Death Ship (1980)

Death Ship

Directed by Alvin Rakoff [Other horror films: Three Dangerous Ladies (1977, segment ‘Mrs. Amworth’)]

Death Ship had a potential that it didn’t at all live up to, which is a shame, as a movie like this really could have been something special. As it is, I just ended up bored most of the time.

There’s plenty of positive things about this film. The setting, an old, abandoned Nazi ship, is creepy, especially a room devoted to all things Hitler. The atmosphere is solid, and showing empty corridors, or the gears grinding, really brings forth a spooky vibe. Heck, there’s even quite a few creepy sequences, such as the net of bones, or the freezer full of dead bodies, or that one torture room. Combine that with a few golden deaths, and all should be well.

The problem is the film is rather slow, and much like a ship anchored at sea, oftentimes doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere. Not all that much really happens, which is a shame, as, like I said, the setting certainly had a lot of potential. George Kennedy’s performance toward the end was suitably creepy, but without a story to really back that up, it felt a bit stale. Richard Crenna is perhaps the only actor who can transcend the mediocre script, and does well for himself, but like Kennedy, it feels his character doesn’t really do all that much.

Unfortunately, the movie’s just slow, and while there are some interesting ideas here (a Nazi ship trolling the waters in search of people to torture/interrogate for eternity is a fun plot), and some creepy scenes, but it’s not enough to make up for the lack of flair. Overall, Death Ship isn’t terrible, but it’s just not that good, and certainly below average.

5.5/10

Mute Witness (1995)

Mute Witness

Directed by Anthony Waller [Other horror films: An American Werewolf in Paris (1997), Nine Miles Down (2009)]

This is a pretty mixed ride, and much of that due to the fact the film sort of switches up genres toward the end, going from a tense slasher-esque flick to an almost black comedy/crime movie.

That’s not entirely fair, though – the comedy, most of it black, wasn’t terrible, but given the first two-thirds of the film, I thought it was going a bit far. It’s going from horror to crime that bothered me, and although it made sense story-wise, I didn’t care for the shift.

Most of the movie is quite suspenseful. A long chase scene as a mute woman attempts to outwit two people who she saw murder someone. That sequence, especially the ending, was well-done, and the follow-up scene was too an elongated, albeit more peaceful, sequence, wrought with both confusion and frustration.

There wasn’t a bunch of gore here, but what there was ended up being fine. The biggest selling point, by far, is the suspense anyway, which the film does really well. But the last third of the film felt a lot like a crime movie, and the triumphant ending doesn’t erase the distaste I rather had of that portion.

Russian actress Marina Zudina (who is somewhat well-known in her home country) does really well here, playing a mute character in a rather dangerous situation. Fay Ripley and Evan Richards, though, contributed most of the black comedy, and like I said, I could have done without that addition. Really, Zudina should get the most props, by far – her performance here is excellent.

I like a lot of things about this movie. Like I said, the slasher-portion of the film is tense as hell, and until the movie shifts to a crime-feel, the movie was on it’s way to a way above average score. As it is, the final thirty minutes really didn’t do much for me, so while I still recommend the film, especially for 90’s horror, I wouldn’t call Mute Witness amazing.

7.5/10

The Facility (2012)

The Facility

Directed by Ian Clark [Other horror films: N/A]

I have to admit, while this British film is far from perfect (and perhaps a few steps away from being good), I enjoyed it more this time around than when I first saw it.

A lot of this comes from the sort of low-key feel the film takes – no dramatic music, no surprising twists, nothing that modern horror films sometimes have an overreliance on. It felt almost like a documentary at times, and I think that heightened the sense of realism. It helps that this is based off an actual event (the 2006 human trial of Theralizumab), so when the credits at the end say “no one from the company was charged with a crime,” and “none of the fatalities during trial were legally said to be caused by the drugs”, I can give it leeway (as I generally hate that type of thing).

There were quite a few decent performances here, but the ones that stood out most were Alex Reid (known due her appearance in The Descent), Nia Roberts, Steve Evets, and Aneurin Barnard. None of these individuals blew me away or anything, but they all gave perfectly acceptable performances.

The film does get a bit tiring near the end, especially after a plethora of utterly idiotic decisions made by the characters. It’s a shame, because for the most part, the first half is pretty good. I particularly appreciate the character building by means of showing each of them getting their shot (some of which are placebos) to officially start off the trial. Also, the fact that the film is mildly bleak in it’s conclusion (the corporation, of course, faces no legal ramifications for their actions) made the realism even more apparent.

Like I said, I did enjoy this British flick more than when I last saw it, and while I don’t love it, I could see myself giving it even another viewing in the future.

7/10

Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (1995)

Candyman

Directed by Bill Condon [Other horror films: N/A]

Generally speaking, this movie is okay. It’s certainly nothing special, and doesn’t really add much that the first Candyman didn’t bring forth, but you could do much worse than this.

Moving away from Cabrini-Green to New Orleans was a perfectly acceptable choice, though again, it doesn’t really do that much aside from give a new setting to the story. Otherwise, this movie is pretty similar to the first one, only dealing with Candyman on a slightly more personal level.

