Anaconda (1997)

Directed by Luis Llosa [Other horror films: N/A]

I saw Anaconda once before, but I can’t pretend I know exactly how long it’s been. I’d estimate somewhere between ten to 15 years. All I know is that while I knew the plot outline, none of this really rang any bells. And I have to say, in another ten years, I can imagine the same plight falling upon me, as Anaconda doesn’t strike me as being that memorable a film.

Certainly the cast was decently strong. I couldn’t stand Jon Voight here, personally, as it just seemed so obvious from the get-go that he wasn’t exactly trustworthy (and the fact that another individual got stung by a wasp underwater apparently didn’t make anyone any more suspicious of him somehow). I didn’t care for his character, and I just don’t think it worked with the movie (not that the movie works that well on it’s own).

Otherwise, though, the cast is strong. I don’t really know Jennifer Lopez (I recognize the name because it’s a recognizable name, I’m guessing), but I’ve literally not seen her in anything else. She does decent here, but she doesn’t blow me away. A bit better, believe it or not, is Ice Cube, though he’s still not great. I think my favorite performance here was that of Jonathan Hyde, and it’s probably not even because he was exceptionally good, but more due to the fact that I know him from films such as Titanic and Jumanji. I enjoy his character here, no doubt, but I can’t pretend he’s all that important for most of the movie.

Not that it really matters. I was surprised in some ways by just how blah a lot of this movie was. I mean, hell, even the snake looked a lot worse than I ever would have thought it would. Plenty of giant snake films followed this one, such as King Cobra and Python, and I gotta be honest with you guys, I think both of those films had more heart. Sure, the snake here looks better than either of those two films, but this movie had Jennifer Lopez and Jon Voight in it – if the snake didn’t look better, then what the hell are they doing?

Much of the story didn’t really interest me, and while I did like pieces of the setting and some of the musical score throughout the film, more often than not I just wish it were a lot more fun (which is a problem that, as low budget as it was, Python had no problem delivering on). Oh, and Jon Voight’s character winked after being regurgitated by a snake, so that happened. Just an unremarkable experience, and ultimately a shame.

5/10

The Ugly (1997)

Directed by Scott Reynolds [Other horror films: N/A]

Honestly, The Ugly is a pretty simple movie, which the lower budget does well with. Certainly not a classic or anything so grand, this New Zealand film still has enough going for it to be consistently enjoyable.

First off, the budget here is a bit on the lower side, evidenced by both the somewhat terrible set (though I think it works to a point in-universe) and the small cast. They didn’t really need a large cast, though, and I definitely think what they had worked out well.

The idea behind the movie (a psychologist learning about the life of an insane serial killer) wasn’t anything too special, but the film was somewhat innovative in its stylistic flashbacks. Some good lighting, some interesting black blood, things just jelled here. I wish that the ending had been a bit more reasonable, as it sort of reminded me of Frailty, but whateves, it’s cool.

There’s plenty of solid cast members here, from Jennifer Ward-Lealand (who plays one of the most unlikable mothers in cinema) to Rebecca Hobbs and Roy Ward (that guy just struck me as utterly random throughout the film). My two favorites here, though, are the main serial killer, played wonderfully by Paolo Rotondo and a childhood friend of his, played by young (at the time, she was around 13) Beth Allen. Both brought a lot to the film, and I especially enjoyed Allen’s scenes early on. Her adult counterpart (Vanessa Byrnes) didn’t do near as much for me, alas.

Much of the film might come across as a typical origin story of any run-of-the-mill serial killer, but I thought it packed a pretty emotional punch here and there. Like I said, it’s more the stylistic nature of some of the sequences more than anything that make it memorable, but there are some decent kills and suspenseful scenes throughout.

I didn’t really think that much of The Ugly when I first saw it years back, but it’s aged nicely, and though I don’t think it’d make my ‘Best of the 90’s,’ it’s certainly a slice of foreign horror that might be worth experiencing once.

7/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I cover this one.

Alien: Resurrection (1997)

Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet [Other horror films: N/A]

I didn’t think the third Alien was anywhere near as good as Alien or Aliens, but it was still serviceable. Alien Resurrection, though, strikes me as somewhat a disgrace.

