Wrong Turn 2: Dead End (2007)

Directed by Joe Lynch [Other horror films: Chillerama (2011, segment ‘Zom-B-Movie’), Mayhem (2017)]

When I first saw this one some years back, I found it underwhelming. I know, though, that there is a decently-sized contingent that find this a generally solid sequel, so I was sort of excited to see it again and perhaps wondering if it would move up in my rankings. And after doing so, while it is a little better than I initially gave it credit for, I still don’t think it’s all that memorable.

Aside from, of course, Henry Rollins, who is the sole reason to watch this film if you’re hesitant to do so, as his kick-ass character, from beginning to end, is just fantastic. I’m not saying that Rollins makes this movie great – honestly, while portions are good, I think the film still hovers around average to below average – but without Rollins, I think this movie would lose a lot of the charm it managed to create, as he brings quite a lot as an over-the-top drill sergeant who sends these mutated hillfolk back to their cabins, and how!

I have to admit that I expected quite a lot more from Aleksa Palladino’s character, but in a way, I can understand why they might want to get rid of the obvious final girl somewhat early on. Even so, I found it a bit of a shame, as I did find her character one of the better ones here. Otherwise, you have Erica Leerhsen, who did take a while to grow on me, but I eventually found myself quite enjoying her standoffish attitude.

Texas Battle (what a name, brah) had a quality moral code, which I appreciated (him turning down Yan-Kay Crystal Lowe’s character was nice to see). Battle didn’t stick out as much as Leerhsen, but he was still good. Yan-Kay Crystal Lowe (Final Destination 3, Black Christmas, and Yeti: Curse of the Snow Demon) was the stereotypical hot bitch, so while attractive, her character was as hideous as any of the deformed hillbillies. Most of the others, be it Steve Braun, Daniella Alonso (who was also amusingly in The Hills Have Eyes II), or Matthew Currie Holmes, were sort of there, and little more.

Of course, the gore here was pretty solid throughout. I never really cared for the whole cutting-someone-in-half with an axe/chainsaw/hatchet, so the opening kill was more meh, but it still looked good. A hatchet-throw stood out, if only because it struck me by surprise, and the finale was beautifully gory (what with a tree debarker debarking more than bark), though it did lead to a final scene that I thought was unnecessary.

Actually, since I mentioned the finale, I did rather like that paper mill that made for the setting, and when Rollins’ character is running through and blowing people up with his dynamite arrows, it’s a lot of fun, and of course there’s solid tension. I am disappointed by what goes down with Rollins’ character, but I get it.

All of this, though, doesn’t mean the movie’s great. I honestly don’t think it’s necessarily bad, but generally, I thought this hit some of the right spots without fully satisfying me, and some of it is admittedly smaller things, such as that supposed game show. I’m a fan of Survivor, which is partly, I suspect, what that game show is based on, but boy, does it sound unnecessarily complex. I’ll chalk that up to bad design for a reality TV show, though, and not an example of how I wasn’t wowed by this.

Something that does play a part, though, are the deformed antagonists. In the first film, things were kept simple with just three antagonists, but here’s there’s an extended family, and for me, it wasn’t always easy to keep in mind exactly how many family members there were, and related, where those members were at any given moment.

I don’t dispute that Dead End had some solid things going for it, such as the kills and a few of the characters, but despite what it does right, I think this is somewhat clearly below average, though not nearly as badly as many other films.

6.5/10

This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below, if it tickles your fancy, as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss Wrong Turn 2.

Der Hund von Baskerville (1937)

Directed by Karel Lamac [Other horror films: De spooktrein (1939)]

Ah, finally, after having watched the 1914 and 1929 silent versions, I get to hear speaking once again. It’s in German, sure, but it’s also subtitled, so no problems there. This is a pretty good version of the story, but compared to many other versions, I have a hard time believing it really stands out.

Certainly the quality of the print I viewed wasn’t great – it seemed like some VHS rip, which of course has charm to it, but it would have been nice to see a little cleaner print. Even so, that doesn’t negatively impact the film, especially since I’m just glad the copy was in German with English subtitles thrown on.

The movie itself follows the main traditions the 1929 version did – Holmes not accompanying Watson to Baskerville castle, the escaped convict on the moors, and actually having a strong role for Watson (unlike the 1914 version) – and it did so competently enough, but I still think that some parts could have been trimmed (such as the somewhat unnecessary opening regarding the origins of the curse).