While there are some worthwhile sequences (I enjoyed the full flashback of Candyman’s origin, especially with the hand being sawed off), there lacks much of the almost-dreamy feel of the first film. Luckily, it does keep that catchy musical theme, but that’s not enough to make up for what feels to be an uninspired sequel.

Kelly Rowan did fine as the main character, though didn’t possess the same strength I got out of Madsen. It was nice to see Michael Culkin come back, and at least connecting the first two movies, though he didn’t really have a chance to do much. William O’Leary was probably the weakest performance here – he just didn’t jibe well with me. Voicing the Kingfish, Russell Buchanan was pretty fun throughout, and of course, Tony Todd had a strong presence here, and pretty much blows everyone else out of the water, though he was more threatening in the first film.

There were some pretty questionable special effects near the end, but overall, this movie does a decent job at avoiding too many special effects failures. It doesn’t do much to make the movie better, but at the very least, it’s a point in the positives for the film.

Personally, I think the first Candyman is a classic of 90’s horror, which is one of the weakest decades for the genre since the 1940’s. This sequel, while not atrocious by any means, seems wholly unnecessary. I’ve seen it perhaps three times now, and I’ve thought the same thing each time I finished it. Not bad, but not that good, and it’s nothing compared to the first film.

6/10

The Horror of It All (1964)

Horror of it All

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 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 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)]

Starring Pat Boone (who provides the one jazzy musical number of the film, a song sharing the title of the film), this horror comedy ended up being a lot more fun than I anticipated going in.

At times, this flick felt a bit goofy, as though I were watching an episode of the Addams Family, but actually, for the most part, the humor was both still amusing and rather snappy at times. It felt like a more well-rounded version of The Old Dark House remake from 1963, I feel. Snappy story, fun sequences, a catchy song, and even a moment of both dread and suspense.

Pat Boone does perfectly fine as the lead character, and like I said, his one song lends the movie a bit more enjoyment. Erica Rogers and Andree Melly had solid presences also. Everyone else was just sort of there (Valentine Dyall has sort of a Vincent Price thing going on there in a few scenes), but no one did poorly, which it really all that matters.

Directed by the talented Terence Fisher (for a list of his contributions to the genre, just scroll up), The Horror of It All isn’t necessarily a classic, but I had a lot of fun with it, especially with the song and the ending.

7.5/10

Entertaining Mr Sloane (1970)

Entertaining

Directed by Douglas Hickox [Other horror films: Behemoth the Sea Monster (1959), Theater of Blood (1973), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1983), Blackout (1985)]

What an oddball film. Based off a play of the same name, I’d probably call this mostly a dark comedy with a splash of horror elements near the end. Being a British movie, the humor is oftentimes dry, but it generally worked. It’s such a strange plot, though, and the characters (there are only four of note) aren’t relatable whatsoever, making is a somewhat difficult film to truly get into.

The four cast members all do reasonably well. Beryl Reid and Harry Andrews were certainly the more interesting siblings I’ve seen. Alan Webb overacted more than a bit, but given he played an old man close to dementia, I think that’s moderately forgivable. Mr. Sloane, played by Peter McEnery, was an oddity of a character, and I’d certainly have liked more background into him. His interactions with Andrews (who played a closeted gay man attracted to Sloane) were pretty golden, and overall, I’d say McEnery was the best of the bunch.

Given the horror elements are both sparse and don’t show up until an hour and ten minutes in, this film relies on it’s humor and witty dialogue. If you’re not into British comedy, this would definitely be a hard one to get through. Luckily, like I said, the humor worked for me, and the catchy tune ‘Entertaining Mr. Sloane‘ will be stuck in my head for the next few days, but even so, it’s not really a film I entirely enjoyed, given the lack of horror elements until the end (and even those were rather light).

Honestly, this is a film the likes of which I’ve never really seen before, and while I was enjoying much of the humor and just general nuttiness of the movie, from a horror standpoint, it left a lot to be desired. If you’re into 70’s British comedies, I’d give this one a go, but if you’re looking for some classic British horror (the same director of this later made Theater of Blood, which would certainly count), you won’t be finding it here.

5.5/10

The Midnight Meat Train (2008)

Midnight Meat

Directed by Ryûhei Kitamura [Other horror films: Down to Hell (1997), Versus (2000), Alive (2002), Aragami (2003), Gojira: Fainaru uôzu (2004), No One Lives (2012), Downrange (2017), Nightmare Cinema (2018, segment ‘Mashit’)]

It’s been quite some time since I’ve last seen this, probably somewhere around five or six years. From what I recall, I liked it, and upon seeing it again, I think it, by-and-large, holds up.

Based off a short story written by Clive Barker, the plot is decently interesting and captivating. Bradley Cooper made for a solid main character, and both Vinnie Jones and Roger Bart (who I recognized, after a few scenes, from Hostel: Part II), not to mention Leslie Bibb, made good secondary characters. The lore behind the going-ons was interesting also, though I hear that the original story went a little more in depth.

