Konchû daisensô (1968)

Directed by Kazui Nihonmatsu [Other horror films: Uchû daikaijû Girara (1967)]

I’ve not seen that many Japanese horror films from the 1960’s, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from Konchû daisensô, better known as Genocide, but I was pretty happy with it come the conclusion.

The plot here isn’t really that stellar, but the consistent anti-war message throughout was certainly welcomed (and, from a post-World War II Japan, logical), and one of the characters references both the arms race between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. as foolish, along with both the Superpowers being arrogant, which is a nice sentiment to see (and largely accurate).

With topics like this, not to mention the horrid experiences Jewish people, and others, went through in Germany, or issues of environmental concern, it’s probably not a surprise that Genocide (even the title’s invocative of a dismal story) has a somewhat nihilistic conclusion. Not that it’s entirely dark, but certainly it’s probably one of the more depressing endings I’ve seen in recent times.

The cast is generally solid, though not perfect. In particular, I think Kathy Horan was a bit over-the-top at times, which didn’t feel right for this movie. Most main performances, though, such as Emi Shindô, Yûsuke Kawazu, and Keisuke Sonoi, all do commendably enough.

Like I said, I’ve seen only a few Asian horror films from this time period, and to be honest, I was thinking that this would be a lot cornier than it even came close to being. I won’t go as far as to call the movie ‘amazing,’ but I had a fun time watching it, and would certainly recommend it, especially if they want a slice of horror that deals with more serious topics.

7.5/10

Gehenna: Where Death Lives (2016)

Directed by Hiroshi Katagiri [Other horror films: N/A]

I think that this film had potential, certainly more potential than what the final product displayed. While I liked some aspects, including much of the conclusion and some of the plot, overall, I was underwhelmed, and because the film runs on a tad long, even bored at points.

The basic plot is interesting, especially if you’ve some interest in history. I was reminded a little of a film called Dead Mine (2012), but luckily, not only is this story better, the movie as a whole is more enjoyable (which says far more about how bad Dead Mine was as opposed to how good this is). A group of people exploring an old war bunker and running into several things that don’t make sense is a fun time. It gets less fun the longer the movie runs, but as a basic story, I enjoyed it.

Most of the main characters do well, but not that many really stand out all that much. Eva Swan, despite being a bit of a nobody, did rather good here, and I rather enjoyed how her character was mostly able to keep her cool when few others could. Simon Phillips too did well, especially toward the end when he became more antagonistic toward the others. Used primarily for comedic relief, Shawn Sprawling was decent, though I don’t necessarily care for where his story went.

Occasionally Gehenna: Where Death Lives reminded me of As Above, So Below (though that film is so much more enjoyable than this one, to be sure) due to the characters reliving past mishaps, but more often than not, Gehenna: Where Death Lives plays out as a by-the-numbers ghost story. It’s disappointing, because the setting is unique and some of the aspects aren’t fully explored like I feel they could have been (such as the time issue).

I wasn’t expecting much going into this one, and I didn’t get much coming out. There are portions of the film I enjoyed, such as the finale, and the characters are mostly decently-acted, but the film was an hour and 45 minutes long. At least twenty minutes could have been cut easy, so despite some of the more unique parts of the film, overall, this isn’t one I can see myself ever going back to.

5.5/10

Tokyo Home Stay Massacre (2020)

Directed by Kenta Osaka [Other horror films: N/A] & Hirohito Takimoto [Other horror films: N/A]

This was pretty much an abomination in every way.

For one, much of the movie is in Japanese with hard-coded captions, which is fine. Here’s the embarrassing thing – apparently half the time, whoever made the captions doesn’t know how to use an apostrophe without it causing a glitch in the text. It happened multiple times throughout the movie, and it was just hideously amateur.

But that’s the movie for you. For the first 45 minutes or so, the movie was bad, no doubt about it, but in the final 25 minutes that things take a really terrible turn. The film decides to go all-out, over-the-top comedy, with synchronized Japanese cop twins who use swords and are just 100% too goofy for anything that’s good. There’s blood splatter on the camera, something I’ve always hated. Basically, as soon as one of the characters has a stupid line about having a Green card, what little potential (and I do mean little) this film has goes out the window.

