Aliens (1986)

Directed by James Cameron [Other horror films: Piranha Part Two: The Spawning (1981)]

While it’s true that it took me until my most-recent viewing of Alien to fully appreciate it, Aliens is a movie I loved from ‘hello,’ and it’s probably the best horror/action/science fiction movie in the history of the moving pictures.

Let’s dispense with the problems first, though:

With that out of the way, let’s talk about the myriad of great performances (it’d almost be easier to talk about those who didn’t make a positive impression, but that didn’t strike me as fair).

I loved Sigourney Weaver in the first movie, but she’s even better here. Once she takes control, she really takes control (the scene in which Ripley usurps Gorman is fantastic), and though she’s all bad-ass, she still has a sensitive side, as seen when dealing with Newt (Carrie Henn) and Hudson (Bill Paxton). She is the exact right person in that situation, and I enjoyed watching her kick ass throughout (especially in regards to Paul Reiser’s character).

And speaking of Reiser, boy, does he cause some whiplash. At first, he seems a decent guy, one of the few trying to back-up Ripley’s experience and get her back into a suitable profession, but then we find out something later on that shines a whole new light on him, and he quickly becomes one of the most hated characters in the whole of cinema (perhaps an overstatement, but man, I utterly abhor this guy, and I definitely thought he should have been killed just as soon as his secret and actions were discovered). Reiser does a great job playing a terrible character, so kudos.

It’s Gorman, played by William Hope, who at first seems to be the main antagonist. Very quickly, though, we find out that he’s not so much a bad man as he is just under-experienced. He certainly thought he had control of the situation, but when Ripley shoves him aside, he takes it gracefully, and I always low-key appreciated him for that. Another individual who takes a little while to really make a place for themselves is Hicks, played by Michael Biehn. To be honest, I barely noticed him until he retained command, but I loved him as soon as he sided with Ripley, and from there on out, he gave it his best to protect everyone.

Others who merit a positive mention are probably obvious, being Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein, Bill Paxton, Mark Rolston, and Al Matthews. Henriksen as the android Bishop really did well here. Being an android, he didn’t need to have much in the way of emotions, so Henriksen was a perfect fit, and I definitely enjoyed him throughout (especially towards the end). Goldstein kicked ass about as much as Weaver, and her comeback to Hudson near the beginning was cuttingly brutal.

Paxton’s Hudson lost control past a certain point, but he was still a solid character to the end, and though Rolston’s Drake didn’t last near as long as I was hoping, he too was a character I really found myself enjoying. Of everyone, though, it’s Al Matthews, who, as soon as he awakens from cryofreeze, the very second, he has a cigar in his mouth. Love that guy’s dedication. I also rather liked Colette Hiller, though she appeared for only a short time.

As far as the special effects go, everything here looks great, and though at first glance it might look like the movie runs a little long (as it’s around two-and-a-half hours), I think everything feels smooth and well-paced throughout the film. The setting is a nicely deserted alien world, and there are some absolutely fantastic scenes of suspense here (such as Ripley and the kid being trapped in the room with the facehuggers).

Let’s face it – Aliens is a fantastic movie, and this is probably one of my least controversial movie opinions of all time. The movie currently sits in IMDb’s top 100 movies, and I’m very much mistaken if I think that’s going to change anytime soon. It’s an action-packed ride with with a ton of suspense, scares (that locked room with Ripley and Newt gets my heart racing every time), action, and I can’t recommend the movie enough.

10/10

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

Directed by Terence Fisher [Other horror films: Three’s Company (1953, episodes ‘The Surgeon’ & ‘ Take a Number’), Dracula (1958), The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), 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)]

Much like Dracula, which I also rewatched earlier this month, The Curse of Frankenstein is a classic that I don’t really have that much to say about. It’s not as classic a movie as 1931’s Frankenstein, but this Hammer production is still one of the best renditions of the story.

A large part of this is the very solid cast, and who could expect differently coming from a Hammer movie. Peter Cushing is a favorite of mine, and he’s been in so many movies of the genre that it’s really hard to narrow down his best performances. Playing Frankenstein here, Cushing was fantastic, and his sole focus on his work (at the expense of his fiancé, Hazel Court) was, as always, fun to watch.

