Arachnophobia (1990)

Directed by Frank Marshall [Other horror films: N/A]

Truthfully, I can’t think of a single thing I dislike about this film.

The cast here is close to flawless. I pretty much like every performance, my favorites being Frances Bay (Happy Gilmore), Henry Jones, Roy Brocksmith, James Handy, Mark L. Taylor (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids), Stuart Pankin, Julian Sands, Harley Jane Kozak, Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom), and of course, John Goodman. Goodman’s character is golden anytime he’s on-screen, and Daniels just does a fantastic job here playing a lead you can definitely feel sympathy for.

With so many great scenes, it’s really impossible to point out where the best portions are, but a scene that always terrified me (and still does today) was the segment in the house when the spiders finally swarm. They crawl on the television, crawl out the vents, crawl out the sink – you name it, the spiders are there. That scene is somewhat hard to watch, but there’s no denying it’s effective.

Also, I want to give a lot of kudos to the twenty minute opening. It’s a fantastically atmospheric opening, what with the rainforests and bugs of all sorts falling from trees. It’s just a great beginning to a film, and sets the tone beautifully in a way that isn’t always common for a lot of movies.

Sometimes when a movie’s good, you can harp on and on about it. I did such with Bedlam, and I’ll likely do so again. But for Arachnophobia, it seems pointless – the cast is great, the story is great, the suspense is great, the music is spectacular, and everything else is great to. Easy top score, and a highlight of the 90’s.

10/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. If you want to listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one, listen below.

A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell (1990)

Directed by Brett Piper [Other horror films: They Bite (1996), Drainiac! (2000), Psyclops (2002), Arachnia (2003), Screaming Dead (2003), Bite Me! (2004), Shock-O-Rama (2005), Bacterium (2006), Muckman (2009), The Dark Sleep (2012), Queen Crab (2015), Triclops (2016)]

Well, with a title like this, how can the movie go wrong?

The sad thing is, while the film is so far from good, it’s actually a somewhat hard movie for me to hate. I certainly think it carries with it a charm that many other lower-budget films lack entirely, and while I don’t love the very fantasy-feel of the film, I can’t deny that they did well with what they had.

I think that, by far, the worst part of the movie is the introduction, which has our lead Nymphoid Barbarian explaining how the Earth got decimated and why society (or what’s left of society, which is very little) lives on a post-apocalyptic planet. It’s cringy, and doesn’t even make sense, as later in the film, the character (who was a little girl when the war started) has no idea what books or lighters are, which leads me to think she should have been born generations after the Event.

Personally, that’s the biggest flaw I found with the film. It just didn’t seem necessary, and might lead people to the untrue conclusion that A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell has some comedy influences, when it really doesn’t. Sure, the title itself doesn’t help battle against that stigma, but the movie and plot itself is pretty straight, if dodgy effects don’t cause one to burst out laughing.

This said, I actually thought that most of the makeup and special effects ranged from tolerably competent to rather charming, in the case of the Claymation monsters. There was a wide-range of terrible creatures, from scaled lizard men, to dwarf-type things, to giant worms (somewhat reminiscent of Beetlejuice, actually), along with giant crab-type things. They often didn’t look great, but honestly, I sort of liked it, and I enjoyed it far more like this as opposed what many modern movies would do, and just CGI the shit out of everything. A guy getting his arm eaten off was good fun also.

The dialogue wasn’t much to be proud of, but the story came across fine. Linda Corwin didn’t strike me as much a ‘nymphoid,’ but whatever. As the main antagonist, Alex Pirnie did fine, and ditto for Paul Guzzi as Corwin’s side-kick. Perhaps my favorite character was Mark Deshaies, who played a rather bad-ass disfigured man.

Another thing that deserves a small mention are the settings, my favorite being a decent-looking castle which held a distinctly evil aura. It might be fantasy 101, and the same could be said for the somewhat threadbare plot, but it was done well despite the budget.