Obviously, they intended to go that stupid zany route at the end. That’s fine. That’s the choice of those involved in the movie. The thing is, while things were a little off at times, that humorous feeling isn’t present until the last third of the film, and for me, that was a very bad turn for the film to make, as that over-the-top goofy idiocy void of anything redeemable isn’t my cup of tea.

Playing the central characters, Alex Deryez, Diana G., and Will Harrell were all pretty bad, Deryez probably being the worst (his acting is legit terrible). Diana G. almost had something interesting going on with her character, but it didn’t really go anywhere, and given the context of the film as a whole, it wouldn’t have mattered if it did. Harrell was semi-respectable, but it doesn’t amount to anything.

Miyatani (who played the oft-exuberant father figure of the house) was sort of fun toward the beginning, and he’s perhaps the most consistent throughout the film, as even toward the end, I can dig what he was doing. Umiyushi (the sister) was under-the-radar and quiet, but okay. Umiyushi (the brother who acted like a rabid dog) was horrible. Kanta Nonaka and Yuuko Kawashima (the synchronized cops) made me want to kill myself.

That said, I almost never blame poor performances for bad movies, and despite how bad some of these performances were, I’m not starting now. Tokyo Home Stay Massacre had potential with some aspects (such as the torture sequences in which a hammer is used to remove teeth and a guy had some toenails pulled out), but they did so much wrong that I honestly just want to forget I gave this a watch.

At the time of this writing, this movie is available free on Tubi. If you’re interested in checking it out because my review can’t properly explain what a mess this movie was, please go ahead, because I just can’t anymore.

0.5/10

Hausu (1977)

Directed by Nobuhiko Ôbayashi [Other horror films: Kawaii Akuma (1982), Reibyo densetsu (1983)]

This has got to be one of the craziest horror/comedies out there, and I’m not saying that simply because it’s Asian or slapstick. Hausu (or simply House) is a wild ride from beginning to end in so many different ways (filming techniques, animations, camera angles, music, etc.) that I don’t have the vocabulary to do the movie justice.

I won’t take too long on this, because I truly feel that this film is one that you have to see to experience. Even the best writers out there (of which I’m nowhere close to joining the ranks of) cannot properly explain what watching this movie feels like. It’s certainly a trippy flick, and occasionally silly, but it never once lets up on entertainment value.

Who doesn’t love the seven girls here? You have Gorgeous (Kimiko Ikegami), Kung Fu (Miki Jinbo), Fantasy (Kumiko Ohba), Prof (Ai Matsubara), Mac (Mieko Satô), Melody (Eriko Tanaka), and Sweet (Masayo Miyako), some of whom are forgettable, but as a package, they’re a lot of fun. Perhaps my favorite character was Prof (who actually had the most nudity in the film, which isn’t saying much, but came as a pleasant surprise), but I loved Kung Fu also (partially because she wore what looked like bikini bottoms for most of the movie). Fantasy was fun too, and Mac was always amusing.

It’s not really enough to call this an artsy film, because the style Hausu holds within goes beyond that. Again, it’s something I can’t personally put into words, but this whole movie, from beginning to the somewhat surprisingly somber end, was an experience in a way that few movies really are.

Of course, I’m not going to say the film is without flaws. It did get a bit too goofy for me a few times, such as the random banana scene, or perhaps the floating head. But at the same time, there were also some genuinely creepy scenes here, such as the moment when a woman walks into a refrigerator, or a scene too goofy to ever be condemned (the piano sequence, a true legend of cinema).

For some, perhaps this movie might be too zany and off-beat to leave a positive impression. I can certainly understand if some people walk away from Hausu with the belief that this tried too hard to be different. Personally, though, despite not being a fan of too much silliness, this movie has a perfect blend for my taste, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Hausu each time I’ve seen it.

8.5/10

This was covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. If interested, listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one.

