Lucifer (1987)

Directed by John Eyres [Other horror films: Project Shadowchaser III (1995), Judge and Jury (1996), Octopus (2000), Ripper (2001)]

This is a bit of an odd film. Lucifer (which was apparently released under the much catchier title Goodnight, God Bless later on) is a slasher with a fantastic opening, but very little past that point really makes an impact.

I have to first say, though, that I don’t quite know the origins of this one. It’s filmed in London, and multiple reviewers call it a British movie, which makes sense, but then IMDb lists the country of origin as Canada, so I don’t know what that’s about. I’ll just assume it’s a Canadian film made in London for some reason, as that’s really all I have to work on.

No matter where it’s from, though, that opening is strong. It’s also sort of sad, because nothing else in the movie comes even close to matching it, but hey, I guess if you start off strong, then that’s the risk you have to run.

A man dressed as a priest approaches a schoolyard – kids are frollicking and playing as kids do, and being watched over by a teacher. The priest enters the yard, and the teacher walks up to him. It’s a short conversation, though, as he pulls out a knife and stabs her. He then pulls a handgun out and shoots the kids. He doesn’t kill all of them – only five children die in the opening (we see their body bags a little later on) but one of the girls he does attempt to kill gets lucky, and becomes the focus of his obsession throughout the film.

Not too many horror films deal with the death of kids in a senseless act of violence like this, and I definitely appreciated how this film ignored convention and began with five young kids getting shot in a schoolyard. Masterful opening, definitely memorable, and it’s a shame little else in the film does much.

Which isn’t to say the other kills are bad – there was an okay one dealing with a police officer falling prey to a spike-trap of sorts, which was sort of fun. There was an almost suspenseful scene in a movie theater in which the priest stabbed a knife through the chair in front of him, which would have killed the target had they not dropped something and was leaning forward to pick it up. Even so, for a slasher film, Lucifer just doesn’t have enough pop, and feels far more sluggish than one would hope.

Frank Rozelaar-Green wasn’t a very interesting lead, but then again, Emma Burdon-Sutton wasn’t particularly noteworthy either, but I guess Jane Price did well as a young kid who almost gets killed multiple times throughout the movie. Really, there’s no great performances here, and that coupled with the sluggish nature of the film, not to mention bloodless kills, is a disappointment.

Oh, I should mention a couple of more things. We never find out the killer’s identity – despite the fact we never see his face and it just seems that his identity might be important, I guess we were misled (which is a mild shame, because while simple in design, I did like the killer’s priest look). Also, the final scene, in which there’s a confession given, strikes me as nonsensical, unnecessary, and somewhat ridiculous.

Lucifer (or as I prefer, Goodnight, God Bless) is a dull film with not much aside from the opening truly going for it. For a late 80’s British/Canadian slasher, I’m guessing there’s not a lot of choices out there, so if you’re desperate, give this a watch. Otherwise, this isn’t a great film, nor a good one, and though I recommend watching the first five minutes, most of this film isn’t worth it.


Sam’s Lake (2006)

Directed by Andrew C. Erin [Other horror films: Playdate (2012), Havenhurst (2016)]

So Sam’s Lake is a movie I’ve seen a single time, that time being back in October 2009. I haven’t seen it since then, so revisiting it in October 2021, I was somewhat curious. I didn’t remember much about it aside from the fact that there was a lake involved, and so was certainly interested in seeing it again.

As it is, Sam’s Lake isn’t that good of a movie at all. The first 50 minutes or so were competent, as far as generic slasher-fare and character building is concerned, but some elements pop up toward the last third of the film that I just didn’t care for. Apparently this film is based off the director’s 2002 short with the same title, and I sort of wonder if that one had the same finale this one did, because if not, that short might be a better version of the same story. Regardless, the fact this is based on a short goes a long way to explain how threadbare this feels.

Fay Masterson, Salvatore Antonio, Sandrine Holt, and Stephen Bishop (who I randomly know from the sports drama Moneyball) all did a decent job, despite the fact that the story didn’t give a whole lot for some of these characters to do. There’s not a big cast in the film, though, and the fact that half of the main cast was decent is at least something to commend.

