature (1956), Voodoo Woman (1957), Zombies of Mora Tau (1957), Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957), It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958), Invisible Invaders (1959), The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake (1959), Beauty and the Beast (1962)]

When I first saw this movie, I thought it was extraordinary slow. Upon rewatching it, I realized I was too kind; this is one of the driest, slowest films I’ve witnessed. And given the fact it’s just an hour and seven minutes, this statement should hold some weight.

The plot is basically a rehash of The Mummy (1932), only with a different setting. The performances are mostly rather stilted, and the melodrama that’s tolerable in most pre-1960’s horror films seems overbearing here. It’s just not that great a movie. There’s the occasional scene that looks decently shot (especially in the black-and-white scheme that was prevalent at the time), and the Faceless Man himself looks moderately threatening (if only he didn’t move so slow), but the movie has little more to offer past that point.

Curse of the Faceless Man, despite it’s short run time, is a dry, plodding film. I wasn’t tired before starting the film – now I feel dead on my feet. While the movie still has a bit to offer, it’s faults far outweigh the positives. As a note, the director of this film wasn’t a lightweight; Edward L. Cahn directed, among other films, movies such as Zombies of Mora Tau (1957) and It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958), both of which were highly enjoyable. Whatever went wrong with this film, I don’t believe it to be Cahn’s doing. Perhaps the writer of the script. Regardless, this is a below average film both for it’s time and horror as a whole.

5/10

Siodmak (2012)

Siodmak o

Directed by Nicholas Ortiz [Other horror films: N/A]

This came as a surprise on a few different levels. Firstly, I was amazed I could find the film at all – on IMDb, it had just seven ratings [Edit: it now has nine, so it hasn’t moved much], which doesn’t generally an easy find make. But seconds later, boom – it’s on YouTube, put up by the production company. Needless to say, I was pleased.

Siodmak is a simple story, but told in a more complex way. A serial killer has been hunting in New York City for decades, and the only one who believes in his existence is a video blogger, Nick LaRosa, whom no one takes seriously. But with the help of NYPD officer Angel Vega, who has had a tragic run-in with the serial killer, they soon discover some things weren’t meant to be pried into. This is interspersed with scenes a day later, after the events that transpired, and focus on a medical examiner’s examination of the killer, and learning about what brought him here. It’s a more unique way to tell the story, and overall, I think it worked.

While the production was low, I think that most scenes were shot pretty well, and some in unique ways (a sequence near the end, with a reddish-auburn tint, comes to mind). As far as actors go, Masha Mendieta (Vega), Kit Lang (LaRosa), Russell Jordan (Dr. Feliz, Vega’s psychiatrist), Krista Chandlee (the medical examiner), Madison Idoate Candelario (Vega’s niece), and Michael Valentine (the killer) all stood out, doing a solid job.

Jordan, as the psychiatrist, had an almost Colin Salmon-feel to him. Mendieta and Lang, despite their short screen time together, really worked well, and had some of those small human elements that sometimes go amiss in bigger budget films. The killer, known as the New York Ripper, had a Michael Myers aura to him, helped by his featureless mask, which I rather enjoyed.

The music present was decent also – near the end, a record player can be heard playing hits such as “I Wanna Be Loved By You” (famously lip synced by Baby in House of 1000 Corpses) and “Hush, Hush, Hush (Here Comes The Boogie Man)” (from the credits of Jeepers Creepers), which was a nice touch.

For as much as I liked it, though, a few problems need be addressed, one being the run-time. Siodmak is one hour and fifty minutes long (or 110 minutes) – it’s not a short movie, easy to digest. Siodmak makes you work for it. Many of the scenes are interesting, but after the third flashback or the finale taking the last thirty-five minutes, it might come across as a bit much.

There were also a few unanswered questions, not to mention what came across to me as a Hollywood ending which I was both disappointed but somewhat unsurprised by. A few audio issues were present, but that wasn’t that much a deterrent. For what gore there was, I thought it was decent, though the focus of Siodmak wasn’t gore, but the story told.

This movie was an interesting find. Was it an amazing movie? Not really. The story, while told in an interesting manner, wasn’t overly original. That said, Siodmak is one lower-budget film that should have gotten more attention. Some surprising kills also stand out, a few I certainly wasn’t expecting. It’s a decent, above-average film, if you can get through the lengthy run-time.