There’s a lot of faces and names here I know, which makes it even more disappointing. I’ve never been a big fan of Ron Perlman, so it didn’t surprise me I wouldn’t take to his character, but with Brad Dourif, Raymond Cruz, and Winona Ryder, they couldn’t have come up with a better movie?

Winona Ryder was pretty solid here, and her character is probably one of the more interesting ones. Dourif doesn’t appear that much, but I definitely thought he should have been smart enough to realize that the blood of the aliens are acidic. And Raymond Cruz? It took me a few scenes to realize it was him, and I didn’t really know until after he finds out about an android, in which he excitedly speaks about it, in the exact same way Tuco would in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. Seeing a younger Cruz here was fun, and I hope he had more appearances in the genre.

The story here is somewhat pitiful. After the events of the third movie, I would have been happy with Ripley never coming back. I liked her story arc there, and the fact they just bring her back by making a clone of her (that has super strength, agility, and other positive clone attributes) really, really rubbed me the wrong way. And the ultra alien queen? Yeah, no, count me out.

Honestly, there’s not a lot about the story I did like aside from the characters involved. The last act in particular was really difficult to care about, despite Dourif’s character popping back up. It just felt so off, and that’s really what can be said for the movie. The third one was more generic than anything, but this one is just bad.

If there are two scenes worth watching, I’d recommend the underwater sequence, which was decently suspenseful, and the scene in which they run into previous attempts to clone Ripley, which was quite a grotesque and troubling sequence. Otherwise, I don’t really think Alien Resurrection has much to offer. I know it has it’s fans, but I’m not one of them.

5/10

Scream 2 (1997)

Directed by Wes Craven [Other horror films: The Last House on the Left (1972), The Hills Have Eyes (1977), Stranger in Our House (1978), Deadly Blessing (1981), Swamp Thing (1982), Invitation to Hell (1984), The Hills Have Eyes Part II (1984), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Chiller (1985), Deadly Friend (1986), The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), Shocker (1989), The People Under the Stairs (1991), New Nightmare (1994), Vampire in Brooklyn (1995), Scream (1996), Scream 3 (2000), Cursed (2005), My Soul to Take (2010), Scream 4 (2011)]

I think most people agree that this sequel isn’t anywhere near as good as the first movie, and I concur. I thought Scream 2 started out well, began to move a bit more toward a generic direction, but then bounced back up again toward the last hour. I think there’s some things to really like here, but ultimately, I feel the movie definitely hovers around average.

We have plenty of returning characters, such as Sidney (Neve Campbell), Randy (Jamie Kennedy), Dewey (David Arquette), Gale (Courtney Cox), and Cotton (Liev Schreiber), in a very much expanded role, so we have a great feel of continuity. I do wish that Dewey’s sister, who was killed in the first movie, was mentioned more than once here, but it seems she’s mostly forgotten, which is a shame.

Campbell, of course, does a great job, and Kennedy too did really well, especially during the rather tense phone-call scene. Dewey and Gale were decent, and I did like a rather brutal attack on Dewey near the end, but I’ve never loved Gale’s character, even with her being a bit more understanding. As for Cotton’s return, it makes sense in the context of the story, and I like how the film ends, with Sidney giving him more limelight. Also, on a small note, I liked seeing Omar Epps (most well-known for his long-lasting role on House) in the opening.

The fun thing about Scream 2 is the large amount of potential killers. Up to a point, who couldn’t think that Randy was involved, or Hallie (Elise Neal)? I suspect most people think that Dewey’s in the clear, but Gale, or her camera-man, Joel (Duane Martin), who disappeared at a rather convenient time? Even the drama professor Gus Gold (David Warner of The Omen and Nightwing fame) seemed suspicious, which is where a lot of the fun comes from. Who’s the killer, or are there multiple killers? Let the guessing begin.

As it turns out, I wasn’t overly satisfied with the answer to that question come the end. I understand the thought process behind the killer’s actions, but I just don’t think it’s nearly as memorable as the first movie’s finale was, not by a long-shot, which isn’t really surprising, but it was somewhat disappointing. On a side-note, when the killer first revealed her/himself, I entirely forgot who the character was, which made it lack some punch.