Playing his long-time mentor and eventual foe, Robert Urquhart did a great job, and during their many arguments about the morality of Frankenstein’s experiments, Urquhart and Cushing really get into it, and you can really see his disappointment in Frankenstein toward the end of the film. These two are easily the most important, but Christopher Lee brings a lot as the Creature, playing a very different version than Karloff did, and Hazel Court too was a nice, although somewhat unimportant, addition.

I also really liked the layout of the story, with the bulk of the horrors occurring via flashback told by a condemned Cushing. The ending was somber, and truthfully I felt pretty bad for Frankenstein, though I certainly think he had his problems when it came to approaching his experiment (though the base of the experiment, I thought, was perfectly valid).

This is a Hammer classic, and I can’t say if this or Dracula is better. Both are great movies, fantastic re-imaginings of classics, and I’d easily recommend the both of them to fans of classic horror.

8/10

Halloween Kills (2021)

Directed by David Gordon Green [Other horror films: Halloween (2018)]

Perhaps one of the most-hyped horror films in the last couple of years, I have to say that I wasn’t one of those excited all that excited for this. I think I was probably correct in that stance, because while parts of Halloween Kills are fun, a lot of it just feels like filler.

The 2018 Halloween was a movie I thought was okay. Sure, I have it rated an 8/10 on here, but if I’m being honest, that’s probably too high. I’ve only seen the 2018 movie once, and I thought it was good, but it’s one of those films that, having seen once, I was in no real desire to see it again anytime soon.

I considered refreshing my memory before getting into Halloween Kills by revisiting the 2018 movie, but I opted out. I doubt that made much of an impact – most of the characters introduced in the 2018 movie came back to me without too much difficulty. Even so, I just don’t know if the story in this film was really all that interesting.

Aimless isn’t really the word I’d use to describe the film, though I suspect some people would. To me, it just felt primarily like filler for the upcoming Halloween Ends. That’s not to say there weren’t some good scenes, because of course there were, but for a movie that’s an hour and 45 minutes, it’s oddly difficult to list what actually happened in the film, because the status quo didn’t change much from the end of the 2018 movie to the end of this one. In fact, I don’t think anything changed, aside from more people in Haddonfield being deceased.

I appreciated the flashbacks they gave that took place in 1978, especially the ones that had Loomis (played by Tom Jones Jr.), as they got a guy who looked pretty much just like him. Those flashbacks, at least the ones focused around the Myers house, were sort of fun, but I can’t say any of the Lonnie stuff interested me.

For performances, I don’t even know what to say. Most of the central cast (Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, and Anthony Michael Hall) were fine, but as for their characters, I feel like a lot of foolish mistakes were made, and those foolish mistakes sometimes made it quite difficult for me to really care about their characters.

Far more noteworthy to me are Kyle Richards, Nancy Stephens, and especially Charles Cyphers, all three of whom are returning characters from the 1978 classic (and seeing Cyphers back really brought a smile to my face). Two other characters were brought back (Lonnie and Tommy), but the original actors, Brent Le Page and Brian Andrews, were replaced by Robert Longstreet and Anthony Michael Hall. Well, I guess three out of five ain’t bad.

Oh, and though these characters weren’t even close to important, I liked Scott MacArthur and Michael McDonald in their roles as a gay couple living in what used to be the Myers house. They were at least somewhat fun.

I don’t mind that they brought back the characters they did – Marion (the nurse that Myers stole a car from) was sort of random, but the fact they brought back three old faces was nice, especially Charles Cyphers as Brackett (and I liked him a lot in this movie). At the same time, I don’t know if any of these characters were really utilized that well, and aside from bringing back familiar faces, I don’t know if it really made a difference whatsoever.

One of my main complaints about the 2018 movie was the gore. I don’t have a problem with gore, of course – H.G. Lewis and Nathan Schiff are, as the kids say, the shit. It’s just that the 2018 movie had a retro thing going for it, and I was hoping they’d focus more on suspense and creepy scenes (as the original Halloween did) as opposed to violence, but of course they didn’t.

