The Monster Maker (1944)

The Monster Maker

Directed by Sam Newfield [Other horror films: The Mad Monster (1942), Dead Men Walk (1943), The Flying Serpent (1946)]

This is around the fourth time I’ve seen this film, and for the most part, I always have considered it around average. Not my cup of tea, but certainly not bad, in short.

The story is a moderately simple one: A crazed doctor infects a pianist with a deliberating disease, disfiguring him, and will cure him only if he can marry the pianist’s daughter, hence, becoming the ‘Monster Maker.’

J. Carrol Naish does a fine job as our Dr. Markoff, and the rest of the cast is decent too, though some hysterics from some of the actresses does tend to get on my nerves. There is a slightly boring portion halfway through the film, an eight-minute sequence of the doctor unleashing a gorilla on his assistant (he believes her to be a liability to his plan), but there is still some decent suspense present.

Of course, being a 40’s horror film, the ending is a bit sudden, but I was rather happy with the conclusion. Oh, another positive note – even if this movie isn’t your type of film, it clocks in at only and hour and two minutes. Quick to finish and easy to digest. I don’t love The Monster Maker, but for Poverty Row entertainment, it’s a fine movie.

7/10

Hatchet (2006)

Hatchet

Directed by Adam Green [Other horror films: Frozen (2010), Hatchet II (2010), Chillerama (2011, segment ‘The Diary of Anne Frankenstein’), Digging Up the Marrow (2014), Victor Crowley (2017)]

Hatchet’s not nearly as good a film as I remember it being, but it’s still mostly amusing and a fun romp. I can’t ignore some of the problems Hatchet has, though overall, I think the film’s still enjoyable, if not a bit below average.

My biggest personal gripe is that some of the scenes have a bit too much comedy in them. The character Marcus, played by Dion Richmond, was just too much, and though he had some solid quotes (“You look like you’ve been molested by wolves!”), I could have done without a lot of his antics.

Otherwise, the rest of the cast was okayish. The main character, played by Joel David Moore, was definitely a bit on the awkward side, but he made for an interesting lead. Amara Zaragoza’s Marybeth had a bit of depth to her, but her (understandably) emotional moments toward the end bothered me a bit.

Of course, there’s cameos from both Robert Englund and Tony Todd. I think Todd’s was quite a bit more amusing than Englund’s, but both are fun to see (and add to the retro feeling that Hatchet was going for). Richard Riehle was fun in his role, and Parry Shen too had a decent performance.

It’s the gore here, though, more than the characters, that bring the film attention, and for good reason. Aside from the one off-screen kill (which was suspenseful in it’s own right), you have some really solid and gory kills here, the most spectacular probably being the jaw and head being ripped in half. There’s also someone’s head getting twisted backwards, along with someone’s spine being ripped out, along with someone’s torso halved, along with someone’s arms being ripped off. I mean, this isn’t your grandfather’s horror movie – it came to play.

The budget here is noticeably limited, but Hatchet definitely did well with what they had. In classic slasher fashion, they had a decently tragic origin for Victory Crowley (portions of which reminded me of Pumpkinhead), and I think it really brought his character into a sympathetic light. It doesn’t excuse the wholesale slaughter of anyone who enters the swamp, but there you go.

And on that note, the setting here, a swamp, is definitely appreciated. I always wished there was a classic slasher set in a swamp, because I think there’s a lot of creepy potential with such a setting (and no, I don’t count Eaten Alive). Hatchet may not be from the 1980’s, but hey, I’ll take it.

If there’s one thing along with the comedy that sort of throw me off, it’s the inconclusive cliffhanger of an ending. I sort of see the appeal, but I wanted a bit more than that. Still, Hatchet is a decently fun movie, and though I do find it ever-so-slightly below average, I can still see myself giving it a go every few years.

6.5/10

Hatchet was covered on episode #29 of Fight Evil’s podcast, so if you want to listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this, give it a go.

Night of the Lepus (1972)

Night of the Lepus

Directed by William F. Claxton [Other horror films: N/A]

This film isn’t one of those 70’s classics people often talk about. It’s not an amazing movie. It’s a bit silly, even. But I did have a blast seeing it again. It begins on a serious note, an almost documentary-like feeling, about rabbit overpopulation, and the negative effects it can cause for man. And the somber tone continues throughout (which can only be expected, given this is from the 1970’s). This movie doesn’t have much going for it in terms of gore, as you can imagine, though there is one scene, showing the remains of a mangled body, that gives us something.