The opening of this film, which takes place during a showing of the movie Stab (which is based off the events of the first Scream) cements this series as one with a particularly meta feeling, from the argument in film class about sequels and their comparison with the originals to the argument that the violence in movies causes people to commit violence in real life (‘The Christian Coalition will pay for my legal fees’). Scream 2 has a great meta feeling going for it, and of course, even one of the characters sprouts off an impressive list of slashers while taunting the killer, such as The House on Sorority Row, The Dorm That Dripped Blood, Splatter University, Graduation Day, and Final Exam. I always love a character that knows his slashers.

Some great sequences are in the film, from the fun opening to the great killing in the middle of the movie, not to mention the tense car scene near the end, nor the enjoyable Ghostface chasing Gale and Dewey in the college. These scenes may not quite be able to match the glory of the first movie, but that scene with Randy might stand up pretty well.

I don’t think Scream 2 is as good as the first, nor is it even that close. You have a few silly scenes, such as that guy singing to Sidney while standing on the lunch tables, but overall, I do think Scream 2 is decent. It’s been so long since I’ve last seen it, by the way, that I actually forgot who the killer ultimately was, so it did make a film a bit more fun as a rewatch than usual. If you enjoyed the first Scream, I think you’d probably enjoy this, but it’s just not near as good.

7/10

Mimic (1997)

Directed by Guillermo del Toro [Other horror films: Cronos (1993), El espinazo del diablo (2001), Blade II (2002), Crimson Peak (2015)]

In many ways, Mimic’s a late 90’s film that doesn’t get talked about all that much. While the movie in of itself isn’t necessarily amazing, I do think that it has a lot going for it, especially in terms of special effects.

The story was pretty interesting, dealing with a genetically-modified breed of cockroach created to eliminate a plague of sorts, only after some years, things got out of control. I don’t know if the story is absolutely great, but it really does a good job of keeping people engaged.

Character-wise, the focal characters are all pretty worth it. The two main performances, those of Mira Sorvino and Jeremy Northam, were both solid, though certainly at times Northam wasn’t particularly likable. Charles S. Dutton (of both D-Tox from 2002 and Gothika from 2003) was pretty fun throughout, and the conclusion to his story arc was certainly worth it. Last person really of note would be Giancarlo Giannini, and though I did like his character, I wish more was done with him.

The special effects here are really what makes the film work, though, as they’re pretty much good throughout the film. Toward the end, a few of the scenes don’t look that great, but overall, where Mimic really stands out are the solid effects.

Mimic’s not a movie that I really have a lot to say about, but it is a well-made film, and certainly in the late 1990’s, a somewhat stand-out flick. It’s not really a movie that I utterly love, but it stood up solidly the first time I saw it, and seeing it again did little to dissuade me of the positive feelings I have of the film.

7.5/10

Event Horizon (1997)

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson [Other horror films: The Sight (2000), Resident Evil (2002), AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004), Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010), Resident Evil: Retribution (2012), Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016)]

With a cast boasting Sam Neill (1981’s The Final Conflict, 1994’s In the Mouth of Madness, and one of my favorite non-horror films, Jurassic Park), Jason Isaacs (some of the Harry Potter films and 2016’s A Cure for Wellness), Sean Pertwee (2002’s Dog Soldiers, 2006’s Wilderness, and Gotham), Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix), and Richard T. Jones (long-standing appearances on Judging Amy, a series I rather enjoyed), you would think that Event Horizon could do no wrong. Despite seeing it around three times now, though, I’m still not entirely sold on the film.

I like a lot of what the movie does, especially the psychological torture many of the main characters go through once coming on board the ship. The story is pretty interesting, and while there’s not really that many freaky moments, the ones we get work out decently well.

My biggest problem has always been the split-second glimpse we get of the truly gruesome stuff. Sure, one of the characters has a very Hellraiser-esque death, but much of the brutality passes by the screen way too quickly to get a real hold on what we’re seeing. In some ways, I appreciate that tactic, because while the audience clearly doesn’t see everything, the characters do, allowing their frantic attempts to leave the ship to sort of bolster the feeling of terror the images cause. Even so, especially toward the end, I’d have liked a more clear-cut idea of this other universe, and we never really got that, and instead were teased with images we didn’t get to see in full.