Like I said, A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell is a hard movie for me to actually hate. I was by no means fond of it when I first saw it some years back, but it’s grown on me. I still don’t think the movie’s that great, and I definitely don’t think it’s a film that I’d rewatch all that often, but I will admit to finding the film, despite it’s problems, a charming little addition to the fantasy/horror genre.

6/10

Spontaneous Combustion (1990)

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), I’m Dangerous Tonight (1990), Night Terrors (1993), Body Bags (1993, segment ‘Eye’), The Mangler (1995), The Apartment Complex (1999), Crocodile (2000), Shadow Realm (2002), Toolbox Murders (2004), Mortuary (2005), Djinn (2013)]

It’s a shame that this movie, despite the potential I sense, is such a mess. To me, that seems clearly due to the script, which doesn’t really feel right.

I have two big issues with this film. One, as I mentioned, is the story itself. The prologue takes 22 minutes to get through, and once we do, we’re stuck with characters that seem interconnected but don’t know they’re interconnected, a secret plot, some radio psychic, mysteries from the past coming back to haunt a character, some subplot about a nuclear plant that doesn’t seem related at all to the rest of the story, and syringes of glowing green stuff that was never once explained.

The plot goes all over the place, and I don’t think things were put together particularly well. That prologue took way too long to get through, and most of the present-day story isn’t overly captivating either. Some of the special effects (and I really mean some, as there are some really bad scenes here) work out well, but the story itself is just a mess. Maybe I just missed something, but it seems to me there were still quite a few unanswered questions by the end of the film, and it just grated on me. Things just felt disjointed at times.

Secondly, and this may be controversial, but I was deeply underwhelmed by Brad Dourif’s acting throughout this whole film. I know his character is in an odd place, so some of it can be excused, but it wasn’t just the odd scene out where I thought he was just a bad actor. I loved hearing Chucky’s voice, and I get the fact his character’s going through a confusing and emotionally-wrecking period, but his acting didn’t do it for me here at all, which is shame, as he generally is pretty enjoyable (such as his role in Death Machine, which came out four years after this).

I’m not saying that Spontaneous Combustion doesn’t occasionally have charm, but from a personal standpoint, I don’t think I’d watch this again anytime soon, as I honestly enjoyed very little of this film, despite the potential I really thought it had. I could tell from the beginning that the tone just felt off to me, and it pretty much stayed that way throughout, all the way to the ending which also just didn’t do it for me at all.

Tobe Hooper has, no doubt, done a lot for the horror genre, but this one is definitely not one of his better works in my view.

4.5/10

Meridian (1990)

Directed by Charles Band [Other horror films: Crash! (1976), Parasite (1982), The Alchemist (1983), Ragewar (1984, segment ‘Heavy Metal’), Pulse Pounders (1988), Crash and Burn (1990), Trancers II (1991), Doctor Mordrid (1992), Dollman vs. Demonic Toys (1993), Head of the Family (1996), Hideous! (1997), The Creeps (1997), Blood Dolls (1999), Puppet Master: The Legacy (2003), Dr. Moreau’s House of Pain (2004), Decadent Evil (2005), Doll Graveyard (2005), The Gingerdead Man (2005), Petrified (2006), Evil Bong (2006), Dead Man’s Hand (2007), Decadent Evil II (2007), Dangerous Worry Dolls (2008), Evil Bong 2: King Bong (2009), Skull Heads (2009), Evil Bong 3: The Wrath of Bong (2011), Killer Eye: Halloween Haunt (2011), DevilDolls (2012), The Dead Want Women (2012), Puppet Master X: Axis Rising (2012), Ooga Booga (2013), Unlucky Charms (2013), Gingerdead Man vs. Evil Bong (2013), The Haunted Dollhouse (2013), Trophy Heads (2014), Evil Bong 420 (2015), Evil Bong: High 5 (2016), Ravenwolf Towers: The Feature (2016), Evil Bong 666 (2017), Puppet Master: Axis Termination (2017), Evil Bong 777 (2018), Puppet Master: Blitzkrieg Massacre (2018), Deadly Dolls: Deepest Cuts (2018), Death Heads: Brain Drain (2018), Vampire Slaughter: Eaten Alive (2018), Bunker of Blood: Chapter 6: Zombie Lust: Night Flesh (2018), Bunker of Blood: Chapter 8: Butcher’s Bake Off: Hell’s Kitchen (2019), Corona Zombies (2020)]

