Shark Week (2012)

Directed by Christopher Ray [Other horror films: Reptisaurus (2009), Megaconda (2010), Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus (2010), 2-Headed Shark Attack (2012), Mega Shark vs. Kolossus (2015), 3-Headed Shark Attack (2015), A House Is Not a Home (2015), Circus Kane (2017), Minutes to Midnight (2018)]

I’m not playing around with this one, brahs.

I recorded this off Syfy for some unexplainable reason (well, I guess the reason was that, at the time, I recorded almost any horror movie I hadn’t previously seen, so there’s that), and so I got what I expected, and it’s just another God-awful shark movie by the Asylum, void of almost anything enjoyable.

So a crazy guy captures eight people and puts them on his island, where he’ll make them fight sharks and go through traps because he’s angry about the death of his son (all of these people have a connection with that death in some way). It’s basically Saw: With Sharks, only nothing like that, because as bad as the worst Saw movie was, this was worse.

Acting was horrible throughout. Patrick Bergin and Yancy Butler were the worst offenders, but literally no one did well. Frankie Cullen almost looked like David Arquette, so there’s that, and Joshua Michael Allen was almost a hero worth rooting for, but I didn’t care for a single one of these characters at any time, and even if the acting was atrocious intentionally, it didn’t make it ‘fun.’

Obviously the plot is stupid, and special effects were more like not-special effects (see, this film drained away my clever way with words), and were just horrible throughout. Look at the land-mine scene for a good example. Oh, and speaking of which, whoever did the cinematography should be drawn and quartered. Listen, I don’t have the vocabulary to explain exactly the techniques they use – it was like instead of showing a whole scene, they just cut a second out every other second – it’s jarring, annoying, and entirely unnecessary.

A good example, again, is the landmine scene. A guy steps on a landmine. Another guy comes over. And we get a few quick cuts to his foot, then to guy A’s face, then to guy B’s face. It just looks like amateur hour.

Oh, and the dialogue was horrible too, but there was one joke I laughed at, though, so I’ll give it a point for that.

Also known under the title of Shark Assault (not that a retitling is like to change anyone’s mind about this film), Shark Week is horrible, and I don’t know why I bother.

1.5/10

The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953)

Directed by Eugène Lourié [Other horror films: The Colossus of New York (1958), Behemoth the Sea Monster (1959), Gorgo (1961)]

Giant monster movies aren’t really my go-to, even if they are classic. Sure, I enjoyed The Black Scorpion well enough, and Them! is a classic I grew up with, but in general, giant monsters running amok isn’t really my cup of tea, and as decent as this movie is, especially for being one of the earliest movies of it’s genre, I don’t personally know if I consider it that special.

Certainly the special effects are pretty good for the time (the stop motion can look a little janky, but it has it’s charm), and most of the destruction and chaos are fun to watch (such as that cop getting eaten – I could play that on loop for the rest of my life and count myself a lucky man), and I even like how they sort of build things up to the final confrontation, but despite all that, it’s not a movie I’d really find myself in the position to watch often.

Part of it may be the generic cast. Aside from Cecil Kellaway, who I loved pretty much every minute while on screen, the cast just had a been-there-done-that feel to them, and though I guess the main protagonist was interesting in that he was a foreigner (Paul Hubschmid, who was born in Switzerland), he still didn’t jibe with me, nor did anyone else.

More than anything, though, it’s the story here that just makes me pull away. I don’t want to give off the wrong impression, though – the movie’s perfectly fine, and I’ll be giving it a solid average rating. It’s just that it doesn’t amaze me the way I wish it would, and it also doesn’t have near as much an anti-atomic weapon moral that you’d perhaps expect from movies of this time.

No one can doubt that, in it’s own way, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms is a classic movie, and there are some great scenes (aside from the aforementioned police officer scene, don’t forget that lighthouse being taken down), but it’s not a movie I’ve ever happened to love either time I’ve seen it, for whatever that might be worth.

7/10

Magic (1978)

Directed by Richard Attenborough [Other horror films: N/A]

Certainly a well-known film, and for good reason, Magic is a fantastic psychological horror film with some solid actors, a good story, and great tense scenes.