Otherwise, if you can ignore a bit of hideous CGI at times, Event Horizon has a decent amount going for it. Neill’s not always the best actor here, but he is at least fun (“Where we’re going, we won’t need eyes to see”), and the inclusion of Isaacs, Pertwee, Fishburne, and Jones more than make up for that. The story is moderately fresh, and despite my issues, I really like a lot about the film. Because of the fact that there’s still quite a bit left unanswered, though, I’ve never loved Event Horizon, and while it’s not a bad film, I don’t think it’s really above average. Sorry, guys.

7/10

Jack Frost (1997)

Directed by Michael Cooney [Other horror films: Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman (2000)]

I’ve not seen this one since I was around 13 – 16 years old, and given I was 26 at the time of writing this, I was excited to finally see this one again. Jack Frost isn’t a great movie, and I didn’t think it would be, but I still had a pretty fun time with it, and while it occasionally gets a bit too silly for me, overall, I will admit to enjoying this one.

The killer snowman here reminds me a lot of Chucky from Child’s Play, which I suspect was intention on the part of the movie-makers. Not only is he a serial killer endowed with a new body, but he has consistent quips to go along with every kill, and generally seems a talkative guy. Sometimes, as I said, this gets to be a bit much (especially toward the end), but Scott MacDonald definitely had fun with this.

Personally, that does often make a difference to me. There are some movies in which it’s clear the cast has a blast making it, but that doesn’t always lead to the movie being good (likewise, there are movies that it seems clear the cast wasn’t invested, and that can badly damage a movie). However, when the story is decent enough and the cast is clearly enjoying themselves, it’s a great little feeling, and I think Jack Frost definitely has that.

Christopher Allport isn’t necessarily stellar here, but I do think he’s stable enough to commend. I do wish we had seen Stephen Mendel’s character punched at least once, as he was pretty good at acting the asshole, but to no avail. The same could be said for Rob LaBelle – he got a slight comeuppance, but it wasn’t near enough. Shannon Elizabeth has an early appearance here, two years before her role as Nadia in American Pie and four before Thir13en Ghosts, and it’s probably one of the more well-known scenes in the film. Let’s just say it looks chilly.

What really cracked me up toward the end was when we find out that Allport’s kid (played by Zack Eginton) put antifreeze into a Christmas snack for his father. I was expecting hot sauce or something, but it’s freaking antifreeze. I chuckled at that, because that kid is absolutely going to kill someone someday.

Toward the end, though, I do think things tend to run a bit slower. We’ve already seen what seemed to be the defeat of Jack Frost twice now, and he still comes back. I wish they had trimmed a bit of that (such as the scene where the gaggle of main characters were forcing Jack Frost into the furnace with hair-dryers – that, what with the music and Jack Frost’s dialogue, was just too silly), but it’s not really that detrimental a problem.

I wouldn’t call Jack Frost a great movie, or even a traditionally good one (fantastic introduction, though, that cracked me up), but I do think it’s a decent amount of fun, and though some of it is a bit much, I found myself quite enjoying this rewatch.

7.5/10

This was covered on one of Fight Evil’s podcasts, episode #26. If it tickles your fancy, listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one.

Plaga zombie (1997)

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Directed by Pablo Parés [Other horror films: Nunca asistas a este tipo de fiestas (2000), Plaga zombie: Zona mutante (2001), Jennifer’s Shadow (2004), Nunca más asistas a este tipo de fiestas (2010), Plaga Zombie: Zona Mutante: Revolución Tóxica (2011), Soy tóxico (2018)] & Hernán Sáez [Other horror films: Nunca asistas a este tipo de fiestas (2000), Plaga zombie: Zona mutante (2001), Nunca más asistas a este tipo de fiestas (2010), Plaga Zombie: Zona Mutante: Revolución Tóxica (2011)]

From Argentina, Plaga zombie is a gory film, which is about all it really has to boast about. It’s a low-budget movie, with not much of a plot, and unfortunately, too much comedy to leave that positive an impression on me.

Despite their heavy budgetary limitations, the individuals behind this film got the gore right. It’s a massacre, with dismemberments, decapitations, tongues getting cut off, and a whole slew of bloody and gory situations. The problem is, that’s really all this movie has.

