Satan’s Little Helper (2004)

Directed by Jeff Lieberman [Other horror films: Squirm (1976), Blue Sunshine (1977), Doctor Franken (1980), Just Before Dawn (1981)]

A mostly enjoyable addition to the genre, I will admit to being surprised by just how much I enjoyed a decent amount of this film. I do tend to think the movie runs on longer than it really needs to (there’s about an hour before we really get to the meat and potatoes of the story), but it still something I’d generally recommend regardless.

There’s not many performances in this film, so it’s a good thing that those involved did a pretty solid job. While it’s true that Alexander Brickel’s naive-kid act gets sort of old, he’s also quite young, so I won’t hold that against him. Stronger are Amanda Plummer and Katheryn Winnick, both of whom are really enjoyable to behold.

I really liked Plummer’s character of the mother, who was offbeat and always fun. Every other line she came up with was at least partially funny, and overall, were it not for Winnick, I’d say she was the best here. Winnick, though, stole my heart, as she put in a fantastic performance as well as showed the goods while still maintaining some modesty. In her Renaissance maid costume, she was a cool customer, and a very attractive lady.

Satan’s Little Helper wasn’t focused on gore or creative kills, but occasionally some would pop up, such as a somewhat surprising scene toward the end of the movie. We did see some entrails ripped out, so while they looked quite, quite fake, that’s still something, right?

Another thing I wanted to bring up was the design of the killer. He changes costumes a few times, but the main design he had was fun. It was obviously a costume, but at the same time, it made sense in the context of the story, and despite being somewhat silly-looking at times, I really did think it was effective.

Two small notes before I get to the main issue I had with Satan’s Little Helper. One, that game that sort of started this whole thing looked like perhaps the worst game ever made (intentionally, I’m sure), and two, that cat death was almost needlessly brutal, but then again, this is Satan we’re talking about.

Like I said at the beginning of this, I think the main flaw this film has is that it runs on a bit long. I can’t say for sure what should have been cut, but at an hour and forty minutes, I think they could have found something. I just know that while I was engaged through the end, there were times when I was wondering just how much longer the movie had.

That’s a small criticism in the scheme of things, though. Satan’s Little Helper isn’t my favorite comedy/horror mix from even 2004 (Broken Lizard’s Club Dread, along with the classic Shaun of the Dead, both came out the same year), but it is a fun movie that may be worth throwing into your Halloween collection.

7.5/10

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

Malevolence (2004)

Directed by Stevan Mena [Other horror films: Brutal Massacre: A Comedy (2007), Bereavement (2010), Malevolence 3: Killer (2018)]

Like many of the movies I’ve been watching in recent times, Malevolence is a film I first saw a long while back, and though I had positive feelings about it, I honestly, if asked, wouldn’t have been able to explain why that is. Seeing it again with fresh eyes, I’ll admit the movie isn’t amazing, but I do think it’s very solid in spite of the fact it really does seem to rip off Halloween at times.

I mean, come on. That little chime/sound that pops up every now and again, or the design of the antagonist (though the hood is definitely more The Town That Dreaded Sundown), it just feels really familiar. I don’t fault the movie for that (though I can see why some do), because I still think that Malevolence has solid tension.

Admittedly, though, it takes a while to get there. The first thirty or so minutes, if not forty, are almost void of interest. I guess getting to know the bank robbers is something, but really, it’s slow-going in the beginning, and while I like the final effect (in which the finale seems a lot more action-packed), it’s not always the most exciting content.

Worth mentioning also, Malevolence is pretty low-budget, made for around $200,000, and it does sometimes show, but I definitely don’t find that to be detrimental to it, because, as I said, it can possess a solid lease on suspense when it wants to. Personally, for a lower-budget flick, I though some of the camera angles were pretty interesting, and I certainly like the low-key, yet effective, setting.