For the most part, though, this story is just generic slasher stuff, and absolutely none of it is surprising or noteworthy. None of the kills were really anything to write home about, and the twist that sets off the last thirty minutes was something I saw coming ten minutes in (and I know I said I’ve seen this, but given it’s been around 12 years, you can rest assured knowing I had forgotten about all of these characters, not to mention any twists the film might have had). There’s just little of interest here.

Sam’s Lake isn’t a good movie. If you want to see an okay slasher from the mid-2000’s, I guess you can go check this out, but I just don’t think most people would find it particularly worth it, and I suspect most would find this as forgettable as I have.


The Gate (1987)

Directed by Tibor Takács [Other horror films: I, Madman (1989), The Gate II: Trespassers (1990), Rats (2003), Mansquito (2005), Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep (2006), Ice Spiders (2007), Mega Snake (2007), Spiders 3D (2013), Bunks (2013)]

Having seen The Gate once before, I can say that it’s a perfectly pleasant viewing experience. I don’t think it’s a great movie, but it does have that fun 80’s sensibility, and if you want a good time, giving The Gate a chance would be a fine idea.

Plot-wise, it’s not necessarily impressive, but I do think it did well, especially focusing on kid as the main character. What stands out more would be the quality special effects, which included some nifty stop-motion animation which looked pretty good. It may have gotten a little much come the finale, but the special effects overall were on the better side of the genre.

Though a kid, Stephen Dorff (who later stars in the neo-classic Feardotcom) does well, and perhaps stands out with the marginally-more emotional material, and his relationship with his sister (Christa Denton) is perhaps one of the more interesting elements of the movie. Denton herself does quite a decent job as a concerned older sister, and though past a certain point his character doesn’t matter, Louis Tripp did well as a friend of Dorff’s character.

Being a movie aimed toward a younger audience, The Gate isn’t really a violent movie whatsoever, and really, much like Gremlins (which is actually a movie I’d consider more tense), this could be a good onboarding film to get kids into horror. Plus, as I said, it has that 80’s charm, and what kids don’t enjoy that?

Though The Gate isn’t a favorite of mine, I do find the film rather fun at times. It’s not a go-to for me insofar as 80’s horror is concerned, but it was well-made, and never feels too campy or silly, which, based on some of the effects, people might be surprised by. It’s a movie worth seeing at least once, and could well make it’s way into your collection. I don’t love it, but it does what it has to, and if you’re a child of the 1980’s, you may already be charmed by this one.


Hideaway (1995)

Directed by Brett Leonard [Other horror films: The Dead Pit (1989), The Lawnmower Man (1992), Man-Thing (2005), Feed (2005)]

It’s possible that this movie is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. I don’t think Hideaway is a good movie, but I do find it occasionally decent, if only because of Jeff Goldblum’s presence. That said, it’s not a 90’s movie that I see attracting too many people for a plethora of reasons.

Based on a novel by Dean Koontz (though he was apparently quite displeased with the final product, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this wasn’t that close to the source material), the story here is okay. It has sort of an Eye-vibe, what with Goldblum’s character sharing a telepathic connection with a serial killer. It’s nothing fancy, but given that we do have Jeff Goldblum, that does make it moderately more tolerable.

Which is even more useful when you consider that this movie is around an hour and 45 minutes. Had the central performance come from someone less engaging than Goldblum, I really don’t know if I’d have the will-power to get through this, but just because of him starring, that does add a lot.

Personally, I know Goldblum most from Jurassic Park, a movie I’ve loved since I was a child (and one of the few movies I actually own on Blu-ray), but he’s also known, by the horror community, for films such as The Fly, Mister Frost, and the television film The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. His performance here is pretty solid, and was actually one of the reasons I first went out of my way to see this movie.

As an antagonist, Jeremy Sisto (Wrong Turn, May, Dead & Breakfast, and Population 436) was pretty solid despite this being a moderately early role for him. He didn’t have that much in terms of agency, but he was suitably sinister. Alfred Molina (Doctor Octopus from Spider-Man 2) was nice to see, Alicia Silverstone (Batman & Robin, regretfully) had her moments, and though I don’t know her, Christine Lahti was okay.