I went into this one with lower expectations, but was pleasantly surprised at first. But then the movie kept going down paths I didn’t much care for, and come the end, I found Meridian a somewhat tedious and difficult film to fully enjoy.

Of course, being a Full Moon flick, Meridian does have some charm to it, and it also boasts some decent performances from both Sherilyn Fenn and Charlie Spradling, not to mention Hilary Mason, and though some of the ideas themselves were interesting, the movie evolves into a messy romantic flick à la Beauty and the Beast, and not a particularly worthwhile version.

The main idea and setting here are both fine. The two girls seeing the traveling magic troupe was solid, and the variety of troupe members was admirable (which led, on a side note, to a scene that reminded me a lot of the 1932 Freaks, in which a dwarf is walking down a table and pouring wine in peoples’ cups). It’s true that dinner sequence, followed by a drug-induced rape scene, held a certain engagement to it, but then the movie spirals into unenjoyable territory.

What’s the main issue, then?

After Fenn’s character is raped, she falls in love with the individual who raped her. That alone pissed me off, if truth be told. Drugging women then raping them, and then having one of the women in question subsequently fall for one of the guys involved is beyond the pale, and past that point, I couldn’t bring myself to care for Fenn’s character, nor Malcolm Jamieson’s (he played a pair of twins, Lawrence and Oliver). And once this happened, it only left one central character to root for, being Spradling’s, but funnily, past this point, she only appears sporadically, and is of little importance to the rest of the story.

I’ll admit that both Sherilyn Fenn and Charlie Spradling were pretty attractive, which is definitely true during their nude sequences (Spradling being my preferred of the two). I don’t know Fenn from anything, but Spradling was in both the disappointing Mirror Mirror and the promising Puppet Master II. I liked her character here, quite a lot more than I liked Fenn’s, but like I said, past a certain point, she doesn’t really add much, aside from occasionally being seen working on uncovering a supposedly plot-important painting. Hilary Mason was fun, and there’s a somewhat cool twist involving her character, but much like Spradling, she doesn’t do that much.

Malcolm Jamieson was a fine actor here, but I didn’t care for either of the characters he played (and their on-screen conversations were just melodramatic to the extreme), and ultimately, while he probably did a perfectly fine job, I just didn’t care much for him, much of which can be put on the route that Meridian went.

I knew next to nothing about this movie before watching it, and that’s good, because I already went in with somewhat low expectations, so if I knew where this one went, it would have been even harder to get through this one. Meridian is somewhat interesting, and it definitely could have been a good film (another Full Moon feature, Subspecies, came out the following year, and is pretty good), but this one just doesn’t have what I’d hope for.

5.5/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. If interested, listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss it below.

Maniac Cop 2 (1990)

Directed by William Lustig [Other horror films: Maniac (1980), Maniac Cop (1988), Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence (1992), Uncle Sam (1996)]

Having not seen this sequel before, I wasn’t overly sure what to expect. I’d mostly heard positive comparisons to the first movie, and I wasn’t disappointed, as it’s a solid sequel and an enjoyable film, though I believe the first is a bit better.

The cast was decently solid. I truthfully didn’t care much for Robert Davi’s character, but the performance, as a lead, was pretty solid. Claudia Christian was decent, and gave a great performance at times, such as that rather thrilling handcuffed-to-a-car scene. I was somewhat taken aback by the route Bruce Campbell’s character took, but in retrospect, while disappointing, it made sense. A few interesting faces pop up, including Clarence Williams III (who I know best from Tales from the Hood) and a small cameo from Danny Trejo.