This movie is much the same. I love the slaughtering that takes place here, but I also can’t help but wish they had gone for a classier aesthetic. I loved the opening to this film, which maintained a retro aura, but when you go from that to slaughtering a group of firefighters, it sort of loses me. Trying to please both crowds isn’t going to work, because it doesn’t feel genuine, at least not to me.

Look, I had a good time watching Myers go berserk on the firefighters – it was a lot of fun. And there’s a scene toward the end where a similar situation occurs, and I enjoyed that too. A lot of the violence here, such as the fluorescent light in the throat, or the guy who had his head banged against the stairwell until he was likely paralyzed (not that it mattered for long), was fun. The violence looked great, but I still personally would have preferred a different approach.

There’s a large portion of the film that deals with the horrors of a mob mentality. It’s like Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers on steroids, because instead of a group of drunk guys with shotguns in trucks (which made pretty good sense to me), you have pretty much the whole town bloodthirsty, and chasing down people who may or may not be Myers because of a couple of speeches. I’m not saying those scenes in the hospital didn’t have their moments, but the whole situation personally felt a little ridiculous.

Also, I’ve got to mention a small scene that bothered me. Toward the finale of the film, three individuals are under the impression that Myers went back to his old house, and go there after him. Despite being in contact with other characters who expressed interest in hunting Myers down, they didn’t tell anyone they were going to the house. I can’t say just how stupid I thought that set-up was – why wouldn’t they just call or text other people? They really thought three people – two of whom were quite young – could take on Myers after he destroyed the Haddonfield fire department? It was so fucking stupid, and it didn’t make a lick of sense to me.

It might sound as though I had a bad time with Halloween Kills, but that’s not accurate. I was entertained throughout, despite feeling that much of the film just felt like filler. I didn’t love a lot of it, but it was an entertaining time. Maybe once I watch this again, I can re-evaluate some of it, but for now, I’ll just say the film is somewhere pretty close to average.

7/10

Night of the Demon (1957)

Directed by Jacques Tourneur [Other horror films: Cat People (1942), I Walked with a Zombie (1943), The Leopard Man (1943), The Comedy of Terrors (1963), War-Gods of the Deep (1965)]

It’s twice now I’ve seen this one, and maybe it’s me, but I don’t think it’s that great. Night of the Demon (or Curse of the Demon, depending on your location) is good, and it has a solid atmosphere, but I don’t see it as much more.

What I like about this one (which, by the way, is based off an M.R. James story) is the undeniably dense atmosphere. It’s a black-and-white film, which goes a long way to allow some scenes to work really well, especially during the fog-drenched sequences, which were very appealing. The titular demon doesn’t pop up that often, but that also had charm (despite the fact the demon doesn’t necessarily look amazing).

Dana Andrews does decently well here, though the skepticism he portrays is a bit much. I’m an atheist, but when presented with evidence of a God or gods, I’d be willing to believe. But no matter how much Andrews’ character sees, it takes him a long time to make that leap. Any skeptic worth his or her salt would, upon receiving evidence, accept a claim. I don’t blame him for mocking the seance (that was not a controlled experiment whatsoever, and as such, of course a man of scientific learning shouldn’t be expected to buy that), but past a certain point, he should have been more willing to accept that something’s going on.

Peggy Cummins and Niall MacGinnis are both good additions, especially MacGinnis. I don’t think I’d go as far as to call him amazing, but I really did like what he brought to the film (though of course, I don’t see why Satanists are portrayed in such a negative light as they generally have a peaceful religion). Others who I enjoyed, though neither one was that important, include Liam Redmond and Peter Elliott.

If there’s one thing about the movie I think is close to flawless, it’d be the finale, which takes place on a train. Talk about tense – that moment was very much the engaging story I wish the first eighty minutes had been. Not that the story here wasn’t worth it, but it really shined during the conclusion in a way it didn’t for me leading up to it.

