White Noise (2005)

Directed by Geoffrey Sax [Other horror films: N/A]

This is a somewhat more-popular film, partially because it stars Michael Keaton, and as such, much like movies such as Hide and Seek (starring Robert De Niro), What Lies Beneath (Harrison Ford) and D-Tox/Eye See You (with Sylvester Stallone), it’s generally forgotten by the horror community nowadays, and for, I think, pretty good reason.

Not that the movie is an extraordinarily poor one – it’s not memorable enough for that. It’s a pretty high-budget film, as you’d imagine (or at least, as you’d imagine as soon as you see that Keaton’s in it), and there’s no doubt that it’s competently-made, but there’s just not enough here to really make it anywhere near a standout film.

Some of this is because the horror is a bit on the lighter side. It’s there, don’t worry about that, but it’s there in the What Lies Beneath-way, and just feels so incredibly safe and tame. On a related note, this film is PG-13, which isn’t by any means damning, but it does show that this wasn’t going to really turn any heads at any point, and it really doesn’t.

I’ll give it credit for Ian McNeice (who in fact reminded me of another actor that I can’t yet place), who give a pretty enjoyable performance in his limited time, and Deborah Kara Unger. I don’t think Unger did a fantastic job here, but I do know her from The Game (1997), so that’s something. Keaton I really only know from the 1989 Batman, and I’m much more a Christian Bale-type of guy, so I couldn’t really care much about Keaton here. His performance is okay, but it’s far from great, which is fine, because the movie doesn’t warrant A+ acting anyway.

Not that the movie is without strong points. While I really don’t care for 90% of the final thirty minutes, I did like the three silhouettes of the evil ghosts (or whatever they were – that’s one of the things I wish they touched on more), and that final setting (a dilapidated factory, with giant holes and rain falling freely into the structure) was on point. Maybe a few other scenes were cool, but as I try to focus in on one, I just hear white noise and can’t complete my thought.

Also, those final three seconds were terrible. Just entirely unnecessary, which is probably intentional, as I feel that a lot of what they did with Unger’s character throughout the film was unnecessary. And speaking of unnecessary, I didn’t much care for that final message from Keaton’s character to his family. It felt like something out of a touching family drama, and a bit out of place.

White Noise isn’t a terrible movie, and I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I think it is. It’s far from a good movie, but it probably accomplishes a lot of what it set out to accomplish. It just wasn’t the type of movie I enjoy, and much of it fell flat for it.

5.5/10

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

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)

Directed by Terence Fisher [Other horror films: Three’s Company (1953, episodes ‘The Surgeon’ & ‘ Take a Number’), The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Dracula (1958), The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959), The Mummy (1959), The Stranglers of Bombay (1959), The Brides of Dracula (1960), The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960), The Curse of the Werewolf (1961), The Phantom of the Opera (1962), The Horror of It All (1964), The Gorgon (1964), The Earth Dies Screaming (1964), Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966), Island of Terror (1966), Frankenstein Created Woman (1967), Night of the Big Heat (1967), The Devil Rides Out (1968), Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969), Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)]

The last time I watched this, I made a small mishap, and by that, I mean I watched it the same day as six other adaptations of this Sherlock Holmes story (specifically, the 1914 and 1929 silent films, the 1937 German version, the classic 1939 movie, the 1972 American television movie and the 1983 British television movie), and didn’t try to review the last three until the end of the day, when they all got mixed up in my mind.

So I had to take a step back, accept defeat, and watch this one again (not that it’s any hardship, believe me) in order to properly get my bearings on the film. And I think that I’ve come to a conclusion in doing so: I prefer the 1939 version just a bit, which, given the cast of this Hammer classic, might surprise some.

Now, it’s still a great film, and if you’re interested in some classic Sherlock Holmes, you’d be hard-pressed to find many films better, but I just don’t think that Christopher Lee was the appropriate actor for Henry Baskerville. Lee is, in many ways, an equal to Cushing – both are actors I enjoy immensely. Those cast in the same role in earlier films (such as Peter Voß and especially Richard Greene) had a younger look, whereas Lee is only slightly younger than Cushing, and doesn’t really look it.