I will give it that this version has my favorite Sherlock Holmes thus far (compared to the 1914 and 1929 versions). Here, Holmes is played by Bruno Güttner as a rather analytic and none-too-sensitive Holmes, which is the type of Holmes I like. He has the confidence that 1914’s Alwin Neuß had, but he also had that analytic character trait (case in point: by looking at a cane, he can tell quite a bit about Doctor Mortimer) that wasn’t really shown in either of the previous versions I’ve seen today. What makes this even more impressive is that Güttner’s only been in a total of three films.

They also did Watson pretty well, and better than they have up to this point, having a Fritz Odemar portray him. Here, he doesn’t really come across as a pointless side-kick but a deductive individual of his own right (and investigative, as seen by his opening scene in which he’s looking at the ash remains of 117 types of cigarettes and cigars for comparison of some sort). Not that Odemar was perfect, but I did quite like his performance here.

Fritz Rasp appeared as Barrymore, and though he lacks the character the 1914 Andreas Van Horn got, he did a fine job, and related, Rasp was also in the 1929 version playing Stapleton. Here, Stapleton was played by Erich Ponto – Ponto did a decent job, and I sort of liked his seemingly-weak physique, but he sort of lacked the pache that the previous two Stapleton’s (Friedrich Kühne and Fritz Rasp) brought to the table. And as for Henry Baskerville, well, Peter Voß did okay, but his character has never really impressed me, and it’s no different here.

I think the mystery and horror elements were generally done pretty well here, and while the quality of the film wasn’t great, most of the scenes on the moor weren’t too marred, and the sinister aura that you’d hope to find among the most thrilling of those scenes was present still.

While both of the silent versions were also German films, it’s nice to see a version of the film with sound so I can hear the dulcet tones of the German language. As you can imagine, the cast of this film is somewhat insular (especially compared to the cast of the 1929 version, which had an American and an Italian in leading roles), with this being made during a somewhat bad time for the country, but it’s still an okay version of a good story, and sticks to the necessities, and comes out fine.

7/10

Der Hund von Baskerville (1929)

Directed by Richard Oswald [Other horror films: Der Hund von Baskerville, 3. Teil – Das unheimliche Zimmer (1916), Der Hund von Baskerville, 4. Teil (1916), Nächte des Grauens (1917), Das Bildnis des Dorian Gray (1917), Unheimliche Geschichten (1919), Nachtgestalten (1920), Cagliostro – Liebe un Leben eines großen Abenteurers (1929), Unheimliche Geschichten (1932)]

Though this came out 15 years after the 1914 adaptation, I think it’s arguably on equal grounding. Certainly this version of The Hound of the Baskervilles improves on some levels than the earlier silent movie, but at the same time, I think a few things were holding it back from making more of an impact.

One thing I did appreciate was a more traditional version of the story, and by that, I mean the version of the story I’m accustomed to. Here they brought in some elements that were missing from the 1914 version, including Watson and Holmes appearing and then disappearing for a good portion of the story (this classic element of the plot couldn’t have happened in the 1914 version, as, in unique fashion, Holmes actually went to investigate the case without first being summoned by Henry Baskerville, so the classic, “I can’t leave London, but take Watson with you,” line was absent).

Worth mentioning is that while Watson did appear in the 1914 version, he was such a non-entity that he wasn’t even credited.

It’s not that this addition instantly make the movie better, by any means, but it certainly was nice to see, as I was wondering at what point that sub-plot would make it into the movies.

What really gives this film a different and potentially more powerful aura is the strong atmosphere, especially in the opening sequence with the elder Baskerville being terrified of the howls coming from the stormy night, and the group of friends around him mostly laughing the superstitions off. The storm is great, the tension is great, and the film kicks off with such a fantastic atmosphere. I can also add that the black-and-white looked quite crisp, and helped in that endeavor (and yes – while the 1914 version was tinted, this version is in black-and-white).

