Scary Movie (1991)

Directed by Daniel Erickson [Other horror films: N/A]

I definitely didn’t know what I was getting into going into this movie. I know that IMDb labels it a horror/comedy, which I guess is a fair description, but what I didn’t anticipate is just how much fun I would find much of the film.

If there’s one main drawback, it’s that I think Scary Movie runs on a bit longer than it needs to. I think they probably could have cut out ten minutes, maybe 15, and made it a quicker experience, because there were a few times when I felt my focus wander off. Otherwise, though, I think that it’s a movie with a lot of spirit and a lovely and charming encapsulation of Halloween.

For the first thirty minutes of the movie, a group of four friends are standing in line to get into a Haunted house attraction. During this time, an insane killer breaks loose. Most of the film, though, follows the friends, specifically the nervous wreck that is Warren (played by John Hawkes).

On a side-note, one of my favorite things in the film was, when the group of friends played jokes and pranks on Warren, this guy standing behind the group in line – not a part of the group, and in fact never actually talks to anyone in the group – laughs along with the others. The camera often puts him in focus as he cackles at Warren, and in fact he’s credited on IMDb as ‘Laughing Man’ (Ernie Taliaferro in his sole role, if anyone’s wondering). That happened multiple times throughout the movie, and it never got old.

What also never got old were the hokey yet charming set pieces in the haunted house, and really, the whole movie reeked of the spirit of Halloween in a way that, to me, few movies have (such as Trick ‘r Treat, Halloween III: Season of the Witch and, of course, Halloween), and for that alone, I had a really good time.

John Hawkes (who later popped up in Identity, which must be where I recognize him from) was an interesting lead character, and throughout the film we see him consistently surviving the horrors he’s facing. He’s a jumpy guy, though, so the amount of horrors he’s actually facing are sometimes in question. Ev Lunning is decent as a sheriff running for re-election, and Zeke Mills (‘You wonder where the yeller went when you brush your teeth with Pepperdent’) has some funny lines. The best actor, though, is probably Taliaferro and his laughing.

I don’t know if the end of the movie is entirely satisfying, but I think it works with the story, and feels oddly dramatic given the rest of the film’s somewhat light-hearted nature. This is definitely a movie that surprised me, though, and Scary Movie is a movie I’d recommend to fans of early 90’s slashers if they want something a little atypical.

7.5/10

The Borrower (1991)

Directed by John McNaughton [Other horror films: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986), The Harvest (2013)]

Filmed in the late 80’s and not released until 1991, this science-fiction/horror mix isn’t a particularly great movie, but if you go into it not knowing much, nor expecting anything from it, The Borrower might turn out to be an okay watch.

As it was, I didn’t love it, but I will admit I was impressed by the fact that, despite the goofy premise (an alien is exiled on Earth for his crimes, and must survive by stealing the heads of Earthmen), this movie isn’t actually all that steeped in humor. Sure, there’s a little here and there, but much of the film is played decently straight (it helps that there are some serious topics addressed in this, such as homelessness, taking a life in self defense, and sexual assault), which was a pleasant surprise.

That doesn’t make the movie good, of course. The story itself doesn’t drag, but it does seem somewhat aimless at times (which might be expected, but it doesn’t make it any more enjoyable), and the conclusion, at least to me, felt rather lack-luster. Certainly the special effects, for what they were, weren’t at all shabby, but a competent story with decent special effects isn’t like to really keep people excited throughout.

I don’t think that Rae Dawn Chong, the lead actress, did a bad job here, and she did shine in a few scenes, but I’m hard-pressed to say that she really brought a lot to the film. More interesting to see was Antonio Fargas, who was in the classic 70’s television series Starsky and Hutch (a series of which I’ve seen most episodes of, believe it or not). Here, he played a homeless man who came into contact with the alien, and they almost have a buddy cop feel to them (up to a point, of course). Fargas didn’t really make the movie, by any means, but he was certainly a nice and familiar face to see.

When all’s said and done, The Borrower did exceed the admittedly meager expectations I had, but it still came out as a below-average film. Certainly for an early 1990’s movie that I’ve almost never heard of before, it was a somewhat nice surprise, and I certainly recommend it to fans of alien-based horror, but it’s a far cry from great, and definitely a different look for director John McNaughton (who directed the classic Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer).

6/10

This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss The Borrower in all it’s glory.

Subspecies (1991)

Directed by Ted Nicolaou [Other horror films: Ragewar (1984, segment ‘Desert Pursuit’), Savage Island (1985), TerrorVision (1986), Bad Channels (1992), Bloodstone: Subspecies II (1993), Bloodlust: Subspecies III (1994), Vampire Journals (1997), Subspecies: The Awakening (1998), Ragdoll (1999), Urban Evil (2000), The St. Francisville Experiment (2000), The Horrible Dr. Bones (2000), I, Vampire (2000, segments ‘Spawn of Hell’ & ‘Undead Evil’), Puppet Master vs Demonic Toys (2004), The Etruscan Mask (2007), DevilDolls (2012), Deadly Dolls: Deepest Cuts (2018), Vampire Slaughter: Eaten Alive (2018), Don’t Let Her In (2021)]

One of the first American films made in Romania, Subspecies has a very authentic feel to it, and while I don’t necessarily love the story, I do think that this movie has a lot going for it.

Full Moon Productions, who also brought to life the Puppet Master series, along with the enjoyable Castle Freak, did quite well with Subspecies, especially given the fact I’m not really much of a vampire fan. Here, the design of the antagonist Radu (played by Anders Hove) is pretty damn good, reminiscence of Orloc from Nosferatu with his abnormally long fingers. The vibe to the film is great, and any scene that took place in the Romanian woods, or near a castle, or even in the small village, had a lot of atmosphere.