My point is that, for the role of Henry Baskerville, I think a younger actor works better. I certainly have no qualms with Lee, and I do rather enjoy his performance in the film. I just don’t think he feels much like the character he’s supposed to be portraying, which is my biggest issue with the film.

Otherwise, the cast is splendid; I loved Basil Rathbone as Holmes, but Peter Cushing is just as good. I think that Rathbone was a bit more fun (for instance, there’s no scene of Holmes trolling Watson while in disguise here), but both are great. André Morell (The Plague of the Zombies, The Mummy’s Shroud, Behemoth the Sea Monster, and The Shadow of the Cat) does decent as Watson. He’s not as bumbling as Nigel Bruce’s, but also not as straight as Fritz Odemar’s rendition.

Marla Landi, playing the daughter of Stapleton (himself played by Ewen Solon) was a nice addition, giving us a character different from what he had before. Ewen Solon (Jack the Ripper) was rather different from what Morton Lowry gave us (when it comes to Stapleton, I think my favorite performance was Fritz Rasp, from the 1929 version). Francis De Wolff (The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll) was solid as Mortimer, Miles Malleson (The Brides of Dracula and Dead of Night) okay comedic relief as the Bishop, and John Le Mesurier made for a good Barrymore (for some reason, the 1939 version of the character was named Barryman, but every other version has been Barrymore).

The color gives a great sense of life to the moors. I don’t know if they ever look quite as creepy as they did in foreboding black-and-white via the 1939 movie, but they do look decent here. Also, the ending of this one is a bit different from previous adaptations – it still worked quite well, and I commend it for trying something a bit different.

One thing I did find somewhat amusing was the absence of the cane scene. Present in both the 1937 and 1939 movies, Holmes looks at Dr. Mortimer’s cane and deduces a great many things about him, an early way to lend credibility to his craft. That scene is indeed replaced here with something else. Another thing – the attempted murder of Baskerville in London – was changed here to instead come from a tarantula bite.

Otherwise, much is the same – there’s Holmes going to Baskerville Hall after others have left, the sub-plot with the escaped convict remains intact, the missing boot of Baskerville, along with a missing painting. If you’re familiar with the story, you’ll find most aspects here.

Another thing you’ll find, at least in small amounts, is some blood. During the opening origin of the curse, a woman gets stabbed with a curved blade (they have curved. blades.), and later on, we see the aftermath of what looks like a ritualistic killing which leaves little to the imagination. It’s Hammer at it’s finest, and it’s all the better that this story finally got made into a color film.

The Hound of the Baskervilles has always been a solid story, and while I prefer the 1939 version, this movie is no slouch. I’d certainly recommend it to fans of classic cinema, and if you’ve not seen either the 1939 version or this one, do yourself a favor and do so.

8/10

The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971)

Directed by Piers Haggard [Other horror films: Venom (1981)]

While this British film certainly possesses some elements that are, on the whole, enjoyable, after seeing it twice, I have to admit that it feels somewhat aimless in it’s goal, and though I do enjoy good portions of this, overall, I’m not sure it’s as strong as it could have been.

The rather small setting – a little hamlet in jolly Olde England – works well with this story, and the production is decent enough to give everything a viable enough feeling of that time period. That doesn’t help the movie feel any more focused, but it does ring true, and that counts for a lot given this is a period piece.

I think much of the meandering tone can be best explained by the fact that originally, the movie was supposed to be three separate stories, an idea that was dropped to just a singular story, but I get the sense that, while things are still connected, they didn’t entirely lose that original mindset. And in a way, this is sort of unique, but even so, it doesn’t always make for the most enjoyable viewing experience.

Patrick Wymark (The Skull and The Psychopath) takes a little to grow on me, but he eventually does, especially when he comes back toward the finale. Linda Hayden (of Taste the Blood of Dracula and Madhouse) was fun to see anytime she was on-screen. Not too many others stood out, though, aside from perhaps Simon Williams (of Remembrance of the Daleks, perhaps on of Sylvester McCoy’s most memorable stories during his stint as the Doctor) and James Hayter.