7.5/10

Thir13en Ghosts (2001)

Directed by Steve Beck [Other horror films: Ghost Ship (2002)]

This is only the second time I’ve seen this film (which I possess on DVD for some reason), and again, I find it underwhelming. There’s plenty of good elements: the setting (a futuristic, mechanical house), many of the actors, and half the humor all make for a fun film. But what’s lacking is some additional background, along with the answers to some questions that came up. I’ll not give anything away, but the ending doesn’t exactly strike me as a positive one, despite what one might think. And having some background origins on these ghosts would have been nice, but absolutely none is given. Many of the ghost designs are cool, but without cemented origins, it just falls flat.

Tony Shalhoub has never been a favorite actor of mine, but he does decently well here. As prone to overreaction as he was, Matthew Lillard had some of the most amusing lines throughout the film. And Shannon Elizabeth (who played Shalhoub’s daughter)? I’d buy that for a dollar. She was an attractive actress, though she didn’t have all that much screen time. Thir13en Ghosts is a fun enough midnight movie, I suppose, but there’s not much substance to it, and overall, it’s not that memorable of a film. I feel it could have been better under the direction of another writer or director. As it is, Thir13en Ghosts is below average, but only just. You could certainly do worse.

6/10

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (2006)

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Directed by John Carl Buechler [Other horror films: Ragewar (1984, segment ‘Demons of the Dead’), Troll (1986), Cellar Dweller (1988), Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988), Ghoulies III: Ghoulies Go to College (1991), Watchers Reborn (1998), Deep Freeze (2002), Curse of the Forty-Niner (2002), Saurian (2006), The Eden Formula (2006)]

This film feels like a TV movie, but it’s not. I saw this once before, years and years ago on Chiller, and thought the same thing. But despite how much it really seems to be a TV movie, it’s not, which is utterly mind-boggling, as that would have gone a long way to explaining this.

Starring Tony Todd as Dr. Jekyll, this movie is atrocious in most ways. Mr. Hyde’s endless barrage of bad quips combined with the less than stellar acting of both Tracy Scoggins and Danielle Nicolet, not to mention the utter lack of true mystery or suspense, makes this quite a difficult job to get through. The story, a modern adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s work, leaves much to be desired. Some corny special effects are sprinkled throughout the film, and the gore we do get isn’t all that well done.

The highlight of this movie really is Tony Todd, who, while his acting isn’t amazing, can make you feel for the troubles of Dr. Jekyll. But Scoggins’ performance as a police officer with an aversion to guns was pretty bad, and indeed, most actors and actresses in this film didn’t do that well, though I do think that’s more the fault of what they had to work with as opposed to their own abilities.

The director of this travesty is John Carl Buechler, well known for the special effects of countless 80’s horror films (such as TerrorVision, Troll, Halloween 4, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4, Friday the 13th Part VII, and From Beyond) and directing such films as Troll (1986), Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988), and Curse of the Forty-Niner (2002) (among others, as above shines light on). While it’s not an unimpressive resume, he wasn’t able to make this movie work whatsoever, and as I said, more than anything, it’s a chore to get through. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a failure on almost every front, the one shining light being Tony Todd. But that’s not enough to save this. A subpar film in every way – it’s a shame I saw it twice.

4/10

Cujo (1983)

Cujo

Directed by Lewis Teague [Other horror films: Alligator (1980), Cat’s Eye (1985), The Triangle (2001)]

I’ve seen this once or twice before, and it always fell a bit flat for me for various reasons. That said, upon rewatching it, I can appreciate it just a tad more. The biggest problem for me is how sentimental and sappy the film can come across as. Sure, it might have been hard to keep the original ending from the book in a time when happy endings were all the rage, but I think the end product would have made the film more menacing and less sappy.

Speaking of which, while I love the suspenseful music the movie has to offer, the 80’s love/drama music can get a bit on the cheesy side. But that’s the 1980’s for you, I suppose. There’s also the fact the film drags a bit. Sure, it’s average insofar as length (just around an hour and a half), but it’s mostly a drama for the first fifty minutes (and I don’t know how interesting I found the whole affair issue, to be honest), and while the horror element is good when it gets there, the payoff doesn’t erase the set-up.

The actors and actresses are solid, though. Standouts include Dee Wallace, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Ed Lauter, and Jerry Hardin (not so much due to his role or screen time, which was minimal, but due to the fact he plays Deep Throat 15 years later in The X-Files). Oh, and the makeup for Cujo was excellent. On a side-note, though I know that Wallace had no choice but to fight Cujo off, I can’t help but feel bad for the dog.