Night of the Demon isn’t a movie I love, but I do like some things about it. Ultimately, I’d place it around average, and though I don’t personally like it near as much as many others tend to, I’d still suggest it for those looking for a piece of 50’s British horror that might make an impact.

7/10

28 Days Later… (2002)

Directed by Danny Boyle [Other horror films: N/A]

This is a movie I’ve not seen in quite some time, and it’s always refreshing when a rewatch is just as good as you’ll hope it’d be. 28 Days Later… is perhaps one of the most important zombie films of the modern era, and it’s certainly a well-made movie from the UK, and perhaps one of the UK’s best in the last twenty years.

Most of the main cast was great. Cillian Murphy (who I pretty much only know from Batman Begins) was good as the main character, as he doesn’t really seem the type. Naomie Harris is fun as an action, kick-ass gal. Brendan Gleeson (Lake Placid, fourth Harry Potter film, The Guard) and Megan Burns give the movie heart, whereas Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who) gives it pragmatic brutality. Solid cast all around.

There’s a lot of feeling in this one. When I say that Gleeson and Burns really made an emotional impact on me, I’m not trying to exaggerate – that father-daughter combination was great, and much like how they brought Harris’ character some joy, they brought the viewer joy too, which makes the movie doubly impactful past a certain point.

Also, that score is damn phat. Really great score which helps the movie along, especially toward the end.

As far as zombie movies go, 28 Days Later is pretty damn important, and really brought back to life (see what I did there? :P) the dying (OMG HE GOES FOR A SECOND SHOT AND NAILS IT) subgenre of zombies. I mean, there were decent zombie movies in the late 1990’s (one that comes to mind is Bio Zombie, from Japan), but it was 28 Days Later that really made the genre profitable again, for better or worse.

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing this again, and I feel sort of bad for having waited as long as I did, as it’s a movie I suspect that one wouldn’t really get too tired of. I’d certainly recommend giving this one a look or a rewatch if you’ve not seen it in some time, as it’s great stuff.

8.5/10

The Strange World of Planet X (1958)

Directed by Gilbert Gunn [Other horror films: N/A]

I’ve seen this British science-fiction/horror movie once before, and as it turns out, I remembered it a bit more fondly than it really deserves. The movie’s not bad, but it does drag quite a bit at the beginning, and save for one scene of note, the special effects were poor (especially coming out four years after Them!), and there wasn’t really enough meat to really keep me occupied.

Sometimes known under the title Cosmic Monsters (as the poster above attests to), The Strange World of Planet X had potential that the film didn’t really reach. Many of the performances were decent (including, in no particular order, Wyndham Goldie, Martin Benson, Alec Mango, Geoffrey Chater, and Forrest Tucker), but the only one that I really loved was that of Mango’s mad scientist.

The story, too, was decently solid, but in a movie that’s barely over an hour and ten minutes, having the first real action start up forty minutes in seems an unwise choice. Additionally, throwing in a more science-fiction subplot didn’t bother me that much, but it was just a bit corny.

When the action does start, we’re treated to mostly unspectacular effects. Insects increase in size, and by that, they’re enlarged image is superimposed over the screen, so about none of the insects look particularly convincing (though the millipedes got the closest). One highlight of the film, though, was what looked like a cricket chewing on a man’s face. It wasn’t really bloody (this is black-and-white, be reasonable), but it was a tad more violent than I’d have otherwise expected.

The Strange World of Planet X is worth at least a single watch if you’re a fan of giant bug movies, but it really doesn’t compare with other classics such as Them! or Earth vs the Spider (which I know is almost universally bashed, but I enjoyed it). Still, this British addition to the genre is watchable, and occasionally enjoyable, though I do wish they sped up a bit to the action.

7/10

The Haunting (1963)

Directed by Robert Wise [Other horror films: The Curse of the Cat People (1944), The Body Snatcher (1945), The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), Audrey Rose (1977)]

This is a classic I’ve seen only once before, and while I appreciated it, I didn’t particularly love it, and the same can be said with a rewatch.

