Night of the Lepus (1972)

Night of the Lepus

Directed by William F. Claxton [Other horror films: N/A]

This film isn’t one of those 70’s classics people often talk about. It’s not an amazing movie. It’s a bit silly, even. But I did have a blast seeing it again. It begins on a serious note, an almost documentary-like feeling, about rabbit overpopulation, and the negative effects it can cause for man. And the somber tone continues throughout (which can only be expected, given this is from the 1970’s). This movie doesn’t have much going for it in terms of gore, as you can imagine, though there is one scene, showing the remains of a mangled body, that gives us something.

But we do have some pretty likable characters here. And we have (amusing) scenes of rabbits attacking people. DeForest Kelley’s role was one I enjoyed, and even the sheriff (Paul Fix) was a pretty decent guy. It’s a bit difficult to understand exactly why the rabbits are so dangerous, but hey, it’s the 1970’s. Truth be told, Night of the Lepus isn’t a great movie, but if you can lay back and enjoy 70’s ecological horror films, you could do much worse. Pretty average overall, but there are some things to enjoy in this one.

7/10

Buried Alive (1990)

Buried Alive

Directed by Frank Darabont [Other horror films: Nightshift Collection (1994, segment ‘The Woman in the Room’), The Mist (2007)]

This was a very solid television horror film, though I suspect many would see it as purely a thriller.

First thing I noticed was the familiar faces in the cast, three in particular: Our main character, played by Tim Matheson (the vice president for a good portion of The West Wing), William Atherton (most well-known for being the annoying, dickish reporter from the first two Die Hard movies), and Hoyt Axton (Billy’s father in Gremlins). Truth be told, aside from Jennifer Jason Leigh (who was in The Hitcher), these three characters are about the only important ones, so it’s fantastic to have actors that I recognize from other works.

The story, while not overly creative, was solidly put together, and rather suspenseful at some points. Since it’s a television movie, it’s extremely tame, but it does get its point across. Matheson does a fantastic job in his role, as does Leigh, his cheating wife. Some scenes struck me as comical (Matheson’s screaming while he’s having a heart attack), but overall, this was a very enjoyable film, and the ending was much better than I had thought it would be. A good film here.

8/10

Spiders (2000)

Spiders

Directed by Gary Jones [Other horror films: Mosquito (1994), Crocodile 2: Death Swamp (2002), Jolly Roger: Massacre at Cutter’s Cove (2005), Ghouls (2008), Boogeyman 3 (2008), Lightning Strikes (2009), Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan (2013)]

Spiders is a moderately low-quality romp, with ridiculous characters and rather dated-looking spider CGI. The story is slightly unique, in that the first hour and ten minutes take place in an underground military base, but for the final twenty minutes, the setting becomes a college campus and finally, the city as a whole. The last two portions seemed sort of jammed in there, just to make the film a bit longer – they certainly don’t feel in place.

That’s not to say this movie isn’t enjoyable – if you like lower-quality monster movies, then this one seems right down your alley. The “aliens” at the beginning of the film are hilarious, and the overacting of Mark Phelan, once you get used to it, is pretty amusing. And like I said, it’s just a ridiculous movie overall. Not bad, not great. Not a waste of time, though, so I guess it’s about slightly below average.

6.5/10

Vargtimmen (1968)

Vargtimmen

Directed by Ingmar Bergman [Other horror films: Jungfrukällan (1960)]

I’m not a big fan of experimental films. Antichrist was a film I rather disliked. Most of what I’ve seen from Cronenberg and Lynch, not to mention Tsukamoto, I’ve not particularly enjoyed. The same goes for this Ingmar Bergman classic. When I first saw it, I just had a massive headache afterward. This time around, I’ve grown to appreciate a bit more what it was going for, and they did that job well, but I still rather would have watched something a bit more coherent.

The story is simple: A man and his wife go to their small cottage on an island, and the man slowly begins losing it. He begins seeing bizarre people and experiencing intense paranoia. And he snaps.

Like I said, this movie does a very good job at showing us the bizarre spirits haunting our main character. Many of the scenes, while not outright terrifying, have an ominous, creepy atmosphere about them. And I truly do appreciate that.

What I cannot abide, however, are the random scenes cobbled up, not to mention the dialogue, much of which doesn’t make sense. Indeed, such is a well-done portrayal of losing it on an isolated island, but it’s not something I enjoy at all. On a positive note, I did enjoy how this movie was put together – the wife is being interviewed about her husband and her experience on the island, and so the majority of the story takes place as a flashback. It gave a pretty documentary feel to it, and I thought it came across as sort of cool.

That said, this isn’t a film I enjoy, and while there are the occasional cool scenes (a man removing his eyes, for instance), it doesn’t strike me as worth it. Despite being a Swedish classic, Vargtimmen (or Hour of the Wolf), probably isn’t something I’d soon watch again.

5.5/10

Cube 2: Hypercube (2002)

Cube 2 Hypercube

Directed by Andrzej Sekula [Other horror films: While We Sleep (2021)]

I liked this movie far more the last few times I saw it than I did upon rewatching it this time around. I enjoy many of the characters (or at least enough of them to make up for the ones I didn’t enjoy), and portions of the story are perfectly fine, but this film lacks the charm of it’s predecessor.

It possesses fewer trapped rooms than does the original, and while the bright white rooms bring a futuristic tone to the film, it doesn’t do much for a suspenseful vibe. As with the first Cube, though, the strong point is not the surroundings or the story (and certainly not the conclusion, or lack thereof), it’s the characters.

I’ll say that I much preferred the antagonist from the first film, but the characters of Jerry (a kind, thoughtful if not overly cheery, man) and Mrs. Paley (an older woman with dementia/Alzheimer’s) are both great. Jerry was the character who lacked the survival skills likely needed, but is an all-around good guy, whereas Paley’s character brought some pretty humorous moments to the film. This is not to say the other characters aren’t good, but some of them (the blind girl especially) became quite annoying as the movie pressed on.

The ending, while many disliked it, was one I felt was mostly acceptable. I do wish they delved more into the workings of the Hypercube, but the prequel gives us a small dose of that later on. Just a small note, I wasn’t a big fan of the alternate reality/dimensions portrayed in this film – different versions of the same character getting killed multiple times, to me, really dampens the emotional response to the death – but it was certainly an interesting route to take. Not a great movie, and nowhere near as good as the first Cube, but this was passable.

6.5/10

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