One thing that’s particularly damning about this film, and this is something that I’ve forgotten since the first time I saw this, was some truly God-awful CGI. While this is mostly restrained to the first 15 minutes and the final ten minutes (not counting the post-credits scene), it was really laughable just how bad the special effects looked. It carried with it an almost hokey charm, but then it lasted longer than it should have. In fact, it reminded me a bit of Ghost in the Machine, another 90’s movie that’s a bit of a guilty pleasure for me, only I tend to enjoy that one a bit more.

I can’t think of a ton of reasons to really watch Hideaway. Sure, if you’re one who wishes to consume a large portion of Goldblum’s output, it’s worth a watch, and perhaps if you groove on subpar psychic-link horror movies, it’s right up your alley, but it’s just not a spectacular movie. I don’t think it’s abysmal, though – it’s watchable, and though maybe a bit longer than it needs to be, still reasonably suitable for a movie night. It’s just not that good.


The Babadook (2014)

Directed by Jennifer Kent [Other horror films: N/A]

This Australian film is one that I have enjoyed in the past, though that was just with a single watch. Seeing it again, though, I have to say that I didn’t care for it nearly as much this time around. Perhaps I enjoyed the allegorical and interpretative nature of the film more in my youth, because while The Babadook isn’t without value, I just couldn’t really get into it.

Part of it is that I do find the story a bit annoying past a certain part. When it becomes clear to the mother (played by Essie Davis) that she’s not able to care for her son (Noah Wiseman) as well as she should be, she should have immediately checked herself into some type of treatment. Sure, they set up a therapist for the son (though that should have been done long before the time-frame of the movie), but when she’s barely able to get any sleep for days on end, instead of being sensible, she just – stays home and continues to fall apart.

I just found elements here more than a bit annoying. Her son clearly had behavioral issues, but instead of dealing with it in any positive fashion, she ignored it, despite clearly knowing her son wasn’t “normal” (which was made clear during her outbursts throughout the film). Though I can understand it’s a straining time for the pair of them (coming up to an anniversary of her husband’s death), the lack of thought she put into trying to do right by her kid drove me up the wall.

I’ll give the movie kudos for having a cool book, though – that Babadook book was beautifully-made (and from my interpretation, probably made by the mother, if the book was ever really there at all), and I’d definitely want a copy of that in my house. Also, the design of the Badadook was decent, though it’s rare in the film that we really get a prolonged great look at it – I know some may prefer it that way, but decisions like that, while they make sense, can sometimes feel a bit lacking.

My largest problem, though, tends to be just how interpretative the movie is. Some say that it’s an allegory on depression/sleep deprivation, which is certainly possible. I do tend to think that the Babadook isn’t a real entity, and that the mother is just utterly insane, but really, with a movie like this, any point of view is perfectly valid. I’d personally like a few more concrete answers, but that may just be me expecting the unnecessary from movie-makers.

The Babadook isn’t without value, which is clear to me, as I’ve enjoyed the movie in the past. It’s also possible that upon a future viewing of this movie, I’ll gain back some of the enjoyment I lost with this run through. As it stands now, though, while portions of the film were impressive, more often than not, it was filled with awkward conversations and felt like Baby Blues for the final thirty or so minutes.

I’m hoping that I’ll enjoy this more in the future, but for the time being, I don’t really think it’s that great.


The Haunting in Connecticut (2009)

Directed by Peter Cornwell [Other horror films: Mercy (2014)]

When I first saw The Haunting in Connecticut, I got the sense I enjoyed it. I didn’t think it was great or anything, but I remember having a pretty okay time with it, and that surprised me, as I usually don’t enjoy Hollywood ghost movies. Well, now I wish I could go back to those more innocent times, as I really didn’t care for this at all the second time around.

First off, and if you know me, this may not come as a surprise, I have to mention how this movie claims to be “based on a true story.” It’s not. Throughout the whole history of the entire world, not a single ghost or supernatural event has ever been scientifically proven. To our current understanding, there are no ghosts, no demons, no supernatural occurrences (for if they occurred in nature, they’d be natural occurrences), and no God or gods.

Even more so, this particular story seems to have been entirely debunked. So for trying to pass this off as a true story to increase fear, this movie automatically lost three points. It pisses me off when movies do this (found footage are the worst offenders, as you can imagine), and this was no different.

Prove the existence of ghosts first, and then you can say these stories are based on true events. Until then, shove it.

