Hostel (2005)

Hostel

Directed by Eli Roth [Other horror films: Cabin Fever (2002), Hostel: Part II (2007), The Green Inferno (2013), Knock Knock (2015)]

I’ve always enjoyed Hostel. It’s gritty, somewhat violent, and overall has a good punch to it.

The basic idea is one that I’ve always found fascinating. While it’s expounded on in Part II, having a business around capturing foreigners and, for a fee, letting people torture and kill them is, as the kids say, neat-o. It’s a fun idea, and setting the factory where these mutilations and massacres take place in Slovakia adds to the charm. Technically, the movie is filmed in the Czech Republic, but Slovakia has a more sinister sound to it, and I always liked the idea. Oh, and that torture museum was beautiful.

Another thing that I’ve always rather enjoyed are the main characters. It’s true that Paxton (Jay Hernandez) starts off as a stereotypical American douchebag, as opposed to Josh (Derek Richardson), who is a more reserved, serious individual, but what makes this notable is that while Josh seems like a good candidate to be the focal point, he’s not. What they do with Paxton is impressive – humanizing him by first letting us know he’s a vegetarian, and then later, having him relay a tragic moment in his past. I never liked Paxton, as a character, when I start this film, but I always find him endearing come the finale, and can’t fault him for any of his actions.

Hernandez (also in Quarantine) does a pretty solid job here. After his friends go missing in Slovakia, he drops his whole party boy aesthetic and goes in detective mode, trying to figure out where they went. The personality of his character is an interesting one, and I think Jay Hernandez was well-suited for the role. Derek Richardson (Reeker) had a Breckin Meyer vibe to him, and I always liked Meyer, so he’s aces in my book. Eythor Gudjonsson had some occasional charm (such as it was), Jan Vlasák was appropriately creepy, and Radomil Uhlir (“You want to get stoned?”) was quality.

Naturally, when it comes to Hostel, the gore is what a lot of people bring up. Perhaps I’m somewhat jaded, but it doesn’t really seem that over-the-top. Sure, you have scenes of fingers being cut off, or a chainsaw cutting through someone’s leg, or perhaps a blowtorch to the face, or an eye being snipped off with a pair of scissors. There’s dismembered body parts being thrown into an incinerator (during a sequence as a whole that was fantastic), and people’s heads being beat in with blunt objects. Overall, it’s a somewhat gory film, but I really don’t know if it’s as bad as some might remember it being.

I can’t say when I first saw Hostel, but I can say that it’s held up every time I’ve revisited it. It’s possible that I enjoy the second movie a smidge more, but this one definitely has a lot going for it, and I’m personally happy that Eli Roth made a movie that’s far better than Cabin Fever. It is a minor shame that some characters didn’t have quite the ending you’d hope for, but the finale as a whole was rewarding, and as many times as I’ve seen this, I still find it a tense and satisfying ride.

7.5/10

Hate Crime (2012)

Hate Crime

Directed by James Cullen Bressack [Other horror films: My Pure Joy (2011), Theatre of the Deranged (2012, segments ‘Andy’s Theatre of Deranged’ & ‘Speak Easy’), 13/13/13 (2013), To Jennifer (2013), Theatre of the Deranged II (2013, segment ‘Unmimely Demise’), Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lampreys (2014), Pernicious (2014), Grindsploitation (2016, segment ‘Dr. Suess’s There’s a Wocket in My Pocket’), If Looks Could Kill (2016), Deadly Reunion (2016), Bethany (2017), Welcome to Hell (2018, segment ‘Family Time’), Virus of the Dead (2018, segment ‘Routine Stop’), Blood Craft (2019)]

The plot of this found footage film is simple. A Jewish family (mother, father, and three children) are new to the neighborhood, and are attacked by three brutal Neo-Nazis.