The Hunt (2020)

Directed by Craig Zobel [Other horror films: N/A]

I knew very little about The Hunt aside from the fact I heard it was political, and being a political creature myself (I’ll get my hot take out of the way: look into third parties, as it’s the only thing that can save us), that didn’t turn me off at all, and while the base idea of this film isn’t original, I did find it quite a decent film with a decent amount of strong points throughout.

The way there was no clear-cut main character until about 25 minutes into the film was sort of amusing. At first, it looks like Emma Roberts (We’re the Millers) would be the lead, but wait, no, it’s Justin Hartley (which I would have been okay with, as he seemed a decent guy). Then misfortune befalls him, and Ike Barinholtz seems to take the main stage. And finally, we get to Betty Gilpin, and she makes a pretty good lead. I thought rotating through the characters until we got to the actual lead was a fun idea, but it does lead to one issue I had.

There’s a lot of characters in this movie. About 12 are the “hunted” ones, and somewhere around seven, if not more, are the ones doing the hunting, and we only really get to know five of these characters overall, and that might be stretching it. I would have liked to know more about some of the hunters than just Athena (Hilary Swank), so that did sort of bother me.

Gilpin does a really good job with her role, and of course Swank (who I know from some random stuff, such as The Next Karate Kid and Freedom Writers) was nice to see here. Hannah Alline, who appeared in two scenes, consistently reminded me of someone (and it just now hit me – it’s Deborah Ann Woll, or Karen from Daredevil), which is probably why she stood out to me, and Amy Madigan (who I recognized from two episodes from Criminal Minds’ second season) was fun in the short time she had. Lastly, while Wayne Duvall’s character remains a bit of a mystery, Duvall was still decent with what we had.

Some comedic influences appear throughout the film, and I think they’re mostly well-done (such as the lengthy fight at the conclusion and Swank’s aversion to being thrown through a glass door), with a good mix between amusing and suspenseful. There’s also a little flashback near the conclusion that fills the audience in a little more on what’s actually going on, which I appreciated (though I wish it could have been longer).

I guess I’ll also say that, while I am a far-leftist (and while I despise Trump, I also despise Obama and Biden), I don’t hate conservatives as some liberals may. I work with many conservatives (in northeast Indiana, there’s not a lot of political diversity), and I understand why many of them supported Trump and why they vote the way they do. The political division is no doubt terrible right now – Republicans hate Democrats, Democrats want Republicans thrown into jail for treason – and this movie parodies that beautifully, which is probably why it has been deemed somewhat controversial (though I really don’t think much of the actual content warrants that label).

Hunting humans isn’t an original idea. The Most Dangerous Game from 1932 dealt with the idea, as did Bloodlust! (1961), Turkey Shoot (1982), and Naked Fear (2007), not to mention plenty of others that I don’t know but am sure exist. The Hunt adds a little political spin on it (technically, Turkey Shoot had a political spin also, but this spin is more accessible to a modern-day audience) and has some clever moments (such as obfuscating the main character and the flashback near the end).

While not overly gory, there are deaths by spike pit and grenades (you have to remember to pull the pin, though), so if that’s your go-to desire, there’s a bit here to keep you happy. The Hunt isn’t really that special of a movie, but I did think it was decently fun, and likely a smidge above average.

7.5/10

Graveyard Shift (1990)

Graveyard Shift

Directed by Ralph S. Singleton [Other horror films: N/A]

Though this is far from one of the better Stephen King adaptations, I think that Graveyard Shift carries with it some charm, much of it from a combination of the schlocky nature of the story and Stephen Macht’s overly enjoyable performance.

While it’s based off a short story from King’s first collection, Night Shift, not too much in this hour-and-a-half long film seems too unnecessary. Certainly, showcasing Warwick’s despicable nature more overtly here was a nice addition, which makes sense since they were trying to find some additional padding for the story, which was somewhat thread-bare in the original short story.

Without a doubt, Stephen Macht gave the best performance here. I don’t know what his accent was (sounds like a strong Louisiana twang), but he commanded attention in every single scene he was in. I really enjoyed Macht’s portrayal of Warwick, though it did get a bit much toward the end (more on that shortly). The main character, played by the milquetoast David Andrews, left naught a single impression whatsoever. Kelly Wolf had some gumption, but her character didn’t much amount to much, aside from hint at Andrews’ untold back-story.