What this movie has going for it is really quick flashes of Hollywood scares and a disjointed origin story that’s told in music-video style flashes. I think the origin is sort of interesting, at least as far as the necromancy aspect goes, but if that’s all a movie has going for it, and it’s not even told in a particularly enjoyable way, that may not mean much.

To be sure, Kyle Gallner (of the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street) did decently, and Virginia Madsen (Candyman) worked well with him to make plenty of emotional scenes. Elias Koteas was okay, though his character was too religious to much care for. Amanda Crew (Final Destination 3) never really got that much time to make any impact, but her one research scene was fine, and she was cute, so whateves.

Of course, the estimated budget of this movie is $10 million dollars, so the fact that some of the performances are decent shouldn’t come as a surprise, and more to the point, it doesn’t really elevate the movie much.

I liked aspects of the origin story, but aside from this, this felt like complete Hollywood clichéd drivel. I’m not sure where I derived my enjoyment from the first time I saw this, but after watching it with fresh eyes, it’s just a waste with very little going for it. I imagine some people out there would enjoy this one, but it’s just not my idea of a good time.


Die Hinrichtung (1976)

Directed by Denis Héroux [Other horror films: The Uncanny (1977)] & Géza von Radványi [Other horror films: N/A]

Known under such titles as Naked Massacre and Born for Hell (probably the best title for this one, if it were up to me), Die Hinrichtung is a gritty, raw experience. It’s not altogether exciting, but I do find the premise somewhat fascinating, and though the movie isn’t great, I do think there’s a little here to be interested in.

I first saw this film around ten years ago from a cheap print on the Mill Creek Entertainment’s Chilling Classics 50-movie pack. Honestly, while the print has issues, the audio quality is decent, and the movie is still certainly watchable (which is not something that can be said for all the movies in the same collection). I didn’t remember too much in way of specifics about the movie, which partially made this one a movie I was more interested in revisiting.

Following a disillusioned American who fought in Vietnam, and taking place during The Troubles in Belfast, there’s a lot of commentary on violence here. This American (played by Mathieu Carrière) has had a troubled life – a hard upbringing, a wife who left him, and some mental issues – and left one warzone for another. He doesn’t snap in a PTSD type of way – this isn’t Forced Entry (thank God). But he desperately wants to get home, and doesn’t have the money to do so. And what better way to get money than by trapping a house of nurses and torturing them?

Based partially off the Richard Speck murders, this movie has that gritty exploitation feel without really going out of the way to show too much explicit violence. The sexual violence, while definitely present, is toned down, and there’s not that much in the way of gore (and in fact, the bloodiest scene is a self-inflicted cut toward the finale of the film). It does have that gritty atmosphere, and of course a little nudity thrown in, but this movie isn’t really near as grueling as others from around the same time, such as I Spit on Your Grave, The Last House on the Left, or the aforementioned Forced Entry.

I don’t know Mathieu Carrière, but I thought he did a pretty fine job with his character. He’s occasionally charming, always desperate, and his performance is solid. None of the nurses stand out particularly well, but some, such as Carole Laure, Leonora Fani, and Christine Boisson all add a little oomph with their characters and traumatic predicaments.

The movie isn’t exactly quick-paced, but personally, I don’t think I ever really got bored. That said, I can certainly understand the somewhat lukewarm reception this has received (at the time of this writing, the movie possesses a 5.1/10 on IMDb with 696 votes). It’s probably worth seeing if you’re a fan of gritty 70’s exploitations, even if this is a bit tame, but for a casual horror fan, there may not be a lot here to really interest you. It’s worth mentioning that the version I saw was the same Mill Creek copy, though, so the uncut version likely has more to it.

As for me, I can say that I found the setting (Belfast) and the killer’s history interesting. I don’t think that made this a great movie, but I do think it felt substantially different from a more, shall we say, base exploitation flick, and though I do find the film below average (with the conclusion being perhaps one of my favorite portions), I definitely think I’d find it in me to watch again.


Carrie (2002)

Directed by David Carson [Other horror films: N/A]

Among my more well-known eccentricities is that I’m not a giant fan of the classic Carrie. It wouldn’t make my top 25 horror films from the 1970’s, let alone my top ten, which is a hot take, believe it or not. An even hotter take is that I enjoy this television production more than the 1970’s classic, and while I am sure some might be aghast, I can’t say I feel much shame.