If there’s one acting misfire here, it’s from Leo Rossi, who played a talkative serial killer who just got on my nerves, and seemed to add a somewhat lighter feel to the film (at least in his scenes) than I would have hoped for, and overall, I really didn’t care for the addition of his character. It didn’t particularly seem necessary, and didn’t do the atmosphere any wonders.

Otherwise, the movie’s pretty solid, with a good plot, great massacres (I really liked both the police station and prison scene), and a couple of memorable kills, including a quick neck-snap that I really appreciated. Perhaps one of the best scenes takes place in a shooting range, but there were plenty of great scenes throughout the film.

I don’t think Maniac Cop 2 is quite as good as the first movie (a lot of it has to do with Rossi’s character), but I do think it’s a pretty solid film, and well worth the watch. If you enjoyed the first one, I’d guess this one would come across as rather palatable also.

7.5/10

This was covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. If interested, listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one below.

Pledge Night (1990)

Directed by Paul Ziller [Other horror films: Snakehead Terror (2004), Swarmed (2005), Beyond Loch Ness (2008), Yeti: Curse of the Snow Demon (2008), Troglodyte (2008), Ba’al (2008), Iron Invader (2011), Ghost Storm (2011)]

In many ways, Pledge Night feels more like an 80’s movie than it does a 90’s, which probably makes the film a bit better. It’s not great, by any means, but there’s enough here to keep me entertained, and having seen this one twice now, I can say it’s somewhere around average.

There’s one thing I want to get out of the way first before jumping into this one: I detest and abhor fraternities and their hazings. It’s nothing more than psychological (and sometimes physical) torture, bolstered by nothing but pointless tradition and the psychology behind sunk costs. You can find a list of those who have died during hazing practices, and once you understand that many in Greek life still willingly join organizations that haze, and don’t speak up about it, you may be able to understand my utter disgust with sororities and fraternities.

I bring that up because the first forty minutes of this movie deals with the hazing of six pledges to [insert random Greek alphabet here]. Is some of it harmless? Sure, but almost all of it is psychological torture, and shows that the organization is not one worth being in to begin with. As a few of the pledges say, though, if they hadn’t attempted to pledge to a frat, their fathers would be disappointed (macho men wanting their sons to go through abuse – great parenting).

After forty minutes of this, we get to the horror, in which the zombie/demon of a previous pledge who died during a hazing (which is within the realm of possibility, as to this day, kids are still being killed by Greek life) returns and goes on a rampage. Oh, also another Greek brother also kills a few people, but it’s not entirely clear if that guy was just driven to his behavior by his own mental instability or somehow possessed by Sid, the returning pledge.

Of the six pledges, only James Davies fails to make an impression. It’s true that both David Neal Evans and Robert Lentini don’t add much, but as this is the only acting role from either, I don’t much hold that against them. Dennis Sullivan (who is memorable only due to his hella slick haircut) and Craig Derrick are both fun, but neither really gets that much to do past a certain point.

The two main characters, played by Todd Eastland and Shannon McMahon, are good, though I will admit to McMahon being virtually indistinguishable from the other Sorority girls there (all three had small nude scenes, so kudos there, I guess). Michael T. Henderson is pretty solid in his role, and Arthur Lundquist, who played the potentially possessed Frat brother, really did come across as reasonably insane at times (that cackle was top notch).

I wouldn’t say many of the kills are really good, but there are a few memorable ones here regardless, such as the cherry bomb scene, a strangulation sequence, an okay electrocution, and this dude getting stabbed in the back multiple times. That last kill mentioned was almost my favorite, but then a girl got killed by an electric egg beater, which wasn’t much in the way of gory, but it did have character.

The problem here is that the killer, Sid, spews these one-liners which really lack comedic value. Up until his appearance in the film, one could easily be excused for not seeing this as a comedy-horror, but then Sid comes in and ruins the perception. It’s not as bad as Freddy later got, but it wasn’t really worth it either. Related, there is one scene in which Sid emerges from someone’s body, which reminded me of a much lower quality version of the classic scene from Freddy’s Revenge, so hey, that’s worth seeing.