We have some pretty shocking scenery in this film, the two most shocking being the surprising death of a character early on and one of the male children being forced to rape his mother. There’s an eye-gouging in there too, along with a swastika being burned into a boy’s cheek, but the two scenes I mentioned before strike me as far more brutal. Really, there’s not much going on here – the break-in happens literally two minutes into the movie, and from there on out, it’s a bloodbath.

The three perpetrators are despicable people (and on cocaine half the time), and their actors do the job well. The family is sympathetic not because we know much about them, but because of the heinous acts being done toward them (during the credits, though, we’re given a little glimpse into the family via video of them moving to their new house).

My one gripe is the ending – after all of this is done, we’re presented with the “This video was found by someone. Those who committed these crimes were arrested, and are facing multiple life sentences.” Instead of playing it off as the movie it is, they make it out to be a real-life event, which just annoys the hell of out me. If found footage movies stopped using this tactic as much as they seem to, I’d be a much happier guy.

Hate Crime is a shocking film, no doubt. I got very little joy out of watching it. It does what it means to (at the end, it lists some statistics on hate crimes), but it’s not a movie that you’d watch multiple times, I feel. Just once is enough.

6.5/10

Halloween (2007)

Halloween

Directed by Rob Zombie [Other horror films: House of 1000 Corpses (2003), The Devil’s Rejects (2005), Halloween II (2009), The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009), The Lords of Salem (2012), 31 (2016), 3 from Hell (2019)]

I cannot express how much I despise the first 50 minutes of this film – I always have. Because I completely understand why Michael would kill his stepfather, his sister and her boyfriend. I can’t imagine a more annoying family than that. And therein lies the problem – I don’t want to understand why Michael is the way he is. It’s not necessary.

From the fourth Halloween film, Donald Pleasence’s character said it best: he’s evil on two legs. And while I appreciate what Zombie was trying to do, and I know he was told to make it his own, I cannot pretend that I enjoy the first half of this film. From the song “Love Hurts” to the quote “It hides my ugliness,” I just can’t help but cringe.

It does get better, though. Marginally. But Laurie’s character here is not the innocent girl from the original Halloween (her first scene, where she mimics being molested, shows us that) – her two friends are worse. In fact, there are few sympathetic characters here – funnily enough, I think the most sympathetic are Laurie’s parents, and we see what happened to them (same can be said for Danny Trejo’s character). We have some worthwhile sequences in this film, such as Laurie trying to escape from Michael nearing the end, but too much here just bothered me. Truth be told, the best character had such little time, and that, of course, would be Joe Grizzly. This might have some decent gore, but it’s just a disappointing movie, and a disappointing remake.

6/10

End of Days (1999)

End of Days

Directed by Peter Hyams [Other horror films: The Relic (1997), A Sound of Thunder (2005)]

Arnold Schwarzenegger never did much for me as an actor, and End of Days, though I’ve seen it three times now, never did much for me as a movie. Now, that being said, this is a mostly enjoyable film. But things fall apart at the end. Satan chasing after Arnold’s character and the girl who is supposed to deliver his spawn doesn’t do it for me.

It’s just run-of-the-mill, especially when other Satanic movies around the same time are so much better (The Ninth Gate, I’m looking at you). Honestly, I don’t have much more to say. This movie isn’t necessarily bad, but I wouldn’t go in expecting much.

5.5/10

Salem’s Lot (2004)

Salems Lot

Directed by Mikael Salomon [Other horror films: N/A]

Here’s a little secret for you all: so far in my horror movie viewing, I’ve not yet seen the original Salem’s Lot. I’ve been meaning to, but it’s never happened. What I have seen twice is this 2004 adaptation, starring Rob Lowe (of The West Wing fame). And overall, I am pretty pleased with it.

Many of the characters are enjoyable, and the acting is solid; toward the end, the little vampire-killing group was enjoyable to observe, though I wish they were seen together a few more times than they were. Being a mini-series, it’s pretty lengthy, much like the original (both over two hours, I believe), but I was quite happy with what I saw.