It should also be said that this version isn’t complete – some sequences are missing, and to get around that, this reconstruction summarizes the missing moments while giving us stills of the characters introduced during those scenes (such as Fritz Rasp’s Stapleton and Betty Bird’s Beryl). Some might be bothered by the missing scenes, and I hope they turn up at some point, but I thought they did a pretty good job working with what they had, and it was certainly more watchable and engaging than the TCM restoration of London After Midnight, so there’s that.

If that’s one last issue I have, it’s that I didn’t care all that much for Carlyle Blackwell, who played Sherlock Holmes (at least in comparison to the 1914’s Alwin Neuß). It’s not that Blackwell gave a particularly poor performance – he most certainly didn’t – but he was younger and a bit more handsome than I usually expect from a Sherlock Holmes, and while far from perfect, I did think the 1914 rendition done by Neuß was better.

No complaints about the rest of the cast, though – playing Stapleton, Fritz Rasp brought a quality quiet insanity with him that wasn’t really in the 1914’s Friedrich Kühne’s version. Obviously Rasp and Kühne were going for different things – Kühne a traditional, mustache-twirling fiend and Rasp a mentally-unstable psychopath – but both had solid respective performances, and here, I thought Rasp did great.

As Henry Baskerville, Livio Pavanelli did decently, though he wasn’t anything special. Playing his love interest was Betty Bird, who did get more character than Baskerville’s love interest in the 1914 version (and that character, Lyons, does appear here, though in a different way), was likewise just okay. The butler Barrymore (Andreas Van Horn in the 1914 movie), played by Valy Arnheim, lost a bit of story that he previously had, but also gained a little something with the added escaped convict on the moors subplot, and Arnheim did well with that.

And lastly, playing Watson, George Seroff was pretty strong throughout most of the film, though his character gets overshadowed by Holmes (as one can naturally expect) by the end, and so he doesn’t leave all that much of an impact.

The conclusion presented here is quite a bit more action-packed than what we got 15 years ago, and it’s all a decent amount of fun (albeit I couldn’t help but notice Watson, as it seems he always is, is treated a bit like a doddering fool at times), and the use of shadows and other film techniques such as flashbacks, slow camera-swivels and close-ups make this film far more technical than what the 1914 version managed (though with a difference of 15 years, one would certainly hope that’s the case).

When all is said and done, Holmes said it best: “Supernatural dogs do not leave footprints,” and while this movie was enjoyable to watch, I can’t say that it’s the pillar of silent horror despite having many strong elements present.

7.5/10

Der Hund von Baskerville (1914)

Directed by Rudolf Meinert [Other horror films: N/A]

Being the first adaptation of the only Sherlock Holmes story really considered horror, this early German production has been a film I’ve long wanted to see, and luckily it came out as a special feature on Blu-Ray on the 1929 Der Hund von Baskerville disc set, so now I’ve finally seen it.

And it’s not too shabby. Oh, it’s not great – this is far from the finest version of the story out there (which I suspect is the 1959 version, but I need to revisit that first before committing to that) – and this version is focused far more on the suspense (the mystery aspect isn’t really relevant here, oddly enough) than on the horrors of the hound, but given that this came out 1914, I doubt anyone could find that deeply surprising.

Certainly there’s plenty of amusing things in the film to keep your interest, especially since the audience is pretty much told who the culprit behind the attacks is, along with why, pretty early on in the film. From a scene in which a character blows up a mailbox to prevent a letter from being sent to the ludicrous-yet-fun central focus of the movie, much of this German silent is a hoot.

Afraid for his life due to the curse of the Hound of the Baskervilles, Henry Baskerville (Erwin Fichtner) sends for the famous Sherlock Holmes (Alwin Neuß), but due to the mailbox being blown up by a sinister character (Friedrich Kühne), the letter doesn’t get there. Instead, the sinister character impersonates Holmes in order to get close to Baskerville and kill him. Once the real Holmes finds this out, he eventually impersonates the other guy, and the FakeHolmes and RealHolmes meeting toward the end just cracks me up.

Another quality sequence is RealHolmes’ first action sequence, in which he notes that a bomb has been placed within the castle, and alerts Baskerville. While the fuse is getting closer to the explosive, a calm Holmes, unperturbed that in twenty seconds he, along with the castle, will be blown up, asks for a light. Baskerville looks at him like he’s insane, and the woman he’s courting (Hanni Weisse) has long since fainted. Undaunted by this, Holmes just shoots the lit fuse, and upon picking it up, uses that to calmly light his cigarette.