The special effects, when they pop up, are decent. You get some quality claws, a dismembered hand, and a few other surprises, but despite the title of the film, it’s not as though there’s a lot of gore to be had here. Think any average Hammer movie, and that’s pretty much what you’re in for (though to be clear, this is from Tigon).

The Blood on Satan’s Claw isn’t a bad movie, and those in the horror community know that it’s generally well-respected. It’s a movie I’ve seen twice now, though, and as much as I wish I could like it more, elements just fall flat for me, and the quasi-disjointed nature of the story irks me. It’s not bad for a watch every five years, maybe, but it’s far from a preferred 70’s film of mine.

6/10

Weaverfish (2013)

Directed by Harrison Wall [Other horror films: N/A]

Ever since I heard the basic plot of this film (teens are infected by a virus and try to survive), I was intrigued. Part of it is because I’ve always wanted to see a serious take on this type of story (my dislike of Cabin Fever not being a surprise to many), and also, due to the film being British, I thought that’d add a little flavor. All-in-all, Weaverfish is a decent movie, but I think it could have been tightened up a bit, and it doesn’t end up an amazing watch.

I can appreciate the somber attitude the film possesses, though. At times, it’s almost naturalistic in it’s sluggish set-up – nothing overly horror even happens until maybe 45 minutes in. It gives us time to get to know some of these characters, which is a good thing, but it can feel quite slow, and doesn’t really pick up until the final twenty minutes. And throughout it all, it’s just a dreary, downbeat movie.

One element of the film is a bit different, being the narration. The main character has snippets of dialogue he speaks first-hand, as if he’s telling a story (example being “Matt will never know how lucky he is to have a girl like Charlotte Menary. Maybe she won’t know it either”). At worst, it can feel a little pretentious, but I sort of like the effect. Some of the dialogue can be a bit dramatic, and maybe other parts could feel awkward, but I don’t think it’s too negatively distracting in any case.

Another aspect, which can feel a bit daunting, is the amount of characters here. Granted, half of them aren’t important, but we’re basically thrown into a situation in which characters get little-to-no introduction, and for the first thirty minutes, you’re trying to figure out the pre-existing relationships these characters have. With ten names and faces (Reece, Shannon, Matt, Charlotte, Abby, Gavin, Mike, Kayleigh, Jo, and Chris) to try to keep track of, it can be a bit annoying.

I think the story is quite decent, though, sluggish portions aside. While having a party on a long-forbidden beach (years in the past, a boy went missing, and the lake and surrounding land have been cordoned off ever since), a sort of bacterial virus from the water gets many of those present sick. Throw in some background story of a defunct oil plant and some empty barrels of chemicals, and you have a fun time. Now, nothing is firmly stated come the end (partially because the film ends in a somewhat open manner), but the mysterious people hunting the infected kids down is still fun.

Shane O’Meara wasn’t the most emotive lead, but his narration grew on me, and he was probably one of the better characters in the film. Josh Ockenden did pretty good as a crappy character to begin with, but one who gets better as the film goes on. Lucy-Jane Quinlan was stable throughout, as were most of the rest of the cast, being John Doughty, Ripeka Templeton, Jessie Morell, and Duncan Casey, the best being probably Templeton and Doughty.

We do get some nice scenes toward the end, which were suitably creepy, but what’s even better about the ending is the fact we get a small flashback, showing the formation of Reece and Charlotte’s friendship. It’s a little scene, to be sure, but it packs decent emotion, and seemed to help the film end on the same somber note it’d held since the opening.

For many people, I suspect Weaverfish is just too slow to maintain full interest, but I personally dug it. It’s not a movie I’d revisit too often, but I do think it’s pros far outweigh it’s cons, so if you’re in the mood for something a bit more character-driven, this British film might be worth checking out.

7.5/10

The Witches (1966)

Directed by Cyril Frankel [Other horror films: Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (1960)]

Known as The Devil’s Own in the USA, Hammer’s foray into witches was okay. It was far from great, and I think the ending could have used a hell of a lot of work, but it was watchable, albeit it in a below average way. It just wasn’t much more.