What the movies does well is instill a strong feeling of paranoia into the viewer, and some of the camera views match the atmosphere with a very frantic style. Related, the atmosphere here is solidly dense, and especially toward the end, things get ratcheted up and the spiral staircase sequence – talk about intense.

My issue is that, as the movie’s almost two hours long, and much of the first hour-and-a-half is composed of character-building and somewhat annoying arguments between the women, I find myself somewhat disengaged. The story’s great, and the opening’s amazing (‘Whatever walked in Hill House, walked alone,’ followed by a charming history of the domicile), but the movie as a whole? It doesn’t cut it for me.

This shouldn’t take away anything from Julie Harris’ performance, which is fantastic, and toward the end, she really comes across as unhinged, so kudos there. I do think that some of her first-person narration got a bit hokey, but I suppose that’s part of the charm. Claire Bloom’s character started out decent, but boy, does her personality really grate on me at times. Also, and this may just be me, but I was getting somewhat lesbian vibes from her, which, if intended, adds a somewhat cool little subplot and extra reason for her character’s annoyance at Richard Johnson (who was decent, but not a stand-out).

As decent as parts of this movie are, it’s not a movie I could see myself watching that many times in a given five-year range. Once is probably enough, and while it’s possible that my appreciation of this one will grow with my age, for the time being, I’d still call it a classic, and a good movie, but not really a great one.

7/10

The Children (2008)

Directed by Tom Shankland [Other horror films: w Delta z (2007)]

I forget exactly when I first saw this British addition to the killer kid sub-genre, but I suspect it was during an October sometime between four to seven years ago. From my vague recollection, I didn’t much care for this one, and seeing it again with fresh eyes, I hate to agree with that earlier assessment. The Children may not be a bad film, but it’s certainly not as good as many seem to think, and I genuinely find the movie unremarkable with a hint of frustration.

Make that a lot of frustration, actually. Maybe this is simply because I’m not a parent, but if someone is trying to stab you, you have every right to defend yourself, no matter if the assailant is a kid or not. Yet the parents here wore blinders when it came to the fact that their children weren’t just a little dangerous, but fatally so. It took a teenage girl (played fantastically by Hannah Tointon) to do most of the work, and what does she get out of it? Nothing but hatred and physical pain from the others.

She’s not entirely the perfect character though, either, especially toward the end. I’ll just say this so I don’t give too much away: STAY THE HELL IN THE CAR AND DRIVE BY, YOU IDIOT!!

Now that I have that out of my system, I can briefly try to explain why I didn’t care for this one. Partially, it has to do with the fact that both times I’ve seen The Children, I can never tell the children apart, and thus, I don’t know who’s who’s kid, and it just loses me with names of kids that I sure as hell aren’t going to remember. In all fairness, it was better this time around, but still, I didn’t love any of the characters aside from the teen played by Tointon, which hurt.

None of this is to say that Stephen Campbell Moore, Jeremy Sheffield, Rachel Shelley, or Eva Birthistle put in bad performances, but I pretty much thought all of their characters, save Sheffield’s, were terrible. It’s probably a good performance that made me dislike their characters so, but either way, the only one here I really liked was Tointon’s character (who looked smoking in that unseasonably drafty short skirt, if I may say so).

This reminds me of one thing I did rather like about the movie, being it’s setting. It takes place in a decently-sized house in the country during winter, with a bit of snowfall toward the end, which looked pretty cool. It’s just a shame the story they came up with (and ‘twist’ to follow, if you want to call it that) wasn’t great.

Was the gore okay? Reasonably, when the movie deigned to go in that direction. At the same time, while it was nice finally seeing kids meet the grisly end they’re so often denied in horror films, I don’t know if anything here was particularly memorable, problematically. There was potential during a few scenes (the kids had plenty of sharp instruments at their disposal), but it never quite got there.

I can’t exactly pinpoint why I don’t like this one more. It’s not like I think the movie’s terrible, but I definitely find it underwhelming despite some decent tension of Tointon’s performance. When it comes to killer kid movies, I’d go as far as to recommend Peopletoys, also known as Devil Times Five or (get this atrocious reissue title) The Horrible House on the Hill over The Children, or even Mikey, or hell, even The Good Son. But this British movie isn’t one I enjoyed either time I’ve seen it, and though it really feels like it should be better, it’s a consistently disappointing film.