Brad Dourif also appeared somewhat extensively in the film, but I thought his character was far, far too over-the-top. This isn’t to say that Macht’s character wasn’t, but Dourif took it to a new level, and I admit that while I usually enjoy his performances, this one turned me off somewhat.

A few things, such as the back-story of Andrews’ character, made Graveyard Shift feel somewhat incomplete. We’re literally never given any idea of what makes Andrews’ character tick – he was a blank slate, and we about never learn a thing about him. Another problem I had was that the conclusion felt as though it was escalating too quickly. It’s a shame, as otherwise, things were mostly plodding along fine.

One of the absolute best things about the film, though, was the setting. From an expansive cavern filled with bones to a flooded out, marshy graveyard, which stands next to an old, ominous mill, Graveyard Shift really knew how to use their settings, and it stood out as easily one of the most memorable parts of the film.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the clinical style of the short story more, but I appreciate how they attempted to flesh out Warwick’s character here, and I can’t say it enough: Stephen Macht’s performance is fantastic. I’d say that this is somewhat below average, but I will admit to enjoying it a hell of a lot more this time around as opposed to when I first saw it some years back, and while some aspects weren’t that great (including much of the conclusion), I suspect this has decent rewatchability.

6.5/10

Ma (2019)

Ma

Directed by Tate Taylor [Other horror films: N/A]

Well, Ma isn’t a terrible movie, but I don’t really think it has enough going for it to really stand out. There’s some decent tension at certain points, and I think the ending’s okay, but for the most part, I found the film somewhat lackluster.

As far as positives go, I did like the lead here, being Diana Silvers. She consistently reminded me of someone, and I still can’t quite place it, but she did great in her role, and of the teen characters, she was easily the most memorable. Octavia Spencer was also pretty good as a mentally-unstable middle-aged woman, and boy, she was creepily possessive at times, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say I was blown away by her. Though she had only a few scenes, I also liked seen Allison Janney (The West Wing) here.

Otherwise, the cast was just sorta there. The same can be said for much of the story, to be honest. While aspects were moderately interesting, such as the slight mystery of why Ma was doing what she was doing, more often than not things just went down a generic road with little standing out.

Honestly, I wouldn’t even call the movie necessarily bad. The problem with Ma is that save a few scenes near the conclusion, and some decent performances by the main characters, I don’t see how this is all that memorable. I can’t say I’m really surprised by this (after this movie was released, I pretty much heard nothing about it), but it was certainly disappointing. Not an awful film, but probably still a bit below average, and definitely not memorable in many ways whatsoever.

6.5/10

Ma was covered by Fight Evil’s podcast on episode #25, so you can listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one.

Split (2016)

Split

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan [Other horror films: Signs (2002), The Village (2004), The Happening (2008), The Visit (2015)]

I didn’t really know what to expect going into this one, but I am happy to say that this movie did not disappoint at all.

The story is pretty simple, and the cast small (in a manner of speaking), but it was told in a very tense and heart-racing way. The three kidnapped girls (Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, and Jessica Sula) all did pretty well, and worked hard to get out of the situation they were in. Taylor-Joy’s character, though, was tragic, in that even if she happened to get away, her nightmare was far from over. And while I can’t begin to praise James McAvoy’s performance here enough, suffice it to say that it’s perhaps some of the best and most diverse acting I’ve ever seen.

My one issue with the movie is that the whole beast personality comes off as a bit ridiculous. Sure, some of the things that he can do are pretty creepy (that wall thing, for instance), but it really felt a bit much, especially toward the end. I also sort of wish we got looks into a few other personalities, though the few we did get nuggets of (such as the historian) were pretty interesting.

Split’s a movie done well. Taylor-Joy (who I’ve seen previously in The VVitch) did amazing with her role, and I think she has a lot to offer the genre. M. Night Shyamalan obviously has a sketchy history, though I will fully admit to enjoying both The Visit and The Village. He did an amazing job here, and really, this is a moderately easy contender for top horror film of the last five years. If only that last personality wasn’t as unrealistic as I felt it was. On a final note, while this is related to the 2000 film Unbreakable, but you definitely don’t need to see that film to enjoy this (as I certainly haven’t).