Jay Cohen, who played the antagonist here, really did a solid job, and seemed to have much the same feel as Michael Myers (though he did seem to move a bit quicker). Samantha Dark, who played an abducted mother (her daughter was played by Courtney Bertolone) was decent here, though she didn’t have that much opportunity to get into the action save the finale. I was more engaged with Heather Magee, who had one of the more interesting characters, but she barely went anywhere. R. Brandon Johnson made for a unique hero, but really, I have to say the best performance here is by Gurdy, who played a scary tree.

From all I’ve read, Malevolence seems to be a somewhat divisive film (which is backed up by it’s IMDb rating, right now at a 5.1/10), and I obviously lean more toward the ‘It’s a good movie, get off it’s back’ side, but I can see why it wouldn’t work for everyone. Personally, I like the suspenseful nature of the film once the movie gets there, and the footnote investigation at the end too. It’s not a perfect movie, no, but I did find it quite worthwhile.

8/10

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

Bell Witch Haunting (2004)

Directed by Ric White [Other horror films: Nightmares from the Mind of Poe (2006)]

Before An American Haunting came onto the scene, the low-budget Bell Witch Haunting was released, which covered the same supposed supernatural event. A very low-budget film, Bell Witch Haunting isn’t entirely without merit, but it still really strains your patience, as it clocks in at just over two hours long, which is utterly unacceptable, especially given the content.

I have more than a few problems I have with the movie, and I really struggled to finish this one: among these problems, as I alluded to, is the ridiculously lengthy run-time, as Bell Witch Haunting is two hours and two minutes. If the story here had been perhaps more interesting or better written, that might well be excusable, but with the product we got, I don’t think it was at all necessary.

Another thing that really grated on me – there are little ‘section titles’ that pop up throughout the movie constantly, and none of them did the least bit to make the film better. The ghost of the entity really grated also, as she sounds like a bratty young teen girl. Not really my idea of spooky. Oh, and another thing – while the movie mostly takes the subject matter seriously, there are occasional smatterings of comedic scenes thrown in (including some 1820’s toilet humor), and I thought the movie could have done without that.

The aforementioned entity starts off innocently enough here, pulling sheets off beds, banging on the walls, pinching people when they’re trying to sleep, or telling people embarrassing secret information (like I said before, the voice of this entity is so damn annoying, but it did lead to the somewhat funny line ‘I will not allow this thing to question my character!’), but it gets worse as the movie goes on, with a few deaths and a rather sad scene at the end.

I’ll say this one positive thing about the movie – the death of Doug Moore’s character was pretty depressing. I didn’t care an ounce for most of these characters (partially because the Bell family is so big, it’s so hard to keep up with who’s who – seriously, I think there’s at least six children running around), but seeing the head of the family slowly lose his grip on life, and his final conversation with a long-time friend (played by director Ric White) was rather emotional, all my other issues with the movie aside.

Otherwise, the only other performance I cared for one way or the other was Amber Bland, who played the oldest daughter. She sort of loses prominence at different points throughout the movie, but she is one of the characters paid the most attention to (in fact, her birthday party, almost aborted due to the father’s recent excommunication from the church, was one of the more heartwarming scenes). Daniel Cooper, though, was more on the annoying side, playing an obnoxious, overweight younger brother, who’s catchphrase ‘Aw, ma’ got old after the second time. At least he provided us with one of the few solid scenes, involving quite a few tarantulas.

One thing I’ve neglected to touch much on is the low budget, and I want to be clear on this: yes, Bell Witch Haunting has a very low budget, but that is not at all reflective of my problems with it. Plenty of great low-budget horror movies exist, but they generally don’t have an overlong story that’s often none-to-exciting. Bell Witch Haunting was difficult to trudge through, and I suspect that most people who come across this one will leave with much the same opinion.

4/10

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Directed by Edgar Wright [Other horror films: N/A]

Often called one of the greatest zombie-comedies, Shaun of the Dead is an undeniably fun film. It never gets too silly (which is one of my personal pet peeves when it comes to comedy-horror films), and is just a good movie to throw in when little else is going on.

