King Cobra (1999)

Directed by David Hillenbrand [Other horror films: Survival Island (2002), Game Box 1.0 (2004), Transylmania (2009), Grave Secrets (2013)] & Scott Hillenbrand [Other horror films: Survival Island (2002), Game Box 1.0 (2004), Transylmania (2009)]

This straight-to-video movie featuring one snakey boi is about what you would expect. It’s certainly silly and ridiculous at times, but it still feels like a much, much better film than many of the newer-age Syfy snake films. King Cobra’s not as good as Silent Predators, and hell, I might even like Python (2000) a little more, but this still has charm.

And Pat Morita, to be sure.

King Cobra’s plot is about what you’d expect also, what with some drama between Casey Fallo’s and Scott Hillenbrand’s characters (one wants to move to the city, the other is okay with small-town life), only to be interrupted by the introduction of a 30-foot terror (or the snake, in other words). Fallo and Hillenbrand are both okay here (and on a small side-note, both of them appeared in Piñata: Survival Island a handful of years later, partly, I imagine, because Hillenbrand directed both this and Survival Island), but neither one is much in the way of memorable or inspired.

Pat Morita was more exciting here, but unfortunately, he never used any kung-fu against the 30-foot boi (that pleasure instead went to Hillenbrand’s character). Morita was still somewhat fun, though not quite as much fun as I’d have hoped. It was actually more a surprise to see Courtney Gains (Children of the Corn’s Malachi) at the beginning, and throughout, Hoyt Axton (Gremlins) appears as the town mayor, making his final appearance before his death.

If the feature characters had been Axton, Gains, and Morita, I’d probably have found the movie more memorable, but alas, that wasn’t to be. Regardless, it’s not as if there are many kills or special effects here that are overly noteworthy. I sort of like the design of the snake (without CGI, it seems more honest), but it doesn’t look that great, and none of the kills are gory whatsoever.

All things said, you get from King Cobra exactly what you’d think, which is a bit underwhelming. The finale is decently fun (and that dream near the end was fantastically amusing), but it’s not a movie that’s something I’d consistently go back to. Shame that two tanks of sleeping gas wasn’t enough to keep down the scaly boi, though, so I’m hoping for a sequel.

6.5/10

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

From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money (1999)

Directed by Scott Spiegel [Other horror films: Intruder (1989), Hostel: Part III (2011)]

This straight-to-video sequel is about what I was expecting. Seeing some familiar faces was sort of nice, and I’ll touch on that a bit, but really, the story here felt quite weak, and though I’m no fan of the first movie, this was pretty much worse on every level.

Robert Patrick was one of the few here who stood out. I thought his character, along with pretty much all of these characters, was a cookie-cutter cut-out of no interest, but he was still nice to see. The same could be said for Raymond Cruz (Tuco from both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, not to mention Alien: Resurrection, which I’ve had the displeasure of recently seeing), though admittedly I think he did poorly here. Muse Watson and Bo Hopkins were also solid, though the story really didn’t do them justice.

At this point, you may be wondering what makes the story so bad. Here’s one of my problems – that was way, way too convenient and quick a solar eclipse. All it gave us was more painful action scenes which really didn’t move me. It’s never really explained why exactly these vampires are robbing a bank (even somewhat lampshaded by the end), and that didn’t help.

What annoyed me more than that, though, is that this wasn’t even some master plot from the vampires. Bank thief #1 becomes a vampire, and instead of going with the other vampires (who turned him), he gets with Bank thief #2, #3, #4, and #5, and slowly turns them into vampires. It just felt off. Once two of the five are vampires, you think that there’d be some way of noticing, but no, aside from slightly impulsive behavior, they’re pretty much the same.

The special effects throughout Texas Blood Money were weak, no doubt about it, but the story here was so unengaging that it wouldn’t have mattered if Savini did them. Like I said, I’m not that much of a fan of the first movie, but boy, was it higher quality than this. If you want a solid late 1990’s vampire flick, just go with Carpenter’s Vampires. I wouldn’t really bother with a movie that’s destined to be a TBS rerun at 3:00 am.

5/10

Lake Placid (1999)

Directed by Steve Miner [Other horror films: Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981), Friday the 13th Part III (1982), House (1985), Warlock (1989), Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998), Day of the Dead (2008)]

What Lake Placid lacks insofar as story is concerned, it makes up for it, in spades, with it’s fantastic sense of fun. Lake Placid is a fun movie, and the cast too makes it a stellar watch.