Obviously, Anthony Hopkins here is just amazing. When it comes to high-caliber actors, he’s not really at the top of my list (though I’ve loved him in plenty of movies, from the action-adventure The Edge to the court-based thriller Fracture), but he does fantastic here, and his tense character is both uncomfortable to watch yet almost impossible to look away from. Burgess Meredith (here two years following a small appearance in Burnt Offerings) is great too, in his chummy agent way.

The scene the two share in which Meredith’s character confronts Hopkins’ about his mental problems is pretty fantastic from beginning to end, and within possesses one of the tensest scenes in the film, where Meredith challenges Hopkins’ to shut up the dummy, Fats, for five minutes. We pretty much know he’s going to break at some point, but even so, it’s a great scene, and Meredith looks like his heart breaks when he sees just how far gone Hopkins is.

Ann-Margret is good here too, of course, and I’ll even give some kudos to Ed Lauter, but really, Burgess Meredith and especially Anthony Hopkins steal the show.

Because the film is based more around the mental decline of a character than anything else, there’s not a whole lot of gore here, but the few murders we get are all decently solid (though I don’t think any of them are really all that memorable, as little as that really means). Certainly the highlight of the film works out great, and even the conclusion is oddly emotional given the situation.

I don’t think that Magic will ever top my list of the 1970’s, because there were so many fantastic and enjoyable films from the decade, but this is definitely a film that’s worth seeing, especially if you want a little something different in your horror, and more so, if you’re a fan of Hopkins.

8/10

This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I find the magic in Magic, brahs.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)

Directed by Victor Fleming [Other horror films: N/A]

When I revisited the 1931 version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed it. I didn’t really have the same hopes for this, one, though, and unfortunately I was probably right in that.

Part of the lack of high hopes was that lightning can often only strike once (which obviously isn’t true, but #fuckitbrahs), and given that I enjoyed the 1931 version quite a bit, I thought it unlikely that I’d enjoy another one, especially one so close in time period, quite as much. Even with the cast, Spencer Tracy being the most impressive, I think this feels more drawn-out than necessary, and it just wasn’t near as much fun to watch.

Certainly seeing Spencer Tracy in his only horror role was interesting. He’s not necessarily an actor I’ve seen a lot from, but he was in some movies I really enjoy, such as the fantastically underrated comedy It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and the solid Bad Day at Black Rock, and seeing him playing Dr. Jekyll was fun (though he looked older than I’d really expect his character to look).

No one else in the cast really adds that much, but Ingrid Bergman, Lana Turner, Donald Crisp, Ian Hunter (of one of the best movies of all time, 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood), and Peter Godfrey all put in perfectly acceptable performances. In fact, I think the scene where Turner’s character is going to Dr. Jekyll for help against the abuse she faces from Mr. Hyde is one of the strongest in the movie, certainly one of the most emotional, so many kudos to Lana Turner for that.

Also, while speaking of Turner, I think that song will be stuck in my head for at least the next few days. When the band commences playing, my feet begin to go. For a rollicking, romping Polka is the jolliest fun I know!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Despite that fun, though, I wouldn’t call this a fun rollick, partially because it unnecessarily almost clocks in at two hours. I didn’t feel that much dragging in the 1931 version (though that’s not to say the film was without flaws), but boy, I certainly felt some here, and it also felt a bit more melodramatic than it really needed to be.

I won’t say that this was a waste of time to watch, because it wasn’t, and I won’t say it’s a bad movie, but I think I will say that the 1931 version is one that I’m more likely to stick to, Spencer Tracy or not.

6/10

Lost Souls (2000)

Directed by Janusz Kaminski [Other horror films: N/A]

I wasn’t really expecting too much out of this, given what little I knew about the plot (an atheist journalist finds out he’s the Antichrist, essentially), and also given this came out a year after End of Days, another Antichrist-based horror film, so after finishing it, Lost Souls basically went how I thought it would.

Certainly I’ll admit that it’s nice to see Winona Ryder (Beetle Juice and Alien: Resurrection) and John Hurt (Doctor Who and Whistle and I’ll Come to You), both of whom did an okay job, and I didn’t mind the other performances, though Ben Chaplin, despite being most of the focus of the film, never really resonated with me.

That said, the story, while occasionally interesting (the most enjoyable portions being the short time spent with Ryder and Chaplin investigating Chaplin’s origins), felt really rushed at times. I mean, that ending just came and went like zat, as my homegirl Fleur would say (that’s a random Harry Potter reference for all my wizard friends out there). There were some aspects in the story worth delving into (though no matter how hard this tried, it couldn’t beat Damien: Omen II in the Antichrist learning his origins), but that didn’t really happen here, even with the pointless twists thrown in.