Much of the reason this works is because of Simon Pegg, who does great as the unmotivated, titular Shaun. His was a rather enjoyable performance throughout. Much of the time, I didn’t care for Nick Frost’s character, but as an actor, he did well. Most others were enjoyable also, such as Bill Nighy (who had one of the few emotional scenes in the film), Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, and Penelope Wilton (who’s cheery ‘Hello’ always cracked me up). Hell, we even got a cameo of Martin Freeman before he became the star he now is.

Of course, the story’s fun, the style is solid (love the quick cuts used constantly), and I do enjoy the scenes of Pegg walking to and from his apartment, as they bring a very localized feel to the film. I don’t have any real big complaints, aside from a few portions that felt a bit much (such as the end, which was a tad more goofy than I’d have hoped for).

Generally, though, there’s a reason that this movie is held to such high regard, and though it’s not perfect, it is an enjoyable, potentially brainless, film that is pretty well worth seeing. There’s even a little gore, as one of the characters gets his legs and arms ripped off by a horde of zombies, so there’s a little something here for many horror fans.

I don’t necessarily love Shaun of the Dead, but I’ve seen it multiple times, and it’s never failed to amuse. Stand-out scene was probably the “Don’t Stop Me Now” Queen sequence in the pub. “Kill the Queen” indeed.

8/10

Hellbent (2004)

Hellbent

Directed by Paul Etheredge [Other horror films: Buried Alive (2007)]

When I first saw this, I was pretty impressed with it, especially with it being both a lower-budget slasher, along with being more oriented toward the LGBT community (if I recall, I think I saw this first on LOGO). Even if you’re not gay, though, there’s plenty of fun, albeit relatively mild, to be had here.

Taking place during the West Hollywood Halloween Carnival, the story itself is somewhat thin. A masked man follows and begins to kill off a group of four gay guys with a scythe. It does take about forty or so minutes after the initial kill to really pick up, which gives us some character building, which, given the characters in question are mostly interesting, works out well.

Dylan Fergus is pretty sympathetic as the main character, and has a nice background to him. I felt worse for Hank Harris’ character, though, especially after being turned down by his crush in a club. Harris, on a side-note, seems to be the only actor here who still appears in movies, which is sort of interesting. Lastly, playing the killer (of whom no background is given at all), Kent Bradley James certainly plays the threatening type well.

For the most part, I liked the kills, though, for decapitations, there were a bit light on blood. What probably didn’t help was that at times, the lackluster lighting caused a few scenes to come across as rather dingy. Another slight issue I had was with the utter lack of information on the killer – I liked his physique and style, but we don’t learn a thing about him. I get the appeal, but that always sort of bothered me a bit. Sadly, the last few seconds are pretty laughable also, which is a shame, as the rest of the finale was actually pretty thrilling.

From my understanding, Hellbent isn’t the first gay-themed slasher, but it does seem to be one of the most well-known ones. It certainly adds an interesting twist on what otherwise would be a pretty by-the-numbers slasher. Ultimately, I think it’s just about average, and personally, I don’t know if it has a whole lot of rewatchability. That said, it’s worth at least that first viewing.

7/10

Cube Zero (2004)

kinopoisk.ru

Directed by Ernie Barbarash [Other horror films: Stir of Echoes: The Homecoming (2007), They Wait (2007), Abduction (2019)]

An inside look, if you would, of the operators of the Cube, Cube Zero is a very interesting and very flawed movie.

The concept of this film, looking at the Cube from the outside perspective as opposed to an inside one, is cool, but it sort of negates the purpose of the first two movies. More so, it brings even more questions to the table that are never answered.

Philosophically, this movie does have something to offer up to think about, most prominently at what point does just “taking orders” go too far. Still, there are some other questions, such as if an individual does a bad thing, but forgets about it, should they still be punished, and similar thoughts. There’s certainly more to this movie than what’s on the surface, in short.

Insofar as acting goes, it was a bit of a mixed bag. I liked the main character Wynn (Zachary Bennett) well enough, but part of me wonders why he even went for a job working in the Cube to begin with (which is, as I mentioned earlier, one of the many additional questions this flick brings to the forefront). Wynn’s partner, Dodd (David Huband) was decent, though was a bit shaky at times. And as for almost everyone else? They were passable, but not really memorable.