Ivan J. Rado was perhaps my favorite performance from the film. He doesn’t shine from the beginning, but once things get going, he proves to be a very useful person to have on your side. Of course, Hove does fantastic as the villainous Radu, and has a very threatening feel to him. I wasn’t deeply enthralled with Michael Watson or his character, but it still worked out decently. Laura Mae Tate did great as the lead woman, though, and it’s a shame that she wasn’t really in many things aside from this (only thing of note was 1991’s Dead Space, a disappointing remake of 1982’s Forbidden Planet).

I don’t love a whole lot of vampire films, and I certainly wouldn’t say that I love Subspecies, but I did enjoy it a lot more this time around as opposed to when I first saw it. The story isn’t really what my go-to horror is, but given that the film carries with it such a solid vibe (filming in Romania really did a lot for this one, I think), I can forego any strong feelings of dislike concerning the story.

One small note – the stop-motion minions of Radu didn’t really look the best, and I don’t really think they were used enough to warrant their inclusion. Perhaps that changes as the series goes on (I’ve not seen, as of yet, any of the sequels), but here, they didn’t do that much, and looked somewhat goofy while not doing it.

There’s few vampire films that I really enjoy, but I do appreciate Subspecies, and I certainly think that the film isn’t anywhere near bad. It’s not my usual type of thing, but a lot is done right, and the vibe is to kill for. Definitely worth a look if you’re a fan of either vampires or other Full Moon Entertainment movies.

7.5/10

This was discussed on Fight Evil’s podcast. Check out Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this if interested.

Sometimes They Come Back (1991)

Sometimes They Come Back most likely or is it I dont really know but life is a shadow and whos image is casted on the wall I wonder

Directed by Tom McLoughlin [Other horror films: One Dark Night (1982), Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986), The Haunting of Helen Walker (1995)]

For a television adaptation of a Stephen King story, this early 90’s flick is okay. The problem is that, compared to the original story, this falls moderately flat.

See, the short story (which was first published in 1974, then released in King’s first anthology, Night Shift, from 1978) was written in a very succinct, almost clinical, manner. It’s not King’s best outing in Night Shift, but it is a pretty solid story, and also appropriately dark.

Partially because this is a television movie, though, Sometimes They Come Back strikes me as a lot more saccharine than anything, and it’s overly sentimental, almost sappy, portrayal, really takes away from what the story brought forth.

If you’ve not read the story, I suspect it might fair a little better, but I still think the movie would feel like the sanitized, 90’s flick it is. There are some solid sequences, and pretty solid performances, but it just doesn’t cut it for me.

I do have to give props to Nicholas Sadler, Bentley Mitchum, and Robert Rusler, who gave a fantastically exuberant performance as some greasers out for vengeance. Their over-the-top style, including the fun Big Bopper reference, made the film a lot more fun than it otherwise would have been. Those three brought a lot of heart to this film, and their antics added a lot. Rusler, by the way, played Ron Grady in the second A Nightmare on Elm Street, which was sort of fun.

Otherwise, the only other performance that stood out was the lead Tim Matheson. Brooke Adams, who was also in The Dead Zone (1983), was okay, but didn’t particularly do much for me. Matheson, of course, is a rather well-known name. I know him best from The West Wing, where he played the Vice President for a time, and he also starred in the television movie Buried Alive, which I’ve previously reviewed. He does a good job here, and he fit the role I imagined from the story pretty well. His dialogue, at times, was rather sappy, and his internal monologue was way too 70’s, but he was nice to see nonetheless.

Compared to the story, Sometimes They Come Back isn’t that great. It’s been years upon years since I last saw it, and it’s not really a movie I could see myself watching again any time soon. There are much better Stephen King adaptations out there, so I’d personally just recommend sticking to the story. Still, this is a harmless movie, with occasionally fun scenes, so if it sounds like your thing, give it a shot.

6/10

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Silence of the lamb

Directed by Jonathan Demme [Other horror films: Beloved (1998)]

This is one of those very contested, borderline genre pieces. Personally, I find there enough qualities in this classic to consider it a horror flick, but if you’re one of the many who just don’t see the horror here, that’s understandable too. That discussion aside, The Silence of the Lambs is of course a solid movie, with it’s biggest strengths being the story and great performances.

It’s the combination of Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins that really give this movie life. Hopkins does a great job as Lecter, and despite his moderately short screen-time, he has a presence that really can’t be contested in the film. Playing Buffalo Bill, Ted Levine shows a fantastic, crazy side as opposed to Hopkins’ calmer form of insanity. Other performances worth noting are Scott Glenn (I love his rather straight-laced character here), Anthony Heald (who I saw somewhat recently in the 2006 comedy Accepted), and Frankie Falson (admittedly, he didn’t really do much, or get that much screen-time, but he’s still an actor I appreciate).

When you combine such a stellar cast with a pretty hypnotizing story, only good things can come from that, which I think is clear from the film. Though violence wasn’t much the point, there are a couple of standout sequences, such as Lecter’s breakout, that are well-worth seeing.

Quite often, this is a clever and psychological film, and it’s obviously very well-known, and for good reason. Many probably wouldn’t consider the film horror, but like other well-loved borderline flicks, such as Jaws and Identity, I certainly think it has its place in the genre. A great film with a lot going for it, this is definitely a 90’s film worth seeing, if for some reason you’ve not already.

8.5/10

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.

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