Also, I just don’t buy for a second that all of those people at the end knew Chaplin’s character was the Antichrist his whole life and were able to keep it a secret. With that many random people, I don’t care how secure the cult, word would get out.

I feel like this movie was trying to cash in on the whole End of Days and Stigmata trend (Stigmata is a film I started once, but never got around to finishing, on a dull side-note I can pass off as interesting), and while I did like this marginally more than End of Days, maybe solely for Ryder’s presence and maybe that assassination attempt (which was almost tense), it’s not a hell of a lot more than below average.

5.5/10

Isle of the Dead (1945)

Directed by Mark Robson [Other horror films: The Seventh Victim (1943), Bedlam (1946)]

I didn’t know what I was getting into when I started this movie because, in truth, while I knew the title, I didn’t really know anything about it. After seeing it, I can’t say I’m disappointed, as I had few expectations going in, but I can say that it’s not quite the movie I was looking for.

Like some horror films, especially horror films related to Val Lewton (who was one of the writers here), there’s a decent amount of build-up before we get to anything that really feels like actual horror. Hell, the director of this picture, Mark Robson, directed a horror film where it almost never gets to actual horror (being 1943’s The Seventh Victim), which is almost a feat in itself. Certainly this movie picks up with the final twenty minutes or so, and it’s not exactly dull beforehand, but given the talent involved here, I expected a bit more.

Obviously Boris Karloff doesn’t really need an introduction. Among my favorite performances of his is that of The Black Cat (a movie I didn’t love at a whole, but I won’t deny he did great in it), Frankenstein, The Body Snatcher, and Bedlam (which, coincidentally, was also directed by Robson), and he’s pretty good here, as a by-the-book general who might be a bit too brutal. Others here do okay, such as Ernst Deutsch, Marc Cramer, and Ellen Drew, but really, Karloff pretty much commands the screen.

Story-wise, there’s an interesting (and, as I’m writing this in late 2020, time-relevant) plot where a group of people are stuck on an island trying to survive a plague. It leads to the expected tension and increased feeling of being on edge, which might be a bit much for some characters, such as that played by, of course, Boris Karloff. It leads to some quality scenes in which characters argue between science and religion (and of course, this being an older movie, my atheist friends and comrades will be disappointed by the illogical nature of the conversations), but ultimately, it doesn’t really get good until a confluence of events at the end.

The finale itself is no doubt pretty solid, though I’d argue it’s not enough to really warrant watching this one again, at least any time soon. Isle of the Dead isn’t a movie that I could see myself throwing into a favorites pile of classics, but I did certainly appreciate the, for lack of a different word, almost atypical presentation and story, and it may just take some more viewings for it to really grow on me.

6/10

Anaconda (1997)

Directed by Luis Llosa [Other horror films: N/A]

I saw Anaconda once before, but I can’t pretend I know exactly how long it’s been. I’d estimate somewhere between ten to 15 years. All I know is that while I knew the plot outline, none of this really rang any bells. And I have to say, in another ten years, I can imagine the same plight falling upon me, as Anaconda doesn’t strike me as being that memorable a film.

Certainly the cast was decently strong. I couldn’t stand Jon Voight here, personally, as it just seemed so obvious from the get-go that he wasn’t exactly trustworthy (and the fact that another individual got stung by a wasp underwater apparently didn’t make anyone any more suspicious of him somehow). I didn’t care for his character, and I just don’t think it worked with the movie (not that the movie works that well on it’s own).

Otherwise, though, the cast is strong. I don’t really know Jennifer Lopez (I recognize the name because it’s a recognizable name, I’m guessing), but I’ve literally not seen her in anything else. She does decent here, but she doesn’t blow me away. A bit better, believe it or not, is Ice Cube, though he’s still not great. I think my favorite performance here was that of Jonathan Hyde, and it’s probably not even because he was exceptionally good, but more due to the fact that I know him from films such as Titanic and Jumanji. I enjoy his character here, no doubt, but I can’t pretend he’s all that important for most of the movie.