The cast here is spectacular. Angela Bettis (May and Toolbox Murders) was the perfect choice, as she really pulls off Carrie’s character and personality. Patricia Clarkson (who was in both Delirium and Easy A – completely similar movies) was a good fit for Carrie’s mother, and her back-and-forth with Carrie was always fun to watch. Kandyse McClure (of the 2009 version of Children of the Corn fame) was decent as Sue, and a bit snappier here (for good story reasons) than she elsewise generally is.

Emilie de Ravin (who I think I recognize best from Santa’s Slay, but have also seen in The Hills Have Eyes remake and the mystery Brick) gave a good performance as the ultra-bitchy Chris, and related, Katharine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps, Freddy vs. Jason, and 13 Eerie) was great as her ultra-bitchy friend. Tobias Mehler stuck me as somewhat uninspired, but Rena Sofer and David Keith (Firestarter) were very good.

Though he only got one really stand-out scene, I also loved Laurie Murdoch, who played the principal, and though her character isn’t really relevant, I also wanted to mention Meghan Black, if only because I know her as the voice of Rogue in the cartoon X-Men: Evolution, which I watched the hell out of when I was a kid. Lastly, playing Carrie during a flashback, we have a young Jodelle Ferland (the kid in Silent Hill and later in movies such as The Unspoken and Neverknock).

So despite being a television movie, the cast did rather impress me. It’s true that there were obvious limitations in terms of special effects (which can likely most clearly be seen during the prom carnage and later the scene in which Carrie’s slowly walking and bringing the town down with her), but generally, I didn’t think this really harmed the story too much (I think the worst bit may have been the scene right before Carrie snaps – I just think it ran on a bit long).

The story itself takes some daring alterations in the finale, which I didn’t remember from my first-time viewing of this. While it’s true that how they ended this version isn’t novel accurate, I was never a giant fan of the novel, and the fact that this has a less down-beat ending actually sort of made me enjoy it a bit more.

Speaking of the novel, while neither the original 1976 version or the 2013 version did this, the novel has a lot of newspaper articles, journal entries, letters, and various things from Carrie’s life following the tragic event, split in between the telling of the central story. They don’t quite do that here, but the movie is framed during an interview by the police following the prom disaster, which I liked quite a bit, largely perhaps due to it giving David Keith time to have fun with his character.

With all of this said, what issues I have with the other adaptations are still true here – I just don’t love the story. However, because this version has a less depressing conclusion, I can dig it more. Sue me.

Much like how I enjoy the 1997 The Shining mini-series more than the 1980’s film, I enjoy this television production more than both the 1976 and 2013 versions. I’m an odd duck, but I can only say what I feel, and I truly enjoyed this one more. Good stuff, especially with the limitations they had.


Martyrs (2008)

Directed by Pascal Laugier [Other horror films: Bonne Nuit (1999), Saint Ange (2004), The Tall Man (2012), Ghostland (2018)]

I’m not one of those who believes that a movie has to be enjoyable to be good, but I do maintain that if a movie is not a particularly enjoyable viewing experience, then those who dislike it have every right to do so. That’s clearly relevant to me here, because while Martyrs is a well-done movie in plenty of aspects, it’s a movie that I have a hard time with, and definitely don’t find that enjoyable.

Whereas other French horror films from the same time period share the same bleak feel this film possesses (such as Frontière(s) and Haute tension), they still have a bit more of a, shall we say, cinematic background, and by that, I mean that while they can be dark, I still find myself entertained, and that’s not something I can truthfully say about Martyrs.

No doubt the film is well-acted, though. Mylène Jampanoï and Morjana Alaoui make for a believable pair of friends, and Alaoui especially does well toward the second half of the film. Though a character of miserable intent, Catherine Bégin does a pretty good job, which might be helped by the fact she really only appears a handful of times.

There’s also no doubt that the special effects are amazing. Honestly, the movie isn’t quite a gory as people might think, but there are plenty of brutal scenes, and especially in the second half of the film, some hard-to-stomach sequences, so though it’s not a gorefest by any means (aside from perhaps the shotgun slaughter toward the beginning), there are some things here that probably won’t easily be forgotten.