With Bill Pullman (Independence Day), Oliver Platt (The West Wing), Brendan Gleeson (Harry Potter, along with The Guard and 28 Days Later…), Bridget Fonda (a woman I don’t even know, to be honest), and some small appearances from Betty White, Lake Placid has a lot of star-power behind it, and they all work really well with each other, particularly the hilarious relationship between Platt and Gleeson. In a way, it was heartwarming, but the humor was certainly top-notch.

The story itself isn’t necessarily special, but the performances mixed with some decent tension and some mounting friendships really add up to a better movie than might be anticipated, and again, I can’t overstate just how much fun I have with this one.

Another thing I rather enjoyed about this one is the setting. It takes place in a Maine forest, and I thought, while simple, it had quite a bit of charm (and led to a few funny scenes involving Gleeson’s character). It’s always nice to see Maine come up outside of a Stephen King movie.

Lake Placid isn’t a movie that is likely to blow anyone away, and it’s one that some people would likely find more generic than anything else, but I’ve always found it a fun movie with a solid cast, and I always enjoy watching it when the opportunity arises.

8/10

The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999)

Directed by Katt Shea [Other horror films: Stripped to Kill (1987), Stripped to Kill 2: Live Girls (1989), Dance of the Damned (1989)]

I wasn’t a big fan of the first Carrie, and this sequel follows much in the same vein as the original, but luckily, The Rage: Carrie 2 is undeniably a better film. Okay, that last part is a joke, before I start getting angry messages sent my way, but it is true that I did tend to enjoy this film more than the classic 1976 movie, so take from that what you will.

What stood out first about this film was all the recognizable faces. Few of these characters (save Dylan Bruno’s) are all that important, but it was still nice. Dylan Bruno, as the main antagonist, is an actor I know rather well from the television series Numb3rs, so seeing him much earlier on was interesting (though he definitely didn’t look like a high school student). He did great as a rapist jackass here, which, for some reason, didn’t surprise me.

Zachery Ty Bryan also did well as a jackass rapist, which definitely felt right. Bryan’s not a name that I knew beforehand, but as soon as I saw his face, I thought to myself, ‘Isn’t that Brad from Home Improvement?’ and indeed it was. His character was despicable here, what with being a rapist, so it was an interesting change from how I usually see him. Mena Suvari and Eddie Kaye Thomas appeared together later the same year in American Pie, as Heather and Finch, respectively. Rachel Blanchard was in an indie comedy/drama I liked from 2008 titled Growing Op.

The main two characters (Emily Bergl and Jason London) are completely unknown to me, but both did a pretty fine job. Bergl was possibly too attractive to really emulate Sissy Spacek’s performance, but she still did a memorable job (though I didn’t care for the whole tattoo thing at the end). London was solid throughout, and though he was also probably a rapist, he was one of the few likable characters in the film. Of course, Amy Irving (only individual to come back from the original film) was decent, but honestly, she didn’t amount to much aside giving a reason to show flashbacks from the original.

A big problem I had with the film dealt with the amount of utterly unlikable characters in the film. Like I said, Bergl and Londons’ characters were both good, but many of the characters were either rapists or those who have no problem with rapists (such as the town government, as the movie shows, which isn’t uncommon when the rapist in question is a football player). Seeing many of them get killed was the most fun this movie had to give us, but at the same time, since only unlikable characters were killed, I don’t know if it’s necessarily the best choice.

At times, it’s true that the special effects are somewhat awful (especially during the horrific dream sequence at the end), but I thought they got more right (glasses shattering, the shards flying into the wearer’s eyes) than they did wrong. I somewhat question the black-and-white sequences, as they seemed unnecessary, and the flashbacks to the first movie didn’t feel particularly relevant either.

I’ll say this for The Rage: Carrie 2 – I enjoyed it more than I did the first one. But it’s still not a movie I particularly liked that much. The finale was pretty solid, and perhaps the best sequence of the film (though easily lacking the emotional resonance the first one had), but for much of the film, though I found it more relatable than the first movie, I simply found it passable, not good.

6.5/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast, so if you’re interested in hearing Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one, check it out.