I will say, though, there was one funny line – ‘Maybe we should turn the light off as a group’ – that cracked me up considerably.

Pledge Night isn’t a movie I loved when I first saw it, but it is reasonably watchable. It’s enjoyable to an extent, and while I wish they had gotten to the horror aspects quicker (forty minutes in seems a bit of a long wait), it’s still okay. If you’re a fan of late 80’s horror, this movie fits the bill, so give it a go. Just be aware that it may not stand out come the credits.

6.5/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss it below.

Graveyard Shift (1990)

Graveyard Shift

Directed by Ralph S. Singleton [Other horror films: N/A]

Though this is far from one of the better Stephen King adaptations, I think that Graveyard Shift carries with it some charm, much of it from a combination of the schlocky nature of the story and Stephen Macht’s overly enjoyable performance.

While it’s based off a short story from King’s first collection, Night Shift, not too much in this hour-and-a-half long film seems too unnecessary. Certainly, showcasing Warwick’s despicable nature more overtly here was a nice addition, which makes sense since they were trying to find some additional padding for the story, which was somewhat thread-bare in the original short story.

Without a doubt, Stephen Macht gave the best performance here. I don’t know what his accent was (sounds like a strong Louisiana twang), but he commanded attention in every single scene he was in. I really enjoyed Macht’s portrayal of Warwick, though it did get a bit much toward the end (more on that shortly). The main character, played by the milquetoast David Andrews, left naught a single impression whatsoever. Kelly Wolf had some gumption, but her character didn’t much amount to much, aside from hint at Andrews’ untold back-story.

Brad Dourif also appeared somewhat extensively in the film, but I thought his character was far, far too over-the-top. This isn’t to say that Macht’s character wasn’t, but Dourif took it to a new level, and I admit that while I usually enjoy his performances, this one turned me off somewhat.

A few things, such as the back-story of Andrews’ character, made Graveyard Shift feel somewhat incomplete. We’re literally never given any idea of what makes Andrews’ character tick – he was a blank slate, and we about never learn a thing about him. Another problem I had was that the conclusion felt as though it was escalating too quickly. It’s a shame, as otherwise, things were mostly plodding along fine.

One of the absolute best things about the film, though, was the setting. From an expansive cavern filled with bones to a flooded out, marshy graveyard, which stands next to an old, ominous mill, Graveyard Shift really knew how to use their settings, and it stood out as easily one of the most memorable parts of the film.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the clinical style of the short story more, but I appreciate how they attempted to flesh out Warwick’s character here, and I can’t say it enough: Stephen Macht’s performance is fantastic. I’d say that this is somewhat below average, but I will admit to enjoying it a hell of a lot more this time around as opposed to when I first saw it some years back, and while some aspects weren’t that great (including much of the conclusion), I suspect this has decent rewatchability.

6.5/10

Due occhi diabolici (1990)

Two EVIL

Directed by Dario Argento [Other horror films: L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo (1970), Il gatto a nove code (1971), 4 mosche di velluto grigio (1971), Profondo rosso (1975), Suspiria (1977), Inferno (1980), Tenebre (1982), Phenomena (1985), Opera (1987), Trauma (1993), La sindrome di Stendhal (1996), Il fantasma dell’opera (1998), Non ho sonno (2001), Il cartaio (2004), Ti piace Hitchcock? (2005), La terza madre (2007), Giallo (2009), Dracula 3D (2012)] & George A. Romero [Other horror films: Night of the Living Dead (1968), Hungry Wives (1972), The Crazies (1973), Martin (1977), Dawn of the Dead (1978), Creepshow (1982), Day of the Dead (1985), Monkey Shines (1988), The Dark Half (1993), Bruiser (2000), Land of the Dead (2005), Diary of the Dead (2007), Survival of the Dead (2009)]

Featuring two Edgar Allan Poe stories directed by two well-respected directors (George A. Romero and Dario Argento), I wish that I could like Two Evil Eyes (as it’s known here) more. As it is, the first story is really enjoyable, but Argento’s addition here just drags, and deeply pulls down my enjoyment of the film overall.

