An American Haunting (2005)

Directed by Courtney Solomon [Other horror films: N/A]

I’m somewhat of two minds about this one. I certainly like some of the scenes in the film, and I don’t object to that much of the movie, but the finale didn’t really feel right to me, and the ending scene itself struck me as just overly dramatic (here’s a hint: instead of screaming at a moving car, just call the police to stop the car. It’ll probably work better, at least if you’re white).

Before I go further, I should explain that there are two versions of this film, a PG-13 version and an unrated version. I didn’t know this before hand, but thankfully, it turns out I watched the unrated version, which was about eight minutes longer. I saw this film once before, and I can’t recall if what I watched then was also the unrated version, or perhaps the PG-13 version, but either way, what I thought about the movie the first time around is about what I think this time around.

I don’t hold it against the film for looking for an explanation that might be a little more memorable than your average supernatural movie, but I have to say, even with the tiny hints and clues that something else was afoot, it felt, at least to me, that the ending came out of nowhere. Also, while I believe that the victim of such a circumstance might be forced to forget about the incident, others who happen to just walk into such a situation strike me as not being able to forget so quickly. It just felt odd, especially when it seems that the entity, whatever it was, set out to harm and persistently bother both Donald Sutherland’s and Rachel Hurd-Wood’s characters.

Some years ago, I watched a Japanese film known as Tales of Terror: Haunted Apartment, and it was mostly a decent little Asian horror film. That was, until the ending, which threw in a plot twist that, as far as I could tell, was basically never hinted at once throughout the previous hour and a half, and it just felt like it was thrown in to shock people. Here, there are hints given, but I don’t know if they’re too subtle or maybe not given enough, but it just didn’t really feel like an earned finale to me.

I’ve only seen Sutherland in a handful of movies (the most recent ones being the 2004 Salem’s Lot mini-series and the 2003 remake of The Italian Job), but I think he’s pretty okay here. I think that if the story had been changed up a little, his character could have been a lot better, but hey, he’s still a good actor. Rachel Hurd-Wood is solid too, though she doesn’t necessarily have a high amount of personal agency in the movie. Sissy Spacek (most famous now and forever for Carrie) was fine here, as was James D’Arcy (who played Jarvis in the ill-fated Agent Carter series), but neither one blew the top off the house.

Many of the haunting scenes themselves are decent, though few are stellar. Much of it is the being-held-down-by-an-unseen-entity variety, but that carriage scene was pretty solid from beginning to end. Also, I think Hurd-Wood’s interactions with the spirit at school were all enjoyable, though I wish the spirit had done more to help her than to terrify her, but then again, who am I to criticize how a spirit operates?

Once all is said and done, and we get past that ending which still feels off, An American Haunting is an okay movie, and certainly more well-made than some other versions of the story (such as the low-budget 2004 Bell Witch Haunting), but I don’t think there’s enough here for me to call it a good movie, even with the unrated version at my disposal, and overall, while I think there’s some good things here, ultimately it’s below average.

6/10

Subspecies (1991)

Directed by Ted Nicolaou [Other horror films: Ragewar (1984, segment ‘Desert Pursuit’), Savage Island (1985), TerrorVision (1986), Bad Channels (1992), Bloodstone: Subspecies II (1993), Bloodlust: Subspecies III (1994), Vampire Journals (1997), Subspecies: The Awakening (1998), Ragdoll (1999), Urban Evil (2000), The St. Francisville Experiment (2000), The Horrible Dr. Bones (2000), I, Vampire (2000, segments ‘Spawn of Hell’ & ‘Undead Evil’), Puppet Master vs Demonic Toys (2004), The Etruscan Mask (2007), DevilDolls (2012), Deadly Dolls: Deepest Cuts (2018), Vampire Slaughter: Eaten Alive (2018)]

One of the first American films made in Romania, Subspecies has a very authentic feel to it, and while I don’t necessarily love the story, I do think that this movie has a lot going for it.

Full Moon Productions, who also brought to life the Puppet Master series, along with the enjoyable Castle Freak, did quite well with Subspecies, especially given the fact I’m not really much of a vampire fan. Here, the design of the antagonist Radu (played by Anders Hove) is pretty damn good, reminiscence of Orloc from Nosferatu with his abnormally long fingers. The vibe to the film is great, and any scene that took place in the Romanian woods, or near a castle, or even in the small village, had a lot of atmosphere.

Ivan J. Rado was perhaps my favorite performance from the film. He doesn’t shine from the beginning, but once things get going, he proves to be a very useful person to have on your side. Of course, Hove does fantastic as the villainous Radu, and has a very threatening feel to him. I wasn’t deeply enthralled with Michael Watson or his character, but it still worked out decently. Laura Mae Tate did great as the lead woman, though, and it’s a shame that she wasn’t really in many things aside from this (only thing of note was 1991’s Dead Space, a disappointing remake of 1982’s Forbidden Planet).

I don’t love a whole lot of vampire films, and I certainly wouldn’t say that I love Subspecies, but I did enjoy it a lot more this time around as opposed to when I first saw it. The story isn’t really what my go-to horror is, but given that the film carries with it such a solid vibe (filming in Romania really did a lot for this one, I think), I can forego any strong feelings of dislike concerning the story.

One small note – the stop-motion minions of Radu didn’t really look the best, and I don’t really think they were used enough to warrant their inclusion. Perhaps that changes as the series goes on (I’ve not seen, as of yet, any of the sequels), but here, they didn’t do that much, and looked somewhat goofy while not doing it.

There’s few vampire films that I really enjoy, but I do appreciate Subspecies, and I certainly think that the film isn’t anywhere near bad. It’s not my usual type of thing, but a lot is done right, and the vibe is to kill for. Definitely worth a look if you’re a fan of either vampires or other Full Moon Entertainment movies.

7.5/10

This was discussed on Fight Evil’s podcast. Check out Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this if interested.

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.