Candyman: Day of the Dead (1999)

Candyman

Directed by Turi Meyer [Other horror films: Sleepstalker (1995), Alien Express (2005)]

I can’t even remember the last time I saw this flick – it’s easily been over eight years. This isn’t surprising, considering how utterly sub-par the movie is, even compared to the below-average Farewell to the Flesh.

Certainly, I understand some of what they were going for. They had a lot more skin and scantily-clad women in this one, and seemed to up the amount of gore. The story wasn’t anything new, though, and it just came across as pretty pointless, especially when the second film was pointless enough.

One of the things that bothers me about the Candyman films are the titular character’s angle. In this film, he keeps talking about how, once his descendant is his victim (willingly, as for some reason that matters), they’ll become myths whispered about in reverence by their congregation, and become immortal due to that. First off, I don’t think it’s a surprise that someone would refuse such if, to get there, they had to be impaled by a hook, but ignoring that, once Candyman discovers an actual newly-formed congregation, devoted to his myth, he just kills them all.

I really don’t get what Candyman’s going for. It’s not even revenge against the people who wronged him – he’s literally going after his descendants, who you would think he’d want to protect, if anything. It’s just one of those things that has been a somewhat constant annoyance, and while it didn’t much impact the first film (because it was otherwise a fantastic horror-fantasy mix), it bothered me throughout this one.

Of course, Tony Todd himself is a pretty threatening presence on screen, and despite not understanding his motivations, he brings the character to life. Robert O’Reilly and Wade Andrew Williams did pretty good as some racist cops. Ernie Hudson Jr. was solid in a few scenes as a black police officer, and I wish he had gotten more screen-time.

On the other hand, it’s obvious why they chose Donna D’Errico (who was in Baywatch, apparently) as the main actress, and it has to do more with her breast size than acting ability. Oh, make no mistake, she was smoking, but I wasn’t overly convinced with her performance throughout the movie. Jsu Garcia (credited as Nick Corri) was sort of nice to see (he played Rod Lane in the first A Nightmare on Elm Street), but his performance here wasn’t overly spectacular, and generally, he came off a bit generically.

If there’s one thing I liked about this film, it’s how it portrayed the racism that Latino communities face from the police, and along with the somewhat solid ending, it ends up being one of the few true high points of the film. Otherwise, there’s no real reason to go out of your way to see this one, unless you’re a die-hard Candyman fan.

Day of the Dead is worse than Farewell to the Flesh, and both are below-average, which is a real shame, considering that the first movie proved that, done right, the idea of Candyman could be rather effective. Sadly, this late 90’s sequel focuses more on nudity and gore, and fails to realize that potential.

5.5/10

Los sin nombre (1999)

Namless

Directed by Jaume Balagueró [Other horror films: Darkness (2002), Frágiles (2005), Películas para no dormir: Para entrar a vivir (2006), [Rec] (2007), [Rec]² (2009), Mientras duermes (2011), [REC] 4: Apocalipsis (2014), Muse (2017)]

Known as The Nameless to American audiences, this independent Spanish flick seems to be going for the bleak feel of movies like Se7en, which came out just four years prior. Unfortunately, while it succeeds in that endeavor, I don’t think I got much more out of this one.

In itself, the plot is pretty interesting, working itself like a solid mystery movie with occasionally rather gory scenes. I enjoyed the inclusion of the cult, but I don’t think they were particularly explained as well as they could have been, which is where a lot of my problems with this come from.

The main cast, being just two people, work decently well together. Emma Vilarasau acts way too hysterically at times, but given what her character’s going through, that could probably be excused. Karra Elejalde (who, in 2007, starred in the somewhat fun Los cronocrimenes, or Timecrimes) did well here as a retired detective, and I think he stood out because of his mostly unassuming look. Though he had just a single scene, Carlos Lasarte (who appeared later in the [Rec] films) was rather creepy, and gave off a Tim Curry vibe. No one else really stood out in one way or the other.

Parts of the plot didn’t work for me, mostly revolving around the aforementioned cult. I liked the ending, but it was pretty obvious from the get-go that this movie wouldn’t end in sunshine and daisies. Aspects of why the cult went after children, though, didn’t really seem to have a good explanation. Part of this may be the fact that the version of this movie I own on DVD is dubbed, and dubbed horribly. I rather dislike dubbed versions of foreign films, and given how badly this one was, it stood out very negatively. That possibly could have obfuscated some of the message that this movie was going for.