What I can say for The Witches is that it lays out a somewhat engrossing mystery in a small English village, but by the final twenty minutes, when everything is laid out and we see that extraordinarily goofy (and lengthy) Satanic ritual, my interest has pretty much disappeared entirely.

And let me talk about that stupid ritual for a second. Getting a majority of a small village to join a Satanic cult might be possible, but if they knew how goofy they’d have to act during the rituals, how over-exaggerated and silly they’d look, I think it’d lose most of the potential members. It just didn’t seem realistic at all to me.

I also felt somewhat torn about the time-lapse about halfway through. Even after that, though, I can admit the movie had a decent atmosphere and I was still engaged with the story. But that stupid fucking ritual. That just really killed what little interest I had left at that point completely.

I’m not familiar with Joan Fontaine, but she was okay here. I appreciated how she wasn’t the typical young woman (not that she looked old here, by any means – she just looked quite a bit more mature), and I liked the nightmarish scenario she had in Africa. Alec McCowen was decent, though ultimately, pretty pointless, as he played zero part in the conclusion (surprisingly so). I started out liking Kay Walsh, but by the end, I just found her overly illogical and goofy.

The Witches had a good atmosphere at times, and it has that small village feel that I enjoy from films around the same time period (such as The Reptile and The Gorgon), but that final act wasn’t the way to go. I can understand how this one isn’t one of the more celebrated Hammer films, because it just sort of falls apart, and ends up a movie with potential, but ultimately disappointing.

5.5/10

Sinister 2 (2015)

Directed by Ciarán Foy [Other horror films: Hotel Darklight (2009, segment ‘Untitled’), Citadel (2012), Eli (2019)]

So I’ve pretty much only heard negative things about this sequel, especially in comparison with the first Sinister, after seeing it, I can understand the negativity and disappointment. Not that Sinister 2 is a terrible movie, but it definitely doesn’t reach the same level as the first.

I did appreciate them utilizing James Ransone as the main character, though – it may have been expected, but it’s still a solid trajectory for the series to take. I just wish they focused purely on him as the first focused on Hawke as opposed to giving the perspective of kids being seduced by dead kids, which is an aspect of the film I found entirely predictable and, worse, uninteresting.

Maybe if the dead kids in question had been the same ones from the first film, it would have been a bit better, but instead we have all new kids and all new home videos. As they went, Sunday Service was probably the best (albeit a bit more complex than many of the other murders), and Christmas Morning had character (what little we saw of A Trip to the Dentist showed promise also), but Fishing Trip struck me as somewhat silly, and not quite comparable to the somewhat jarring Lawn Work from the first film.

The whole idea, though, of brothers being aware that a group of ghost kids wants to show them videos of families being killed and neither one thinks it’d be wise to let anyone know about this (I get that most adults wouldn’t listen, but these two didn’t even try) just doesn’t seem realistic whatsoever. And the ending, while not coming out of nowhere, felt somewhat off also (and not even due to the obvious fact that Shannyn Sossamon’s character could have gotten out of that abusive marriage if she had contacted the media or just utilized social media against the abusive piece of shit that was her husband).

On that note, I thought the abusive father (Lea Coco) was an interesting element, as it gave both of the kids reasons to want to join the dead bois and fuck everyone up. The father was such an unlikable character, too, that when he got, shall we say, killed, it was clearly a good thing for everyone involved. The rest of the ending, though, just seemed weak.

Ransone was still just as fun in this one as the first movie, but he even had surprising courage at times (such as him standing up to that infuriating attempted abduction by the police). I didn’t love or hate Shannyn Sossamon (from the One Missed Call remake) – she was okay, I guess, but I didn’t feel strongly at all about her. Both of the kids (Robert Daniel Sloan and Dartanian Sloan) were okay, and felt like real brothers (it helped that they actually are), but I can’t say I cared for their stories. Tate Ellington was something. I didn’t hate his performance, but I just didn’t see the point in it at all.