Oh, there’s the occasional subplot or scene that didn’t do much for me, but those were far outweighed by stuff I enjoyed. Andre Braugher’s character, Matt Burke, for example, was a fine character, but not necessarily overly likable. The ending was somewhat reminiscent of Fright Night, where they go to the main house and hope to finish the vampires off, which was sort of fun. I’ve no major complaints, really, and I feel this is worth a watch, despite the changes they made from King’s original novel.

8/10

The Mangler (1995)

The Mangler

Directed by Tobe Hooper [Other horror films: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), Eaten Alive (1976), The Dark (1979), Salem’s Lot (1979), The Funhouse (1981), Poltergeist (1982), Lifeforce (1985), Invaders from Mars (1986), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986), Spontaneous Combustion (1990), I’m Dangerous Tonight (1990), Night Terrors (1993), Body Bags (1993, segment ‘Eye’), The Apartment Complex (1999), Crocodile (2000), Shadow Realm (2002), Toolbox Murders (2004), Mortuary (2005), Djinn (2013)]

This is a poor movie, and the fact it runs for an hour and 45 minutes does little to help it out.

Based on a short story by Stephen King that’s no longer than ten pages, The Mangler brings to us the story of an evil laundry folding machine. If the movie took itself a bit less seriously, it may have turned out okay too. But no. Director Tobe Hooper kept this movie serious, and while goofy acting by Robert Englund may make one question that conclusion, throughout the film, little humor is present.

The main characters are fine enough, but not overly enthralling. And some of the gore is good also, which is only a plus. But things don’t work together – the plot twist at the end seemed to be thrown in there, and just doesn’t strike me as overly realistic. The movie’s quite simply not good, and while I’ve not seen it in years before this rewatch, I recall not caring for it much then either. For good reason.

5/10

HauntedWeen (1991)

HauntedWeen

Directed by Doug Robertson [Other horror films: N/A]

This is why I watch obscure horror. While not necessarily a gem, this early 90’s slasher really made up for the not-so-great movies I’ve seen recently. While the budget is clearly low, and many of the kills uninspired, I certainly got the feeling that this Kentucky-based slasher had heart. That being said, as I’m a fan of virtually 3/4’s of the slashers from 1975 to 1995, that likely doesn’t surprise anyone.

I’ve wanted to see this for a few years now, and I’m just happy I’m not disappointed. The nudity was ample enough to warrant a plus in that department. The kills, while at first, not great, got better, and toward the end, I was quite happy with what I witnessed. The story, while lacking, wasn’t as big a factor, as few people really watch slashers for the story.

If you’re a slasher fan in particular, this may well be worth watching. I did see that after the credits, “Coming Soon… Hauntedween II” rolled across the screen. Sadly, this looks like it never happened, as it’d have been a hoot to see. The acting here was pretty bad, on one last note – one of the characters has a terrible accent that really grates on you. After a while, though, you start to love the guy. As for other characters, they’re nothing special. Still, this was a pleasure to see, and if this ever comes out on DVD (which, after twenty some years, looks like it has), I’m definitely picking it up.

7.5/10

Fist of the Vampire (2007)

Fist of the Vampire

Directed by Len Kabasinski [Other horror films: Swamp Zombies!!! (2005), Curse of the Wolf (2006), Wendigo: Bound by Blood (2010), Ninja: Prophecy of Death (2011), Skull Forest (2012), Blood Mercury (2014), Angel of Reckoning (2016), Blood Prism (2017), Swamp Zombies 2 (2018), Schlock-O-Rama (2018, segment ‘Film Trailer’)]

I forgot during which October Challenge I first saw this film, but I remember thinking that it was likely the worst film I saw for the challenge. And upon rewatching it, that opinion hasn’t changed. This is one of the worst horror movies I’ve seen. In fact, on IMDb, this is one of the 18 horror movies I rated a 1/10. Only a select few make that listing, and this certainly belongs.