The special effects were mostly solid, and the heavy gore welcome. Some really brutal killings where in this film, and they were quite enjoyable. The epic fight at the end, too, was pretty fun. But it’s in this realm where my main issues with the movie come from, being the use of CGI more than a few times. Some of the killings just looked rather blah due to the CGI use, and while it’s always nice to see more gore, when it’s tainted with CGI, it sticks out pretty noticeably.

Other than that, though, I think the movie’s pretty good. The ending is generally pretty fun, and while at times I do think the pacing could have been tightened up, The Midnight Meat Train is a more-modern film that I think many horror fans would get a kick out of.

8/10

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

Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996)

Hellraiser Bloodline

Directed by Kevin Yagher [Other horror films: N/A]

Quite possibly better put-together than the third movie, certainly with more ambitious ideas, my problem with Bloodline has always been that it just feels rather soulless.

Cenobites vs. the Merchant family during three different time periods (late 1700’s France, 1990’s New York City, and futuristic space time) didn’t enthrall me. None of the three ages did much to interest me at all. Part of this is possibly because it seems wholly removed from the previous attempts.

And it brings far more questions than it even gets close to answering, such as why Angelique became a Cenobite after the New York sequence, and why exactly didn’t the finale in New York finish up the Cenobite problem. None of these are really answered, and sadly, that’s not all they brought forth without explanation.

Aside from Pinhead, Angelique, and the Siamese Twins, there’s no additional Cenobites in the film, unless you count the Chatterer-based dog, which utterly sucked every time it was on-screen. Doug Bradley did well as Pinhead, again had some good lines (“Do I look like someone who cares what God thinks?”), but Angelique and the Twins bored me to death.

It’s not as though the movie didn’t have potential, especially with such an ambitious story, layered such as it is. There are a few solid performances, such as the aforementioned Bradley, Bruce Ramsay, and Kim Myers (Lisa from the second A Nightmare on Elm Street), but does anyone really stand out? Not quite. Possibly because, like I said, the final product didn’t have much soul.

There was a troubled production behind this film, and the director himself rather disowned it and left before filming was finished, so as to why it occasionally feels as some topics are left untouched on, this strikes me as being the most likely reason.

Regardless, the movie, as it is, isn’t worth much. Many of the death scenes were rather ehh (and that mirror scene was atrocious), and the special effects were, shall we say, not really worth mentioning in a positive light.

I didn’t care much for the third movie. However, if I were asked to choose only the third or fourth to watch again in the future, without much hesitation, despite the ambitions this movie possessed, I’d go with the third. I’ve seen Bloodline something like four times now, and it’s disappointed me for hopefully the last time. Might be worth a watch should you be a Hellraiser fan, but it didn’t do it for me.

5/10

Candyman (1992)

Candy

Directed by Bernard Rose [Other horror films: Paperhouse (1988), Snuff-Movie (2005), sxtape (2013), Frankenstein (2015)]

While not a particularly disjointed movie, this early 1990’s classic does at times a disorienting, if not somewhat dreamy, feel to it.

And this works to Candyman’s credit, as the movie certainly feels a bit deeper than the preceding decade of horror. Atmospheric, yet definitely gory, Candyman’s the type of film that I think has a decent amount of appeal.

Based off a short story by Clive Barker, the plot is decently interesting (and feels a more well-rounded look into myths than Urban Legend did six years later), and takes some interesting turns (such as a one month time-lapse toward the end). Really, I think this helped the audience feel as disoriented as the main character was, while also allowing sympathy.

Speaking of which, Virginia Madsen does a fantastic job as Helen. Throughout the film, she was a joy to watch. Xander Berkeley (who has a couple hundred roles on IMDb, and I know best from his appearance on The X-Files) had a good screen presence also, and I rather liked his calm demeanor (along with his emotional scene at the end). And of course, Tony Todd does a great job as the Candyman, and his voice was just creepily well-done.

The movie is certainly not without it’s downsides. Not enough explanation of exactly what Candyman’s angle is really given. We’re left to make assumptions, which is fine, especially for a more fantasy blend of horror, but it’s still a bit annoying. And while I sort of liked the enclosed feeling the movie had (it kept it’s core characters and expanded on few others), a wider scope of sorts might have been nice.

Still, the movie was a fun fantasy-horror mix (on a side note, director Bernard Rose also directed Paperhouse, from 1988, a very dark fantasy/light horror mix, which I loved), and the gore it possesses should be enough to engage fans of more straight-forward slashers. The ending sequences (with the bonfire, the funeral, and the aftermath) worked extraordinarily well together, as rarely I’ve seen horror that ended with real feeling.

Questions still come to mind about what exactly Candyman’s goal was, but overall, this Clive Barker adaptation is very much worth seeing. The calming Candyman theme is enjoyable, the movie’s atmospheric feel is great, so this really stands out as a highlight of 90’s horror no matter how many time you’ve seen it.

8.5/10