I guess that’s my main problem with the whole film. The first film was a very solid supernatural movie, and I’m sure they wanted to repeat that success here, but failed utterly. It’s watchable, of course, and it’s not that much worse than average, but it’s definitely not a film that’s really worth that much. Plus, it had the exact same jump scare ending the first movie did. A+ for originality.

5.5/10

Sinister (2012)

Directed by Scott Derrickson [Other horror films: Hellraiser: Inferno (2000), The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005), Deliver Us from Evil (2014), The Black Phone (2021)]

I didn’t really expect to enjoy Sinister when I blind-bought it on DVD. It looked interesting, sure, but the cover mentioned both The Conjuring and Insidious, two films that I just don’t care about in the slightest, so it did make me wary.

After multiple viewings, though, Sinister stands strong as a new-age favorite of mine.

The idea behind the film is quite interesting, and though there’s a little build-up involved, it all feels decently natural, and adds to a somewhat uneasy atmosphere, especially once Hawke’s character starts seeing more and more unexplainable phenomenon. Also, those home videos are top-notch (Lawn Work being the most shocking, but Pool Party definitely has it’s charm, and Family Hanging Out was a strong opening to the film).

Ethan Hawke (who I know mostly from the Assault on Precinct 13 remake and Training Day, but was also in The Purge) was a pretty strong character, certainly complex in that you couldn’t really blame him for wanting to chase the mystery, especially since it’s been so long since he had a successful book (and him watching those old interviews was just painful, and who couldn’t feel bad for him?), but you could certainly see his wife’s point (Juliet Rylance), though I’ll admit Rylance’s character annoyed me at times.

James Ransone (Deputy So & So, who has been in The Wire, and It Chapter 2) just cracked me up. Talk about great comedic relief (“Snakes don’t have feet”), but he was also one of the few arguably sensible characters in the film. That scene where he’s talking about how he’d never sleep in a house where someone was killed, and he believes entirely in the supernatural whereas Hawke’s character just mocks it, shows a certain strength in his character which I adore, and he does help out throughout the film.

Others who had strong performances included Vincent D’Onofrio (was was uncredited), as he was the one with what little information on Bughuul that could be found. The two kids, Michael Hall D’Addario and Clare Foley (Ivy from Gotham), were decent with what they were able to do. And of course, with only two scenes, shout-out to Fred Thompson, who’s failed 2008 Republican primary run still cracks me up to this day. He also had a presence to him, and I did like how he let the family pass without ticketing them nearing the finale.

Speaking of the finale, I thought it was decently strong. I can’t remember particularly if I was surprised when I first saw it, but whether I was or not, it is a great ending. I could have done without that final jump scare at the end (I know that some viewers were okay with it within the context of the story, but final second jump scares always leave a bad taste in my mouth, especially when it’s for the audience’s reaction only), but who didn’t like House Painting?

I found the story here pretty unique, and Bughuul a fun entity for Hawke’s character to try to learn about. Sinister was a modern-day horror film that exceeded my expectations (especially since I don’t generally have a good track record with post 2000-supernatural horror), and definitely a movie I enjoyed. Just remember, snakes don’t have feet.

8.5/10

Children of the Damned (1964)

Directed by Anton Leader [Other horror films: N/A]

Yeah, this didn’t do it for me. It’s a shame, because after revisiting the 1960 Village of the Damned, I was moderately happy, but this one was just lacking something that made that first film special. Not that Children of the Damned is a bad film, necessarily, and not that I particularly enjoyed Village of the Damned, because I didn’t, but Children of the Damned is not a film that I really got much out of whatsoever.

I’ll give it moderate props for looking at the children through the lens of the arms’ race (each of the six children are from different countries, so for instance, obviously the USSR wouldn’t want their ‘weapon’ being taught in the UK), and it lent a somewhat unique political climate to the film (which was partially played with in the first movie, but this is far more explicit), but it didn’t make for an exciting time.

That’s honestly my main problem. A few of the scenes were a little creepy, but once the children got together in an abandoned church and held off the military with their super intellect and by virtue of holding a woman captive, I pretty much tuned out. I mean, I wasn’t in the least bit interested, and nothing past that point, be it the arguments as to whether or not the kids should be destroyed to the finale, made any impact whatsoever.