4/10

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

Hannibal Rising (2007)

Directed by Peter Webber [Other horror films: N/A]

While this isn’t really a horror movie, it’s in a series I generally consider horror, so I’ll just throw this one in, which is unfortunate, as I had to watch this pile of trash.

I’m not exactly sure what my biggest problem with this was. Partially, I suspect, my disdain is due to the fact that an origin story was entirely unnecessary. What doesn’t help is the fact that I couldn’t even once see this character as Hannibal Lecter. So he accidentally eats his sister, and then decides to be a cannibal? Oh, and a samurai? Love it.

To be fair, this movie had a decent kill every now and again. One was even actually good, and potentially memorable. It’s a shame that the same can’t be said for any of the characters (be it the generic serial killer lead or the pointless detective on his trail) or the movie as a whole.

Gaspard Ulliel didn’t once remind me of Lecter, but I guess he was fine. Dominic West (The Wire) was pointless. I didn’t like Li Gong’s character whatsoever. And no one else was particularly memorable or good either.

A few good kills doesn’t make a movie good, especially when the movie is otherwise entirely generic and unnecessary. Truthfully, this was a struggle to get through, and I’d easily take Red Dragon or Hannibal twenty times over as opposed to ever having to watch this piece of trash again. I legitimately didn’t enjoy this. I did not have a good time. I was displeased.

3/10

Hannibal (2001)

Directed by Ridley Scott [Other horror films: Alien (1979), Alien: Covenant (2017)]

I can’t recall exactly how long it’s been since I’ve seen this movie in full, but I will say it’s been at least eight years. I remembered some of the scenes here, but not that many, so the film had a somewhat fresh feel to it. Also, it’s a decent amount more graphic than The Silence of the Lambs, which only works in it’s favor. Honestly, I enjoyed this one, and thought it a mostly fun romp.

The idea of a previous victim of Lecter’s seeking revenge against the good doctor is pretty fun, and it casts the victim, Verger, as both sympathetic, but also somewhat blood-thirsty (though certainly not without reason). Even before Lecter gets back to the USA, seeing him ingratiate himself in Italy is a lot of fun too, and in fact, the Italian portions of the film were perhaps the most interesting to me (it doesn’t hurt that the segment ended with a fantastic disembowelment).

Unlike some, I didn’t think Julianne Moore’s presence in lieu of Jodie Foster’s was that bad. Obviously, it would have been great to get Foster to reprise her role, but Moore did perfectly fine playing Clarice, and got on well with Sir Anthony Hopkins. Of course, Hopkins does fantastically as Lecter, and stole the show, especially in his Italian scenes, but really, throughout the film, he’s great. Gary Oldman, playing a rather disfigured victim of Lecter’s, does a great job, and his voice creeps me out as much today as it did when I was younger, watching the film. Other stand-outs include Giancarlo Giannini and Zeljko Ivanek. I didn’t particularly care for Ray Liotta’s performance, but that’s partially because his character was so over-the-top scummy that I didn’t have an ounce of sympathy for him at any point.

This movie isn’t particularly violent, but like The Silence of the Lambs, there are a few good scenes here, ranging from a previously-mentioned disembowelment to some solid pig action (and I don’t mean in a Wedding Trough fashion). There’s nothing that seems over-the-top in Hannibal, and the ending, which leans more toward disturbing than it does violent, was pretty solid.

Really, Hannibal’s gotten a decent amount of flak, which is a shame, as I think it’s a solid follow-up to one of the most classic films of the 1990’s. Truth be told, while I do enjoy The Silence of the Lambs, I think I prefer Hannibal, and a large part of that might be because this has a little more of the horror feeling than it’s predecessor does. I’d give them roughly the same score, but Hannibal was one that, surprisingly, I found I really enjoyed after revisiting.

8.5/10