8.5/10

Death Machine (1994)

Death Machine

Directed by Stephen Norrington [Other horror films: Blade (1998)]

Generally speaking, Death Machine is both a well-made and moderately fun movie. My main question is, did it really need to be two hours long?

The story was good, the gore, when it popped up, was solid also. However, since the movie goes more an action route than it does horror, there’s not as many gory scenes as I would have liked to see, especially considering how dangerous and sharp Dourif’s Warbeast looks.

Brad Dourif was, of course, the stand-out here. His character was wacky, yet quite deadly and amoral, and I have to admit, his portrayal here reminds me a lot of Heath Ledger’s Joker. Dourif was just fun in every scene he was in, and his voice was always a pleasure to hear. The two others who really stood out to me were the main actress Ely Pouget and William Hootkins. Pouget does a solid job as the lead character, and Hootkins, though he didn’t have that much screen-time, had a good presence.

There were aspects of this film that didn’t do much for me. The battle suit was a bit too science-fiction for me, and I could have done without all of the fighting sequences. In a related note, this movie runs for just over two hours, and I really think that was ill-conceived. The movie can be fun, but at two hours a pop, who would take the time to rewatch it? I know I probably wouldn’t.

Death Machine is a decently solid piece of 90’s cinema, despite it being more an action science-fiction flick than a horror (make no mistake, though, there are many horror aspects within). But the length strikes me as rather uncalled for (the movie never feels as epic, for lack of a better word, as the length might lead you to believe), and there were a bit too many fight scenes. As it is, it’s a fine movie, just nothing overly special, despite Dourif’s strong personality.

7/10

The Manster (1959)

Manster

Directed by George P. Breakston [Other horror films: N/A] & Kenneth G. Crane [Other horror films: Monster from Green Hell (1957), Half Human: The Story of the Abominable Snowman (1958)]

I know, I know, this movie has a terrible title, but really, it’s not that bad. In fact, while it’s not a favorite of mine from the time period, it’s a rather serviceable flick.

The plot isn’t too far removed from other flicks you might find from the late 1950’s – a mad scientist injects an American man with a serum, and the man slowly turns into a monster. Certainly not overly special, but it is done decently well.

The cast all did a pretty okay job, despite most of them not really being all that well-known. Peter Dyneley played the desperate, possibly going crazy, main character very well. Playing the mad doctor, Tetsu Nakamura (who was also in the classic Bijo to ekitai ningen, or The H-Man, from a year earlier) did fantastic, and even though throughout most of the film, his character was one of a cold heart, he had a good emotional scene toward the end. Jerry Itô (who was in Mosura, or Mothra, in 1961), did a good job playing a police superintendent.

Perhaps the surprising standouts, though, include two individuals who never have never before or again acted: Norman Van Hawley and Terri Zimmern. Hawley, playing a friend of the main character, really came across as a deeply concerned friend, and pretty much shined throughout the film. Zimmern did great with her role, as a hesitant accomplice to the mad doctor’s plans. Why neither acted before or again is beyond me, as I thought both did pretty well.

Special effects were pretty well-done, including a legitimately creepy scene about 45 minutes in, and a disfigured woman who appears every now and again (her story itself is pretty tragic, once we hear it). We even get a little splatter of blood at the beginning (sure, it’s black-and-white, but it still looked decent). I won’t deny it got a bit hokey toward the end (and by a bit, I mean a lot), but I think it still sort of mostly worked.

Some of the pacing was a bit off. The first chase sequence was fine, but a second and third? Come on, guys. There was some decent suspense in the movie, but the ending felt rushed (which isn’t really that different from many movies around the same time period, to be honest). Still, overall, I think The Manster (god, I hate the title) is still a decent movie, and I can easily see myself watching it a third time if I’m ever in the mood for a decent 50’s flick. Not amazing, but like I said, it’s serviceable.

6.5/10