Like I said, though, despite some positive and well-done elements, I just don’t enjoy the movie. It’s entirely possible that I liked this a little bit more than when I first saw it years back, but even then, it’s just a smidge. Part of it is the grueling scenes of torture that a character endears (and seems to last at least 15 solid minutes), and part of it is the story and the pseudo-philosophical ideas about the afterlife and forced martyrdom.

I did find myself enjoying the end (though I do quite want to know what was whispered in Bégin’s ear – not enough to go out, capture young women, and torture them into ectasy, of course – but I am definitely curious), but I don’t think it was entirely satisfying, which may well be the point, given the bleak feel that this movie has. The fact the finale is somewhat inconclusive makes the film darker still.

Martyrs is often rated quite highly, and I don’t want to take that perception away from people. I can only say that I personally didn’t love it, and though I can admit that there are elements that I could conceivably enjoy, it’s not a movie that I think I’ll go back to near as often as I would films like Haute tension. Take that how you will.


Prom Night III: The Last Kiss (1990)

Directed by Ron Oliver [Other horror films: Thralls (2005), Black Rain (2009), Mostly Ghostly: One Night in Doom House (2016)] & Peter R. Simpson [Other horror films: N/A]

Following the second movie’s Mary Lou Maloney, Prom Night III: The Last Kiss was an adequate sequel. It was nowhere near as enjoyable as the second film, and in fact, I think it ultimately feels the weakest of the first three Prom Night’s, but if you’re into more comedy-influenced horror, and in the right mood, this might be an okay viewing.

It’s not like Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II didn’t have comedy, but this film is a lot more in-your-face about it, almost to a silly extent (and as soon as something straddles the ‘silly’ line, I’m outtie). There are certainly some rather amusing lines (two which come to mind, both happening in the same scene, are “I don’t want a fucking pie!” and “Alex, it wasn’t a person, it was a guidance counselor”), but sometimes it goes a bit far, especially in regards to some of the kills and those 50’s jingles in the background.

Where I think this movie fails the most is the final twenty minutes, though, which takes place in a Hell-like dimension. I mean, it makes sense as far as the story goes, but I have to say that I didn’t much care for it, especially making some of the victims of Mary Lou more monster than human (such as David Stratton’s character, who was a pretty decent guy overall). The final scene itself was okay, but a lot of the finale didn’t work for me.

Tim Conlon made for a fine lead, if not perhaps sometimes unspectacular. He was pretty well-suited for the style of comedy the movie had, though, so I’d give him props for that. Cynthia Preston (who didn’t get angry, just baked) was solid as Conlon’s girlfriend, and is probably one of the more recognizable faces in the film (as she was also in The Brain and Pin).

Replacing Lisa Schrage as Mary Lou, Courtney Taylor did good, or at least played her part well, given the corny nature of most of her dialogue. Lesley Kelly was funny in her few scenes, and lastly, while not note-worthy in almost any way, Robert Collins appeared somewhere here, and he played the beast Lord High Executioner in the classic Goosebumps two-parter A Night in Terror Tower. Loved that character (and hence, actor) ever since I was knee high to a tadpole, so wanted to give a shout-out.

It’s here I should mention that one of the directors, Ron Oliver, also directed quite a few episodes of Goosebumps, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, The Nightmare Room, and other such kid-oriented entries to horror, which I thought tied in nice with Robert Collins’ appearance. Amusingly, though, while Oliver directed Goosebumps’ episodes such as ‘Werewolf Skin’ and ‘How to Kill a Monster,’ he didn’t directed ‘A Night in Terror Tower.’

Problematically, given the more comedic nature of the film, none of the kills are particularly good. Actually, I think one of the best scenes in the more gory department would be when a character early on accidentally cuts his finger off. Elsewise, you have a guy stabbed with ice cream cones or a woman doused in battery acid. These aren’t terrible, mind, but they don’t really stand out.

Otherwise, though the movie isn’t good, I think most of Prom Night III is largely inoffensive. If you dug the style and vibe of the second movie, it’s probable that, to a certain extent, you’ll enjoy this one also. I didn’t particularly like this movie much, even with some of the choicer pieces of dialogue, but it was an okay watch. I don’t think it’s much more than that, though.