By no means is this version of the story fantastic, but as I said, it is decently fun, and I personally found the ending satisfying, especially for Barrymore (Andreas Van Horn), a character who was given the short stick for much of the film. Alwin Neuß makes for a fine Holmes, one that’s certainly confident and, showcased when he just fucks with the other guy and impersonates him, has a bit of a trolly nature to him. Friedrich Kühne makes for a solid antagonist, and he and Neuß work well together.

I do wish we saw more of the hound – even an attack that I was hoping for (set up beautifully, with a character and the hound in silhouette in preparation) was instead foiled by the reaction of the horses to the hound – but again, this is 1914, and the “fiery hound” as this film describes it, will have other chances to strike terror in the hearts of men.

As it was, Der Hund von Baskerville made for a pleasurable viewing experience, and I for one am just ecstatic that it’s been found and put back together so beautifully (the score and tinting are masterfully done), so even if it lacks the thrills you’d hope, it’s still the earliest rendition of the story possible, and a fine silent film to watch.

7.5/10

Beyond the Limits (2003)

Directed by Olaf Ittenbach [Other horror films: Black Past (1989), The Burning Moon (1992), Premutos – Der gefallene Engel (1997), Legion of the Dead (2001), Riverplay (2001), Evil Rising (2002), Garden of Love (2003), Familienradgeber (2006), Chain Reaction (2006), Dard Divorce (2007), No Reason (2010), Legend of Hell (2012), Savage Love (2012), 5 Seasons (2015), Olaf Ittenbach’s Colourman (2017), Garden of Love II (2017)]

I knew very little about this going in, which was, in this case, a positive thing, because if I had known it was an anthology movie with only two stories, each one taking approximately 50 minutes, I would have gone the other way. As it was, Beyond the Limits wasn’t terrible, and it has it’s place, but it’s certainly not a movie I’d expect too many people to enjoy or want to sit through.

Before anything else, though, I want to give credit to the gore. Director Olaf Ittenbach is somewhat well-known for his gorier films (though I’ve not personally seen any aside from this one), and this one is no different, with some quality decapitations, someone being garroted, a young kid taking a sledgehammer to the face, and other goodies. It’s a solid example of lower-budget gore being done right, so if you’re into this type of thing, this movie might be looking up.

Otherwise, I just don’t think it’s really a great movie. I’ve not seen that many anthology films which feature just two stories, but those that I have (such as Two Evil Eyes and 2009’s Late Fee) haven’t been that good. Part of the reason being, the stories are obviously too short to be full-length movies, but are also too long to be digestible, easy-to-view segments you’d expect from any decent anthology, be it Tales from the Crypt or Creepshow.

It also doesn’t help that neither story here, not to mention the framing sequence (which started out fine, but by the end just seemed terrible) made a positive impression on me. I’d say the first story – a bunch of people are tortured by a sadistic guy in relation to a gangland incident – was the better of the two, as it’s pretty much, past a certain point, a low-budget Hostel. The second story, a period piece about the torture of the Inquisition on religious folk, felt more like a bloodier The Bloody Judge than anything really worth getting into.

I didn’t hate any of the acting (though I will say that Simon Newby was a bit campier than I’d have personally preferred), but few people here really wowed me. From the first story, even with his flaws, Simon Newby was probably the best there. Thomas Reitmair (who I couldn’t help but see as a blonde Alan Rickman) needed a bit more character, and Daryl Jackson was too much a mystery to really get a hang on.

From the second story, while Darren Shahlavi could have been an okay protagonist, he really didn’t end up that memorable. Russell Friedenberg was delightfully evil, albeit maybe a bit over-the-top, but the real over-the-top performance award goes to David Creedon, who was just ridiculously campy (perhaps even rivaling Newby). There are some quality medieval set pieces and sword fights, but you can see it done decently better in the early episodes of Game of Thrones.

Honestly, Beyond the Limits is far from a terrible film. It’s competent in what it was aiming for, and save for a few really bad effects (such as a woman being thrown out of a building in the first story) and that rather awful and expected conclusion, it might be worth watching if you’re already familiar with Olaf Ittenbach or into low-budget horror. It’s just really not my type of thing.