In the gore department, there’s a few offerings, though not that many compared to other films of the time. Cujo can be a bit heavy in the drama department, which I think is why I underrated it before (and, to be fair, still do now). For all it is, it’s great portions and flaws, I think the film’s just slightly below average. Decently fun at times, but not particularly note-worthy.

6.5/10

The Devil’s Tattoo (2003)

Devil's Tattoo

Directed by Julian Kean [Other horror films: N/A]

This movie (which, while known as Ghost Rig, is originally titled The Devil’s Tattoo) isn’t all that amazing, not by any stretch. I saw it many years back on Chiller, and all-in-all, it never really came to mind, aside from the basics of the plot (a group of environmentalists take over an oil rig, only to discover nobody’s left, and are soon picked off by an evil force that goes from body to body). Still, it’s not exactly a bad movie either. It’s main problem is how unoriginal the premise is. An evil entity going from host to host, pitting those left against each other, unsure of who they could trust, isn’t exactly new territory. Aside from similarities to The Thing, which are fair enough, I’m also reminded of the classic Horror Express (1972). Even so, The Devil’s Tattoo is passable.

Though it’s not overly thrilling for most of the film, I do think the last twenty minutes or so (which includes more than one plot twist) were pretty enjoyable. All-in-all, this movie’s around average, maybe a little less. It’s quality certainly isn’t worthy of praise, nor most of the acting (Noel Fitzpatrick in particular does a good job, though), but it’s a good movie to pass the night with.

7/10

Kuntilanak (2006)

Kuntilanak

Directed by Rizal Mantovani [Other horror films: Jelangkung (2001), Kuntilanak 2 (2007), Kuntilanak 3 (2008), Kesurupan (2008), Mati suri (2009), Air Terjun Pengantin (2009), Taring (2010), Jenglot Pantai Selatan (2011), Air Terjun Pengantin Phuket (2013), Wewe (2015), Firegate (2016), Jailangkung (2017), Bayi Gaib: Bayi Tumbal Bayi Mati (2018), Kuntilanak (2018), Jailangkung 2 (2018), Tembang Lingsir (2019), Kuntilanak 2 (2019), Rumah Kentang: The Beginning (2019), Rasuk 2 (2020), Asih 2 (2020), Kuntilanak 3 (2022)]

Known in English as The Chanting, Kuntilanak has the distinction of being the first Indonesian horror film I’ve seen thus far. How does it hold up? It’s a mixed bag, but overall, while below average, it’s okay.

Now, some of my perceived shortcomings come not from the film itself, but from the quality of the upload I happened to view. The audio had an echoey feel to it, the English subtitles weren’t the best, and the video quality was on the grainy side. As best as possible, I will not let these technical aspects hamper my review.

Julie Estelle plays our main character, and as she moves into a boarding house near a cemetery, the young woman becomes the medium to a pontianak, or kuntilanak, and hell follows with. The beginning and middle portions of the film are a bit dull, as far as I was concerned. The setting was on par with what I’d hope to expect; a spooky boarding house near a cemetery is just what the doctor called for. And our main actress, Estelle, is a very attractive young woman. But it takes 45 minutes or so for the movie to really pick up. And when it does, it’s not exactly amazing.

For every cool, if not dated, jump scene the movie presents, it also brings with them elements I wasn’t fond of, such as the fact our main character herself has (rudimentary) control of the aforementioned kuntilanak. Also, there’s a Satanist element thrown in also, which, even with the ending sequence, didn’t do much for me.

Lastly, as far as negatives go, the last split second of the film was a jump scare, which has always annoyed me. Still, it’s not all bad. Many of the scenes with the kuntilanak were suspenseful, and there were plenty of frightening sequences to keep you happy (past the first 45 minutes, that is). The ending was a decent one, though not wholly unsurprising. Kuntilanak wasn’t an overly spectacular film, but it held up well given its deficits.

If most Indonesian horror films came out like this, even with my rating not being amazing, it’d still indeed be something to applaud. On a quick side note, there are two sequels to this film, 2007 and 2008 respectively, and while I don’t know how they compare to this one, I do know that Estelle appears in those also. As for this one, though, it’s not a great movie, but a decent one, somewhere around average.

6.5/10