The acting is terrible, and while that is a problem, that’s far from the worst this movie had. The dialogue was weak – the delivery overly stale. No one’s heart really seemed in this movie, which is a shame, as since the plot was utterly atrocious (vampires running an underground fighting ring; an undercover cop infiltrates the ring and becomes one of their fighters), it needed something to carry it. Nothing was there to do so, though.

The nudity wasn’t particularly impressive, and the kills were blah. Sure, they had blood to an extent, so they tried, but it just didn’t ring as something worth seeing, and certainly nothing worth the wait. And the kung-fu fighting. *groans*. The overly-choreographed fighting that looked so fake was a prominent part of this movie. Another recurring motif – CGI bullets. CGI fire. Generic hard rock/heavy metal.

It was God-awful. This was simply a bad movie. The hammy dialogue at the end only made it worse. A true chore to get through in one sitting. Just avoid this, unless you’re like me and has to watch every other horror film nearby. On a quick side-note, the director of this flick, Len Kabasinski (who also acted in the movie), directed a low-budget 2005 flick I tepidly enjoyed titled Swamp Zombies!!!, so it’s a shame he couldn’t end up directing another low-budget favorite. In short, this movie simply isn’t worth watching, in my opinion.

1/10

Hit and Run (2009)

Hit and Run

Directed by Edna McCallion [Other horror films: N/A]

I’ve not seen this since either the 2009 or 2010 October Challenge. Either way, I think I disliked it even more this time around.

The good elements Hit and Run contains are as such: 1) the main actress, Laura Breckenridge, was pretty attractive, 2) the usage of the Modest Mouse song “Float On” was welcoming to the ears and 3) some of the scenes, specifically death scenes, were acceptable.

Everything else failed miserably, though.

Most prominently among them, you don’t feel an ounce of sympathy for the main character – whether she lives or dies, you really don’t care. You dislike her boyfriend even more, though. And it doesn’t help that you don’t feel much sympathy for the murderer past a certain point. It’s a movie with no sides to root for. Not only that, but some edits and cuts in this movie just look amateurish.

Now, some have commented that this film was trying to harken back to the days of 70’s/80’s slashers. If this was their intent, they failed miserably. After the initial incident, in which our main character runs someone over while driving home intoxicated, the movie almost turns into a character study. We see how she reacts, the trials of going through with burying the person she hit instead of letting the police know. And for 40 minutes, the horror elements are zilch.

If this character had been particularly interesting, or had this been done by the hands of a far more talented director, maybe it could have worked. For what it was, though, I was bored out of my mind. And when things do happen, it’s not particularly good. This is just a disappointment of a movie, and does many things wrong. The points I gave it come from the fact that while this film isn’t good, it’s certainly leagues above the worst horror films. It’s overly generic, and just overall not conducive to a fun viewing.

4/10

In a Dark Place (2006)

Directed by Donato Rotunno [Other horror films: N/A]

This would be the third time I’ve seen this film, and I have the same lukewarm reaction I did the first few times. In a Dark Place, another rendition of The Turn of the Screw (the most famous being 1961’s The Innocents) is not really a bad film. But it fails to really go above and beyond what it could have been.

The ambiguity (is it a ghost movie? are the children possessed? is our main character just losing it?) inherent in the original story certainly remains in this rendition, to the annoyance of some viewers. By the end, nothing is necessarily for certain, though I personally feel clues do lead to one central conclusion.

The acting here isn’t overly stellar, and the lesbian subplot just seems a tad odd, but I appreciate them wanting to add a little something to the story. In some ways, this feels like a slow-burner, though whether it pays off at the end is up for each viewer to decide. I’m not a giant fan of the ending, but then again, I wouldn’t have expected much else. In a Dark Place isn’t a bad movie. It’s just not that memorable.

6.5/10