Still, Los sin nombre does have an interesting feel to it. Some pretty violent scenes, some involving children, and a good ending despite it’s expected nature. The problem is some parts don’t do it for me. I did happen to like this more this time around than when I first saw it, but I still find it quite a below average film. Director Jaume Balaguero later went on to direct the flawed Darkness, but also some better films, such as [Rec], so at least his later attempts were more solid.

Many people enjoy this movie, some calling it a lesser-known classic. I’ve seen it twice, and I just don’t get it. Portions are pretty good, especially for a movie of this independent a feel, but until I find a subtitled version (and chances are, that might not help as much as I hope), this isn’t a movie I’d care to see a third time.

5.5/10

Silent Predators (1999)

Silent Predator

Directed by Noel Nosseck [Other horror films: The Fury Within (1998)]

This TBS production is a very satisfying television movie, and while that conclusion may partially be clouded by a sense of nostalgia, I certainly feel that this TV movie is of better quality than most that pop up later in the post-2000 era.

I first saw this when I was quite young – I don’t really want to hazard a serious guess, but I’d say around ten or so. I then saw it a second time around eight years ago. Seeing it a third time only confirmed my enjoyment of the film, which, generally-speaking, has the plot of your run-of-the-mill television snake movie.

What sets it apart is the lack of hideous CGI that so many Sci-Fi movies used in the following years, and Syfy still uses to this day. Silent Predators seemed to take a more practical approach, and in general, the special effects are pretty good, especially for a television production. As simple as the story is, by the way, it manages to both keep me engaged along with including some pretty suspenseful scenes, so kudos for that.

It’s also pretty well-cast, and while there are unlikable characters, I don’t think there’s any actor or actress in the film that does a bad job. Harry Hamlin convincingly plays his role, and seems to have legitimate charisma with Shannon Sturges (this attractive actress reminded me a lot of Julie Bowen’s character from Happy Gilmore). Patty McCormack, Beau Billingslea, Phillip Troy Linger, and Jack Scalia all did well also.

Silent Predators isn’t really an amazing movie, but it is competently done with a good conclusion, and mixed with nostalgic feelings, comes across as a movie that’s worth watching. For a creature feature from the late 1990’s, I’d say this television movie did a good job.

8/10

Shan gou 1999 (1999)

Deadly Camp

Directed by Bowie Lau [Other horror films: Sha ren du jia wu (2000), Xue tai huan gu (2004)]

This Hong Kong film has been on my radar for a long time now. Ever since I heard “late 1990’s Asian slasher,” I jumped. In the years following, I’ve been keeping a lookout for it, should I happen to have the chance to see it. Now that I have, I’m a bit disappointed, but not necessarily surprised.

Unlike what you might think, this has far more in common with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre than it does Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and other slashers that kick started the genre back up in the late 1990’s. In this film, a group of people get hunted down by a guy with a chainsaw on a supposedly deserted island. With a plot like that, what can go wrong?

The biggest problem, I think, is the fact that there’s too much group dynamic drama and not enough killing. When it got to the kills themselves, there were pretty decent. Nothing too gory, but some solid knifings, chainsaw action, and a fun bamboo trap. But a lot of that doesn’t happen until forty or so minutes in. The characters aren’t entirely uninteresting, but they’re not why I wanted to see this film.

What also hurts is the music choice the film goes with. A lot of the background music sounds like stuff you’d hear in a 90’s romantic movie. It just seemed entirely an odd choice for a slasher coming out just a few months before 2000. If it was once or twice, that could be forgiven, but it’s not.

The Deadly Camp, as this film is known in the USA, is okay. But if it weren’t for the fact that it’s from Hong Kong, I don’t think I’d have been nearly as interested in seeing this as I have been. The design of the antagonist was acceptable, and the kill scenes were mostly good, but nothing else really worked (including many of the actors, most of whom just seemed there). Not something I’d go out of my way to see again or even recommend.

6/10

Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies (1999)

Wishmaster 2

Directed by Jack Sholder [Other horror films: Alone in the Dark (1982), A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985), The Hidden (1987), Natural Selection (1994), Arachnid (2001), 12 Days of Terror (2004)]

The first Wishmaster film is a pretty enjoyable affair. There were portions I didn’t care for, but overall, it’s a solid piece of 90’s horror. The second film, however, is nowhere near as pleasing.