Directed by Romero, the first story is a pretty spooky idea, and has a rather classical feel to it. It felt like one of those stories you might see in a 70’s Amicus anthology (Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror, what-have-you), with a great feel for suspense and a solid conclusion.

Argento’s story, based off The Black Cat, just felt off, for lack of a better word. The last six minutes or so were pretty good, if only because it was moderately suspenseful, but the rest of the story just didn’t do it for me. It’s made worse by both the fact that it’s the longer of the two stories (about an hour and three minutes long as opposed to the first story’s fifty-five minutes) and almost none of the performances wowed me, and in fact, the main actor bothered me quite a bit.

The cast for the first story is so much better anyway. Starring Adrienne Barbeau (from such classics as The Fog and Creepshow) and Ramy Zada (who I know only from a segment in 1989’s After Midnight), who work rather well together, this story also has strong performances by Bingo O’Malley, Tom Atkins, and E.G. Marshall. O’Malley isn’t a name I’m familiar with, but Atkins was in such genre classics as The Fog, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Night of the Creeps, and Maniac Cop, and was great to see here. E.G. Marshall hasn’t done much for the horror genre (in fact, this movie aside, he’s only been in two others, 1979’s television movie Vampire and a segment in Creepshow), but was amazing in the 1957 classic 12 Angry Men, and seeing him here was sort of a treat.

The second story, on the other hand, had just one performance I actually liked, being that of John Amos (who, along with being in the second Die Hard, was also in twenty or so episodes of The West Wing), who played a police detective. The star, Harvey Keitel (who I know mostly from Pulp Fiction), had a pretty weak performance here – his character didn’t really make much sense to me, and he seemed all over the place. Both Madeleine Potter and Sally Kirkland were in much the same vein, and I especially didn’t like Kirkland’s esoteric character.

Originally titled Due occhi diabolici (though the film’s in English, it’s an Italian production), Two Evil Eyes had a decent concept, but it didn’t work out, which is a shame. If I could rate the movie off the first story only, it’d be getting a pretty high rating. But as an overall package, Two Evil Eyes isn’t a movie I’d want to see again. My advice is to give the first story a watch, as it truly is pretty good, and just ignore the second.

5.5/10

It (1990)

It

Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace [Other horror films: Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), Fright Night Part 2 (1988), Danger Island (1992), Vampires: Los Muertos (2002)]

I don’t think I can be good judge of this television mini-series. Despite having read the book multiple times, and seeing how tepid of a series this was in comparison, there’s still huge amounts of nostalgia as far as It is concerned, which clouds my better judgment.

My better judgment sees the massive flaws with this adaptation – it’s far too condensed, even in it’s lengthy running time, leaving rather big plot points left out (the house on Neibolt Street, the ritual of Chüd, a clearer picture of both Derry’s history and It’s influence), which isn’t helped by the fact that the budget is clearly that of a television project, so while the book is rather gory, there’s not much to be found here. And the deeply important symbol of love and friendship shown in the book? Of course, nowhere to be found here.

At times, there are changes made here that I sort of like – Ben seeing his father on the marsh (in lieu of a mummy), Stanley facing Pennywise in a creepy house (as opposed to three dead boys in a standpipe), and even Richie’s encounter with the werewolf. Of course, I’d have much preferred the two trips to Neibolt House instead, but the dingy school basement was good also. Lastly, the shower sequence with Eddie always freaked me out when I was younger, so that was welcomed.