5/10

Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922)

Directed by F.W. Murnau [Other horror films: Satanas (1920), Der Bucklige und die Tänzerin (1920), Der Januskopf (1920), Schloß Vogelöd (1921) Faust: Eine deutsche Volkssage (1926)]

I can’t say for sure, but this may be only the third time I’ve seen this German classic. There’s not a specific reason for this, aside from maybe the fact the print I own on DVD is a bit rough (thanks Mill Creek), but it’s also true that while I enjoy some ideas and aspects about Nosferatu, I’ve never really loved it as a whole.

Throwing in the whole plague sub-plot was a nifty idea, I think. Especially given that I’m writing this while many are still on moderate lock-down due to Covid-19, the diseases’ impact on the characters (while somewhat negligible as far as the story is concerned, and does more to help with the ominous atmosphere, to be honest) brought a bit of reality to the film. That scene in which bodies are being taken out through the narrow streets in particular was an effective one.

Count Orlac himself (played by none other than Max Schreck) didn’t have that much in the way of character, but definitely made his presence known. He was awkward as fuck, but everyone has their vices, and hey, I don’t have a castle in the land of phantoms, thieves, and ghosts, so maybe he’s doing something right. Schreck was great here, be him creeping up stairs or standing ramrod straight in a split second (both highly effective scenes).

I couldn’t help but feel for both Gustav von Wangenheim (who was also in Schattan – Eine nächtliche Halluzination) and Greta Schröder, as both of their characters went through the wringer. I felt legitimately dismayed as Schröder’s unhappiness at being away so long from her husband, and I enjoyed both of their performances, though I do think the ending maybe could have been extrapolated on a bit.

The print I watched this time around was pretty nice (it was on TCM, so could you imagine anything but?), with a nice tint, solid score, and all-around pleasant presentation. I just wished the inter-titles had been in German as opposed to English, but that’s a personal preference which has no impact on my enjoyment.

Overall, I don’t doubt at all that Nosferatu is a classic, and rightfully so. The effects were pretty good for the time, and some scenes, like I said, still increase suspense to this very day. It’s just never been a personal favorite of mine (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was always more my vibe).

7.5/10

Faust: Eine deutsche Volkssage (1926)

Directed by F.W. Murnau [Other horror films: Satanas (1920), Der Bucklige und die Tänzerin (1920), Der Januskopf (1920), Schloß Vogelöd (1921) Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922)]

Obliviously much more a drama than a horror, Faust: Eine deutsche Volkssage still has enough dark elements in it for it to clearly count as horror, which I’m grateful for, because otherwise, I’d probably never have seen this beautiful-looking movie.

The story here is one, of course, of a morality tale, in which Mephisto makes a wager with an angel that he can corrupt Faust, and the angel’s all like “Brah, men are too good to corrupt, I take your wager and if I lose, the world is yours.” And of course, through the tragedy and misery, the grace of God reigns supreme, and because of love, Mephisto’s wager fails.

Now, I can do without all of the religious bullshit, but I admit that I love how some movies back then had the cojones to work within such a strongly fantastical story. Morality tales were the basis of horror films (just look at 1913’s Der Student von Prag), and stories that took place primarily in Hell have too been done (Italy’s 1925 Maciste all’inferno), so a movie like this that deals with a theological wager between two high entities is certainly welcomed. And you know that, if a newer movie did this, it would just look ridiculous, but here, it doesn’t look too shabby at all.

The pleasure of watching silent films is seeing exactly how much they were able to do with the limitations they had, and there are plenty of scenes in this film that really look great, and in fact far more impressive than modern-day special effects. While I do wish the latter half of the story had had more carnage in it (aside from that provided by the religious bigots who were going to burn a woman to death for killing her child, but the only reason that child died was because the religious bigots considered the woman a ‘whore’ and thus she had no support system – just another reason to stand against religious beliefs, I feel), I cannot deny that the special effects here all look stupendous.

Emil Jannings (Die Augen der Mumie Ma and Das Wachsfigurenkabinett) was solid as Mephisto, though there were a few light-hearted scenes surrounding him and a woman who was chasing after him (played by Yvette Guilbert) that I could have done without. As Faust, Gösta Ekman had an expressive and expansive range, and came across very impressively. And as for Camilla Horn – well, let me put it this way: I’m not usually one to find women from older movies attractive, but her – hubba hubba. I mean, she was one smokin’ piece, as the kids say, and her performance too, once the story turned more tragic, was certainly admirable.