Aside from the character Jax, played by Michael Riley. He was moderately over-the-top, a bit goofy, and really felt out of place in a movie like this, in my opinion. Many other commentators have said that he’s the high point of the film, but I just don’t see it. He just seemed so ludicrous as to take away from the interesting aspects of both this governmental agency and the society as a whole. Cube Zero asks some good questions, but throwing in a character like Jax just doesn’t do much to lend credibility to the more serious aspects of the film.

The gore, though there’s not a whole lot, is good. At the very least, it’s better by far than the second film, and the body melting scene near the beginning can rival any death in the Cube series, as far as I can recall. True, some CGI looked really hooky, but for the most part, as far as deaths go, this movie did okay.

The ending was a mixed bag, much like the movie as a whole. I sort of liked what they were going for, but at the same time, it doesn’t really add anything to the mix. Cube Zero took a bunch of interesting ideas and deep questions, and blended together, unfortunately it comes out 50/50. The movie certainly isn’t bad, and I do find it better, generally speaking, than Hypercube, but it doesn’t match anywhere close with the original 1997 flick.

6.5/10

Seed of Chucky (2004)

Seed of Chucky

Directed by Don Mancini [Other horror films: Curse of Chucky (2013), Cult of Chucky (2017)]

Perhaps it was just my mood, but I found this film wholly unjustifiable. To be honest, though, my mood aside, I cannot imagine a situation in which I could ever find this movie acceptable.

Bride of Chucky damaged the series by creating a more light-hearted experience, but there was still plenty of elements to moderately enjoy. Seed of Chucky has virtually nothing.

Two of the deaths in the film were okay (a disembowelment and a flamethrower kill). A few of the lines made me chuckle (such as the jab at Tilly’s voice). Hannah Spearritt was cute (though her character was extraordinarily idiotic).

But as far as positives go, that’s it.

The biggest problem for me is that I just didn’t like the story at all. It’s such a stupid concept. Toward the end, it felt rushed, and the epilogue was just terrible, but the bigger issue is there wasn’t a single thing about the plot that I thought was good or worth seeing. Not a single thing.

The addition of Glen/Glenda was misguided (just as shooting oneself in the face is misguided). I don’t know if I can even expand on that. It was just a stupid idea, and it’s a damn shame that the series fell to this level.

It may be worth mentioning that unlike the first four films in this series, I’ve never seen this one before, for exactly the reason that I thought it sounded idiotic. I did try, at the beginning, to go in with an open mind. But when the opening sequence is revealed as a dream, and Glen/Glenda wakes up and had a British accent, I was done.

A God-awful experience, perhaps one of the worst sequels to an otherwise decently solid series that I could possibly imagine. Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood was better and more entertaining than this shit. The rating is for the two solid kills, the few humorous lines the movie possessed, and Spearritt.

2/10

If you want to hear me spew hate on this, check out our review from Fight Evil’s podcast, episode #33, as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one.

Salem’s Lot (2004)

Salems Lot

Directed by Mikael Salomon [Other horror films: N/A]

Here’s a little secret for you all: so far in my horror movie viewing, I’ve not yet seen the original Salem’s Lot. I’ve been meaning to, but it’s never happened. What I have seen twice is this 2004 adaptation, starring Rob Lowe (of The West Wing fame). And overall, I am pretty pleased with it.

Many of the characters are enjoyable, and the acting is solid; toward the end, the little vampire-killing group was enjoyable to observe, though I wish they were seen together a few more times than they were. Being a mini-series, it’s pretty lengthy, much like the original (both over two hours, I believe), but I was quite happy with what I saw.

Oh, there’s the occasional subplot or scene that didn’t do much for me, but those were far outweighed by stuff I enjoyed. Andre Braugher’s character, Matt Burke, for example, was a fine character, but not necessarily overly likable. The ending was somewhat reminiscent of Fright Night, where they go to the main house and hope to finish the vampires off, which was sort of fun. I’ve no major complaints, really, and I feel this is worth a watch, despite the changes they made from King’s original novel.

8/10