Not that it really matters. I was surprised in some ways by just how blah a lot of this movie was. I mean, hell, even the snake looked a lot worse than I ever would have thought it would. Plenty of giant snake films followed this one, such as King Cobra and Python, and I gotta be honest with you guys, I think both of those films had more heart. Sure, the snake here looks better than either of those two films, but this movie had Jennifer Lopez and Jon Voight in it – if the snake didn’t look better, then what the hell are they doing?

Much of the story didn’t really interest me, and while I did like pieces of the setting and some of the musical score throughout the film, more often than not I just wish it were a lot more fun (which is a problem that, as low budget as it was, Python had no problem delivering on). Oh, and Jon Voight’s character winked after being regurgitated by a snake, so that happened. Just an unremarkable experience, and ultimately a shame.

5/10

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

Survivorz (2017)

Directed by Craig Tudor James [Other horror films: Granny of the Dead (2017), Solar Impact (2019)]

I recorded this off Syfy some time ago, and before I started to finally watch it, I looked it up on IMDb to gauge some feeling of what I was going to watch. At the time I read this movie’s entry, though, it had an astonishingly low 51 votes, which blew me away then and still surprises me now. How can a movie that was on Syfy a handful of times have such a low amount of ratings? Are people that tired of zombie films? [I have delved deep, though, and after my review, have found the answer].

Well, no matter the reason, I feel that the now 52 of us who have actually rated the film were the unlucky ones, because Survivorz is almost intolerably a pointless movie.

Everyone’s seen zombie movies (apparently everyone outside the characters in this movie, I guess) that are just following all of the expectations and adding nothing of their own into it. It’s for this reason that, to me, many zombie films just seem repetitive and harder to really come into their own and feel enjoyable. Some movies can definitely manage it, such as 28 Days Later… and Zombieland, but I feel that easily 60% of the zombie movies that have come out past 2000 have been on the other side of good, and this movie has to be one of the worst offenders of that.

Certainly this movie had the budget to have some potential. I don’t know exactly how much they had to play around with, but most of the shots in the film look well-shot, and though the special effects aren’t great, this film wasn’t made by a bunch of teens on a camcorder (and in all fairness, most films like that have more heart than Survivorz does). So it had potential, but the story and characters? Oh, fuck me with a whirling lawnmower.

Listen, I liked the setting, at least. A bunch of younger American kids in London meant we still had to deal with a mainly-American cast, but seeing a slightly different locale added maybe a little spice to the movie. It didn’t make any difference, as the story done here would have played out exactly the same in the States, but hey, spice.

Here’s my problem. Early on in the film, a woman comes stumbling in from the street, and she is visibly wounded (she was bit in the early stages of the zombie outbreak). Now, they don’t know she’s been bitten, of course, and they try to help her, but of course she turns and attacks them, and they rightly defend themselves. That’s fine.

Later on, one of the guys in the group, Gabe, gets bit. It’s bothersome when they keep telling him “it’ll be okay” when he’s obviously showing the same symptoms as the woman before, but it’s been a few hours, and he’s a friend, so I get it. When he starts attacking them, though, and is killed, one of the guys is like “Oh, I wish you were alive” or something bullshit like that. What, he wishes the zombie was alive so he could too be infected and/or eaten?

Then Benny gets bit (sorry for the spoilers, by the way, but this movie doesn’t exactly set out to surprise anyone, as the two people who make it to the end are the exact two people you would expect), and his girlfriend is like “oh it’s okay” and the others are like “oh, it’s okay” and the fact that they care so much means that he won’t actually be infected.

That’s a joke, because he is infected, and he eventually does the smart thing and locked himself in a room before he starts attacking his girlfriend. On a side-note, it took Gabe maybe five minutes before he became a mindless zombie, but it took Benny at least ten minutes (long enough for him to propose to his girlfriend, and then hide with her from another zombie, then talk to her for an additional few minutes), so that’s great. But when he locks himself in the room, his girlfriend wants him to come out, and the others too find it a hard pill to swallow that he’s protecting them from himself.

All of this could be explained if no one in this universe has ever seen a zombie movie, which has got to be the case, because I feel like if something like an onset of zombies were happening here (which, this is written in 2020, so let’s not jinx it), I would know immediately after the first person bitten and turned that “Hey, it’s a lost cause. Sorry you were bit, but we need to kill you.” It’s harsh, but there’s no other options unless they can be locked in a room and wait for a potential cure (more on that soon, though). But no, these people must think the power of friendship will prevent their friends from turning into zombies after being bit, and it annoys the fuck out of me.