Valentin, played by William Dieterle (the aforementioned Das Washsfigurenkabinett being his only other venture into horror) was a solid character, big and strong, until he went after his sister’s lover (after saying, basically, that she should put herself out more) and then calling her a ‘whore’ and also calling for her death. So basically, fuck this guy.

So with a fine cast, amazing special effects, and an interesting set-up, Faust is definitely one of those German classics that people like me sometimes like to bring up. It’s a damn fine piece of cinema, and while it’s not a personal favorite from the silent era for me personally, it’s still very much worth seeing.

7.5/10

The Devil’s Rejects (2005)

Directed by Rob Zombie [Other horror films: House of 1000 Corpses (2003), Halloween (2007), Halloween II (2009), The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009), The Lords of Salem (2012), 31 (2016), 3 from Hell (2019)]

Like many of the films I’ve seen recently, The Devil’s Rejects is one that I’ve not seen in years. There was a time in the past where I rated this quite highly, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. While I still derive quite a bit of enjoyment out of it, I don’t think it’s the masterpiece I once thought it was. Easily, though, this would be in Rob Zombie’s top movies, without question.

Also important to mention is something most people already know, being that this is a complete tonal shift away from the psychedelic House of 1000 Corpses. It’s a shift that I think makes sense, and more so, was probably necessary. In fact, the shift is so huge that this barely resembles a horror film, and, much like The Silence of the Lambs (which is arguably more horror than this), it’s on the fence of the genre. Personally, I’ve always seen enough here to count it, but I also dislike The Shining and Drag Me to Hell, so as always, take my opinions with a grain of salt.

I think what really pulls this movie together into the solid film it is are the fantastic central performances, especially from Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon Zombie, and Sid Haig. We don’t get a lot of Haig in the previous film, but here, he’s decently fleshed out, and his scenes with Zombie and Moseley are golden given their deep history and fun interactions, and that ending is an emotional gut-punch on par with Titanic’s finale (and I’m only half joking).

Haig’s fun throughout, and the same can be said for Moseley, who really gives up some quality quotes (“I am the devil, and I am here to do the devil’s work”) throughout. Sheri Moon Zombie used to annoy me here, and to an extent, she still does, but I do find aspects of her character quite amusing (such as her blowing at a victim’s hair just to get a rise out of them) and her relationship with Otis and Spaulding is well-shown here.

Replacing Karen Black as Mother Firefly was Leslie Easterbrook (Police Academy), and while she may lack some of the charisma as Black, I think she does a great job showing the character’s more unstable side despite not having much screen-time. And speaking of unstable, William Forsythe (who strikes me as a big name, but I’ve not seen outside of Halloween and The Rig) does great as a deranged police officer. Lastly, Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead, From Beyond, and Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III) was great, though his character was a bit hard to like at times. Still, him and his carnal relations with chickens made for a quality subplot.

I’m not really as interested in Forsythe’s investigations throughout the film, be it his argument about Elvis and Groucho Marx or his dealings with the two bounty hunters (Danny Trejo and Dallas Page), partially because I get tired of seeing Trejo’s face, and partially because it took time away from what I found the far-more engaging relationship between the remaining Firefly family, but I get the interest too in seeing more of Forsythe’s character devolving.

Otherwise, I find the story pretty engrossing throughout, and the finale at the Firefly house, what with Forsythe’s character torturing the three of them, was both fantastic and oddly emotional, though it can’t compete with the true emotion we get at the ending, and “Free Bird” playing the movie out. Just an overall fantastic conclusion.

I don’t like this movie quite as much as I used to, or maybe it’s more fair to say that I don’t quite place this on as high a pedestal as I did in the past. No doubt The Devil’s Rejects is still a good movie, but as my appreciation for House of 1000 Corpses has grown over the last couple of viewings, I can’t even truthfully admit that I like this much more.

8.5/10

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

Sleepy Hollow (1999)

Directed by Tim Burton [Other horror films: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), Dark Shadows (2012)]

Tim Burton didn’t make that many horror films, but after seeing this, you really wish that he would. I’m not going to go as far as to say this rendition of the classic story is flawless, but Sleepy Hollow is a hell of a lot of fun, with a fantastic cast and a mystery that’s actually quite engaging.