I like most of the actors and actresses in this adaptation, really. As far as the kids go, Seth Green (Richie) and Ben Heller (Stan) were my favorite. Emily Perkins (who later goes on to star in the Ginger Snaps series) is nice to see this early on, but I don’t think she really captures Beverly’s essence. For the adults, Harry Anderson (Richie), Dennis Christopher (Eddie), and John Ritter (Ben) stole the show. Pennywise, played by Tim Curry, is of course pretty damn good, and really does a solid job with a creepy performance. Lastly, though he wasn’t relevant whatsoever, it was nice to see William B. Davis years before he was the Cigarette Smoking Man on The X-Files in a small appearance.

Another positive aspect of this movie I have to mention is the score, which is often haunting and rather brilliant. Maybe it’s just nostalgia, but every time I hear the score, I get chills. Unfortunately, it was a bit corny of them to put “It’s All Right” by The Impressions on repeat. Some of the dialogue is a bit awful too, such as the line I often quote, “Why does It hate? Why is It so mean?”, and the whole, “He just knows,” exchange. Just felt a bit ridiculous.

All of this is to say that, as a rather big fan of the book (I read it about once a year or so), this adaptation leaves out a lot, and I mean a lot, of important stuff, from the Turtle to Chüd to Neibolt Street. Some of this is due to budget constraints, and the 2017 movie fixes a bit of this, but it’s noticeably lacking here. Still, I cannot deny how important this film is to my love of the genre – I saw this so many times when I was a kid, and it’s one of the eight or so horror movies that’s crucial to me being a horror fan. Because of that nostalgic value, despite the many flaws, against my better judgment, I’d say the movie is just a little below average. If you don’t have any childhood connections to it, though, it might fare quite a bit worse.

6.5/10

On Fight Evil’s fourth podcast, Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I have an almost twenty minute conversation about this mini-series. Warning: strong nostalgia ahead.

Man hua qi xia (1990)

A Tales from the East

Directed by Manfred Wong [Other horror films: N/A]

Sometimes known under the title A Tale from the East, this rather obscure Hong Kong fantasy/horror/comedy film was all kinds of odd. Was it enjoyable? To an extent, yes, but it’s not a film I’d recommend you take that much time to locate unless it’s already your type of thing.

The film feels really, really goofy at times, a lot of it due to the characters played by Eric Kot and Jan Lamb. They even sing this utterly bizarre song about the prices of food, for some reason. Note – this film isn’t a musical, so that song, the only one in the film, came out of nowhere. Again, it’s a goofy, silly movie.

When it does lean more toward dread, it does an okay job. A sequence near the beginning had the demonic Blood Devil (who is after a magic pearl) going after people in a dark house, which was welcomed. It was somewhat hard to take seriously, though, because the kung fu action in the film was just so unrealistic. The jumping alone was entirely laughable (but yes, entertaining also).

So a lot of these actors were goofy (not just Kot and Lamb, but also Billy Lau), but there were some gems in here too. Joey Wang was rather beautiful at times, and I loved her go-getter attitude. David Wu did a great job playing an out-of-place bodyguard (there’s also time travel inherent in the film, which was interesting). Wu’s fights against Blood Demon were utterly ridiculous, but I guess that’s where a lot of the fun from these types of movies comes from.

Let’s take a second out to talk about a technical aspect of the video I watched. The subtitles, which I’m entirely grateful for having, were atrociously done. So the text appeared over the ongoing movie, which is fine, but when white text is shown over white clothing, it became about impossible to read. It didn’t happen enough for me to lose focus of what was going on, but it was definitely both noticeable and annoying. Again, with as seemingly obscure as this film is, it may be the best subtitled version out there, but at the same time, it seemed an unwise design choice.

A Tale from the East (as it’s known here, I guess, though I’ve also seen this just called Tale from the East) isn’t really a movie I can accurately put into words. It’s bizarre at points, goofy at points, and pretty amusing at points. I do wish that the horror elements were used more than the comedy or action, but there’s still something to be found for fans of the genre. As it is, this movie is one that I would recommend to fans of 80’s and 90’s Asian horror, but otherwise, this Hong Kong flick might not do it for you.

6.5/10