Later on, they meet a guy whose wife was bitten. Now, he can’t kill his wife, so he has her tied up in her room with the hopes that a cure can be found and she’ll be fine. This isn’t a bad idea as long as he is upfront and tells everyone to not go into that room, and ensures the room is secure. He goes into the room himself, though, because that’s where he keeps his firearm, and lo and behold, his wife breaks out and bites him.

Earlier on in the movie, the group of friends see a zombie woman with a baby carrier around her neck, and the two women (played by Penelope Shipley, the one British group member and Lucy Aarden) want to “save the baby.”

Slams head on desk and dies, then revives to finish shitting on this movie

If there is a zombie apocalypse, and there is no safe way to save anyone, it sucks, but if you care about surviving, you cannot set out on a lost cause to save people. It’s a fucking baby. It would only be a hindrance, and they don’t even know if it’s actually alive (plot twist – it’s not, it’s some freaky zombie baby, because of course it is), so why even discuss trying to save it? 

Takes a deep breath

So obviously, I have some problems with the story here. What I will say is that I actually rather liked the hopelessness that this movie showcases. Even though there are three survivorz at the end (the third one, if you’re wondering, is the sister of Shipley’s character, who was miraculously alive), there’s not a hell of a lot of hope for them, because they’re trapped on a church tower with no food or water and hundreds of zombies surrounding them, so they’re probably screwed.

Unless they’re shot down by the helicopter, because that ending even made things more suspenseful somehow (??????) why

Survivorz was almost entirely pointless. I thought that there was some potential, and the fact that only 50 others had taken the time to rate it (and on average, the rating at the time I watched this was actually a 5.4/10) added to the mystique, but I look at a movie like Isle of the Dead, which I abhorred, and I at least can admit to myself that that movie tried to do something almost interesting. This movie really didn’t. Fuck it. Fuck life. Fuck zombies.

3/10

And now for the spicy research.

Up near the director’s name, I list another movie he directed, being Solar Impact (2019). Now, it’s important to note that the IMDb entry for Survivorz doesn’t list the director – I got that information from Moviefone.

Solar Impact is the same movie as Survivorz. Sort of. I mean, I’m guessing it’s mostly the same – I watched the trailer and I recognized most of the scenes. Under alternate titles of Solar Impact, Survivorz is listed as an ‘working title for the UK.’

Here’s the rub – IMDb lists Solar Impact as 2019, and I know for a fact that I recorded Survivorz off Syfy in either 2017 or 2018.

I don’t know why the movie is listed twice. I don’t know if Solar Impact adds anything. It could simply be a mistake. But as far as I’m concerned, until IMDb addresses this, these are two separate movies.

Also, while Survivorz does only have 57 total ratings, Solar Impact has 637, which is something I found worth addressing.

This has been IMDb delving with Jiggy. See you next time there’s an issue with multiple entries of movies.

From Hell It Came (1957)

Directed by Dan Milner [Other horror films: The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues (1955)]

So a member of an island tribe is killed, and he comes back for revenge as a murderous tree? Good stuff, good stuff.

To be honest, while the monster itself is beyond goofy (the design for the tree creature just looks incredibly silly), I thought a good portion of this was at least enjoyable, and I definitely didn’t have a poor time with it.

Some of this is due to the setting, being a small island filled with restless natives while American scientists are trying to research a localized plague. To be fair, the plague doesn’t really play into the story at all, but I did like the idea of the scientists being worried about being overtaken by the natives, given that there’s only three of them and God knows how many members of the island tribe. It gives off almost a tense vibe at points (though I noted that those poison darts also never came into play).

None of the leads were particularly impressive, though. I think John McNamara was the most interesting, as Tod Andrews’ character rubbed me the wrong way with some sexist remarks and Tina Carver, despite being a scientist, still came across as second best to the other doctors. At least we got some humor from Linda Watkins, who’s British commentary cracked me up (and worth mentioning that Watkins was born in Massachusetts, so I wonder if she spent some time abroad to get that accent).

I can understand why this movie’s gotten rather negative reception, but I found much of it more charming than disappointing. I don’t think by any means From Hell It Came was a good movie – it’s still below average in my eyes – but I did personally have fun with it at times, if only for it’s ludicrous story, so take that for what you will.

6/10