Of course, you have some Burton staples here, such as very artistic scenery (especially during flashbacks and dreams), and there’s admittedly some questionable CGI during the witch scene, but overall, this is 1990’s horror done right, and I can only imagine how fun this was to see in theaters.

That cast, tho…

Johnny Depp (A Nightmare on Elm Street and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street) is a no-brainer casting choice here. Utterly love his performance, and I like how he’s not as weak as other portrayals of Ichabod Crane tend to be. Christina Ricci (who I best know from the 1990’s Addams Family movies) did great as an innocent young woman with a secret.

No one here, though, did a bad job. Jeffrey Jones (Beetlejuice and Ravenous), Michael Gambon (Dumbledore from the third Harry Potter film onward), Miranda Richardson (Rita Skeeter from Harry Potter), Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers), Christopher Walken (The Dead Zone and Batman Returns), Michael Gough (Alfred from 1989’s Batman and it’s sequels), and Christopher Lee (don’t get me started) were all great. Seeing a cast of this caliber was more fun than I can say. I mean, I’ve seen this movie before, to be sure, but I forgot just how good it was.

With as good as the cast was, though, let’s not downplay the intriguing mystery playing out. There are multiple red herrings, and a lot of potential suspects, and given that the mystery was actually good, it was a very pleasant ride throughout, especially once we’re shown at the end the various clues to the ultimate solution. Very satisfying story, and I commend it heavily for that.

Crane’s more scientific mindset being at odds with the Headless Horseman was an interesting route to take. I don’t know if it was used to as much effect as it could have been, but I did love his defeated attitude once he actually saw the supernatural being in action. He overcomes his fears, though, and really works hard to figure out the mystery and save the town.

The Headless Horseman (played by Walken) had a pretty fun origin, and overall, I really liked the design of the Horseman. Related, that first tree scene always stuck with me – the blood just spurting from the tree was always a good time, if not a bit gruesome.

Sleepy Hollow isn’t my favorite horror film from the 1990’s, but it’s an enjoyable ride through-and-through. Artistically, it’s quite beautiful, and the setting is stellar. Honestly, I don’t think most would expect anything less from Tim Burton, but Sleepy Hollow is certainly worth a watch, and worth the praise.

8.5/10

Wrong Turn (2003)

Directed by Rob Schmidt [Other horror films: The Alphabet Killer (2008)]

In some ways, I do view this one as a modern-day classic. It’s not amazing, by any means, but it’s consistently entertaining and solidly gruesome (though honestly, there’s not really a ton of onscreen onslaught), and had we not been over-inundated with sequels, I think this one would stand out more positively to a larger population of horror fans.

The story here is simple, and takes from such classics as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre or The Hills Have Eyes (and in fact, I wonder if this movie had anything to do with The Hills Have Eyes being remade just three years later), the only difference being that this movie feels more real than either of those two. Taking place in the dense forests of West Virginia (though filmed entirely in Canada), the setting was solid, and the plot, though simple, quite effective.

I think a lot of this comes from the fact that the characters here are mostly decent people. I think that Desmond Harrington’s (Love Object) performance is a little one-dimensional, but Eliza Dushku was great as a kick-ass female protagonist, and I really liked Jeremy Sisto (Population 436) here too. Emmanuelle Chriqui was the least-engaging of the four main characters, but Lindy Booth was attractive, so there you go.

The action here is also pretty top-notch, with a few chase scenes in tree-tops, and some bow and arrow action. Perhaps my favorite scene is when the three inbred killers are chopping up someone while the four characters are hiding in their shack. We never see much, but it has a gritty, brutal aura to it all the same. Even the conclusion was decently-believable action, and overall, I didn’t have a lot of complaints when it came to the action, or the various tense scenes here (the watchtower too being a scene worth mentioning).

Like I said, I don’t think the movie is necessarily special, and it’s somewhat bare-bones in it’s presentation (though I do think that works to it’s favor), but I’ve always enjoyed this one, and seeing it again after many years only confirms that. I’ve not seen all the sequels (the second, third, and fourth are all I’ve gotten around to, and none come close to this one), but I doubt any of them would be as solid as this one is.

8/10

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