Throughout most of the film, we have our main characters fighting zombies. And fighting zombies. There’s a sequence near the beginning which was a bit slower, but for the most part, it’s an all-out brawl with the undead, which wouldn’t be that bad in a short, but for a movie that’s seventy minutes long (which is luckily shorter than average), it just felt like it was dragging and dragging.

What didn’t help was the heavy comedic influence – I’m not against comedy mixed with my horror, but when it gets too silly or ridiculous, I check out, and it didn’t take long whatsoever for that to happen here.

Hard work went into making this, and it’s an impressive film for what they had to work with. I’m certainly not giving this one a lower rating because of the budget. The problem is that Plaga zombie is just so damn repetitive (which could be said for many zombie movies, in all fairness), and while it might have made a fine and enjoyable short, for a whole movie, I didn’t think it worked that well.

This Argentina flick has the gore, no doubt, and a lot of heart, but overall, it’s not something I’d want to see again (and it doesn’t make me too excited for the sequels either).

4/10

Wishmaster (1997)

Wishmaster

Directed by Robert Kurtzman [Other horror films: The Demolitionist (1995), The Rage (2007), Buried Alive (2007)]

Very much a B-movie, Wishmaster has a lot to offer fans of horror.

The story is a fun one, as we don’t get too many Djinn-focused horror flicks. What made it even better, though, was the solid cast. Tammy Lauren did pretty damn well as the main star, despite not really being in all that much of note (the only place I know her from is the 1988 television remake I Saw What You Did, co-starring Shawnee Smith).

Most everyone else was a pleasure too. We had some Kane Hodder, Tony Todd (fantastic as Johnny Valentine), Robert Englund in multiple scenes, some narration by Angus Scrimm, and a fun character played by Jenny O’Hara, who, I kid you not, I only know from a random episode of House (the series starring Hugh Laurie). This movie just had a fun bunch of actors and actresses, and even the individuals who I didn’t care for as much (such as Andrew Divoff, who was a bit too hammy at times) did okay.

Also, the special effects need to be brought up. A few times, they didn’t work out well, especially when they went the hideous early CGI route, but overall, the special effects through the film were something to behold (at both the sequence at the beginning and the party at the end, it’s endless eye candy, such as the great skeleton scene and the half-alligator man). So many of the death scenes were well-done (great jaw-ripping scene), and the special effects just looked great.

Wishmaster is no doubt a B-movie, but I think that works out in it’s favor. I really liked Lauren’s acting, and her character’s final wish was pretty clever. While I cannot speak on the necessities of the sequels (I’ve seen only the second Wishmaster, and was deeply displeased), I can say that this one is very much a movie worth checking out. Having seen it twice, now, perhaps three times, I think you’ll have a fun time.

8/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast, so to give Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I a listen, check out the video below.

Nightwatch (1997)

Nightwatch

Directed by Ole Bornedal [Other horror films: Nattevagten (1994), Vikaren (2007), The Possession (2012)]

When I first saw this film, I rather enjoyed it. Or at least that’s what my IMDb rating (an 8/10) would lead me to believe. Perhaps the second viewing of this film falters for everyone, or it’s not nearly as good as I remember it being, though, as I was mostly not that enthralled with it this time around.

The whole atmosphere of the film seems sort of off, especially regarding Martin’s (Ewan McGregor) friend James (Josh Brolin). James just doesn’t seem to care about anything, and his attitude is one that’s difficult to relate to. He’s just an odd character, and didn’t feel right to me. The movie’s decently slow – it doesn’t really pick up until an hour and 15 minutes (the whole run-time is an hour and 40 minutes), which was a major detriment.

We had some memorable actors, such as Nick Nolte (who had a great role), Brad Dourif, and John C. Reilly (who was, for some reason, uncredited, despite having significant screen-time near the end), but the story itself didn’t do much for me this time around. It’s a disappointment, really: I was rather excited about seeing this one again, but not only does it not live up to what I remembered, and not only did it feel average, overall, I thought the film was a bit below average.

Truth be told, I don’t have much more to say about this one. It had solid actors, moderately decent gore, and it picked up near the final thirty minutes, but everything beforehand fell a bit flat. Despite previously enjoying this, it just doesn’t hold up.

6.5/10