In terms of special effects, there are occasionally some solid scenes presented here. But it’s no comparison to the first film’s beginning and ending sequence. In fact, a somewhat similar sequence here, which takes place in the final 15 minutes, is so much worse and uninspired than what they managed a few years prior.

The story itself isn’t much to speak of. Honestly, it’s not necessarily even that bad, it just didn’t appeal to me. The idea of having to possess a thousand souls before the Djinn can do anything more is all fine and well, but when he gains 800 of those souls in the course of five minutes, it really takes away from the film. I didn’t expect them to show him gaining hundreds of souls (which is good, because, for the most part, his obscene granting of obscure wishes never really did much for me, and here, very few of them are that interesting), but at the same time, giving him 80% of souls needed in such a short time felt akin to cheating.

Still not the biggest issue, though. I know his performance is what draws some people to this movie, but the Wishmaster himself, Andrew Divoff, just drives me up the wall. Throughout most of the film, he has that same little grin on his face, and his intentionally hammy acting, while in the first film wasn’t that big a deterrent, goes overboard here.

Luckily, the other two main performances were decent: Holly Fields and Paul Johansson. Fields had that cute bad-girl look to her, and having her partner up with Johansson’s priest character was somewhat fun. Neither one has had a particularly impressive horror resume (Fields was in Seedpeople, but that’s about it), but for a movie of this caliber, they do pretty well. It’s just a shame that the story isn’t that impressive.

Evil Never Dies still manages to impress some people, and having seen it twice, I don’t get it. Most everyone agrees it pales in comparison to the first movie, which is certainly true, but seeing a lot of value out of this movie, in itself? More power to you if you enjoyed this. I just wish I could have done the same. In short, it’s not that it’s a terrible movie. It’s just not particularly good or even that memorable, which is a shame, as Jack Sholder, the director, also made Alone in the Dark (1982) and the second A Nightmare on Elm Street film, both of which were decent, if not good. It’s a disappointment he couldn’t do that here.

4.5/10

Idle Hands (1999)

Idle Hands

Directed by Rodman Flender [Other horror films: The Unborn (1991), Leprechaun 2 (1994), Nature of the Beast (2007), Eat Brains Love (2019)

Idle Hands is one of those movies I caught when I was quite young, so though it’s not my usual style of horror-comedy, I can’t help but feel a tug of nostalgia when revisiting this one. That said, I do think the silliness could have been notched down, and while aspects are decent, I’d be lying if I said I thought the movie was good.

There are so few killer hand movies that at the very least, they had an interesting premise going into the film. Off the top of my head, The Beast with Five Fingers (1946) and The Hand (1981) are the only two similar movies that come to mind, so I do give props for coming up with something different.

I also give props to the strong cast. Devon Sawa (later in Final Destination) did a great job as the lead, Seth Green and Elden Henson (who I retroactively recognized immediately from the NetFlix Daredevil series, where he played Foggy Nelson) were both pretty good, and Jessica Alba looked quite the angel at times. Some of the performances from Green and Henson (and to be fair, many of those in the movie) were a bit goofy, but that’s more the style of comedy this was going for as opposed to their faults.

As far as the special effects went, I will say they were impressive. There’s a decidedly disgusting scene where the hand was thrown into a microwave, and as it bakes, blood bursts from the fingertips, which was gruesome. The effects behind the hand mostly look good – sharpening the fingers with an electric pencil sharpener even gave a fun and deadly look to the appendage.

Another thing worth mentioning is the strong opening. While much of the time spent with Anton (Sawa’s character) was more on the generic side, we open seeing his parents get killed by a mysterious figure. The suspense isn’t anything overly impressive, but it does have a darker tone than the rest of the movie, and so I definitely appreciated that.

My biggest problem with Idle Hands, and this has been my biggest problem ever since I was a kid, is that sometimes the comedy is just too silly. Some characters return from the dead and go on silly side-quests (which include eating burritos after duct-taping a decapitated head back onto a body) and eventually become guardian angels. It’s just too ridiculous for me, and I don’t care for that aspect of this whatsoever.

If that is your type of humor, though, then I don’t doubt you could do worse than Idle Hands. The performances and story are surprisingly solid, and though at times it might feel like you’re watching a stoner teen comedy as opposed to a particularly terrifying movie, you can have an okay time with this. It’s not my preference, and I do find it below average, but at the end of the day, this horror-comedy hybrid is serviceable.

6/10