I wouldn’t say that Alan Badel or Ian Hendry stood out (because even now, reading the characters names, I forget who’s who despite just having finished this), but they probably made more of an impression than anyone else, which isn’t saying much.

Honestly, I don’t have anything else. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood for this. Maybe it’s something that I’ll grow to appreciate the next time I see it, if I ever do. Whatever the reason, while enjoying revisiting Village of the Damned, this one fell flat for me.

5/10

Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1972)

Directed by Curtis Harrington [Other horror films: Night Tide (1961), Queen of Blood (1966), How Awful About Allan (1970), What’s the Matter with Helen? (1971), The Killing Kind (1973), The Cat Creature (1973), Killer Bees (1974), The Dead Don’t Die (1975), Ruby (1977), Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell (1978), Usher (2000)]

I didn’t know a lot about this before I went into it, so it mostly came as a nice little surprise. Though it’s more subtle in it’s approach of horror, I thought the film had a decent amount to offer, so even though it’s not a classic, per se, it likely won’t be an easy movie to forget.

The plot here was so original, which helped a lot. Following a pair of orphans (brother and sister) as they encounter a mentally-unstable woman who thinks the girl is a reincarnation of her deceased daughter, plus it’s British? This movie was original and a decent amount of fun despite the somewhat dry feel.

For younger individuals, Mark Lester and Chloe Franks (The House That Dripped Blood and Tales from the Crypt) did a great job. Franks was probably more forgettable, but Lester got more screen-time anyways (plus he was marginally older), so that just makes sense. Shelley Winters (Tentacles, The Initiation of Sarah, The Devil’s Daughter, A Patch of Blue – guess which one doesn’t fit in?) was also superb in her role, and you felt sympathetic for her despite the fact she was bat-shit insane. Michael Gothard (Lifeforce) played a dick, and I loved it, and Ralph Richardson popped up again (I saw him earlier the very day I watched this one in The Ghoul from 1933), which was fun.

It’s a pretty tense story, and though you sort of know where it’s going to go, there’s still a level of uncertainty. Heck, I expected the kids to get out of it using a far different method from what actually happened, which goes to show that, to some extent, Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? can keep you guessing.

There’s also the occasional passages from Hansel and Gretel that Lester’s character reads during some voice-overs which really helps set the tone and give us some insight as to how, as a young kid, he sees this situation (not that Winters’ is simply insane, but also a witch). It’s a dark film in some ways, as you would expect a movie where kids are held against their will to be, but it’s not near as bleak as it could have been, which is probably a positive (I was even smiling at the end, happy with the conclusion).

I doubt this movie is going to make a big impact on many people, but it was a pleasant viewing, and even occasionally held a nice Christmas charm to it.

7.5/10

The Ghoul (1933)

Directed by T. Hayes Hunter [Other horror films: The Crimson Stain Mystery (1916)]

This creaky British film isn’t one that really stuck with me the first time I saw it, and after revisiting it, while The Ghoul is a decent movie in the vein of many of the horror films back there, with a solid mystery and a large amount of suspects, I don’t think it’s necessarily memorable.

It was occasionally a bit dark at spots throughout the film, which did help with the atmosphere along with prolonging the mystery, so that wasn’t a huge issue. The setting itself wasn’t really original, but you don’t always expect originality during this period of horror.

Boris Karloff didn’t really have that much screen-time, so though he was nice to see, he didn’t really amount to that much here. Cedric Hardwicke and Ernest Thesiger (Bride of Frankenstein) were both good as men with somewhat mysterious goals, which can also be said for Harold Huth and Ralph Richardson. Kathleen Harrison was good comic relief, and Dorothy Hyson and Anthony Bushell made for fine, though unmemorable, leads.

To be honest, while the movie can certainly be fun, and there are plenty of amusing lines of dialogue, a lot of this doesn’t seem like the type of stuff that’ll last, even if the mystery and the characters make it an occasionally-enjoyable movie to watch.

I have a decent time watching The Ghoul in the moment, but it’s not really any more than that, which is sort of disappointing, but there you go.

6/10