But we do have some pretty likable characters here. And we have (amusing) scenes of rabbits attacking people. DeForest Kelley’s role was one I enjoyed, and even the sheriff (Paul Fix) was a pretty decent guy. It’s a bit difficult to understand exactly why the rabbits are so dangerous, but hey, it’s the 1970’s. Truth be told, Night of the Lepus isn’t a great movie, but if you can lay back and enjoy 70’s ecological horror films, you could do much worse. Pretty average overall, but there are some things to enjoy in this one.

7/10

Buried Alive (1990)

Buried Alive

Directed by Frank Darabont [Other horror films: Nightshift Collection (1994, segment ‘The Woman in the Room’), The Mist (2007)]

This was a very solid television horror film, though I suspect many would see it as purely a thriller.

First thing I noticed was the familiar faces in the cast, three in particular: Our main character, played by Tim Matheson (the vice president for a good portion of The West Wing), William Atherton (most well-known for being the annoying, dickish reporter from the first two Die Hard movies), and Hoyt Axton (Billy’s father in Gremlins). Truth be told, aside from Jennifer Jason Leigh (who was in The Hitcher), these three characters are about the only important ones, so it’s fantastic to have actors that I recognize from other works.

The story, while not overly creative, was solidly put together, and rather suspenseful at some points. Since it’s a television movie, it’s extremely tame, but it does get its point across. Matheson does a fantastic job in his role, as does Leigh, his cheating wife. Some scenes struck me as comical (Matheson’s screaming while he’s having a heart attack), but overall, this was a very enjoyable film, and the ending was much better than I had thought it would be. A good film here.

8/10

Spiders (2000)

Spiders

Directed by Gary Jones [Other horror films: Mosquito (1994), Crocodile 2: Death Swamp (2002), Jolly Roger: Massacre at Cutter’s Cove (2005), Ghouls (2008), Boogeyman 3 (2008), Lightning Strikes (2009), Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan (2013)]

Spiders is a moderately low-quality romp, with ridiculous characters and rather dated-looking spider CGI. The story is slightly unique, in that the first hour and ten minutes take place in an underground military base, but for the final twenty minutes, the setting becomes a college campus and finally, the city as a whole. The last two portions seemed sort of jammed in there, just to make the film a bit longer – they certainly don’t feel in place.

That’s not to say this movie isn’t enjoyable – if you like lower-quality monster movies, then this one seems right down your alley. The “aliens” at the beginning of the film are hilarious, and the overacting of Mark Phelan, once you get used to it, is pretty amusing. And like I said, it’s just a ridiculous movie overall. Not bad, not great. Not a waste of time, though, so I guess it’s about slightly below average.

6.5/10

Hostel (2005)

Hostel

Directed by Eli Roth [Other horror films: Cabin Fever (2002), Hostel: Part II (2007), The Green Inferno (2013), Knock Knock (2015)]

Each time I see this film, I continue to be impressed. The story is not necessarily overly creative, but it is well crafted (especially the switch half-way through the movie, in which we end up with an unexpected protagonist). The gore is a pretty decent touch also. Not only that, but the movie has a pretty satisfying ending, which is rather unexpected from a movie that is as grimy as this one.

Paxton’s not a character that I overly enjoy for most of the film, but his depth does grow as the story goes on, and by the end, you’d be hard-pressed to not be rooting for him. Insofar as the torture aspect, it’s pretty solid. Not overdone, either. While it’s definitely shocking the first time around, this movie doesn’t drown itself in unnecessary gore, which I applaud it for. There are downsides present, but truth be told, I don’t believe there are all that many. Only thing that comes to mind right now is that I wish some of the characters had a slower death than they did. Alas, we can’t always get what we want. The ending makes up for that, though.

7.5/10

Hate Crime (2012)

Hate Crime

Directed by James Cullen Bressack [Other horror films: My Pure Joy (2011), Theatre of the Deranged (2012, segments ‘Andy’s Theatre of Deranged’ & ‘Speak Easy’), 13/13/13 (2013), To Jennifer (2013), Theatre of the Deranged II (2013, segment ‘Unmimely Demise’), Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lampreys (2014), Pernicious (2014), Grindsploitation (2016, segment ‘Dr. Suess’s There’s a Wocket in My Pocket’), Bethany (2017), Welcome to Hell (2018, segment ‘Family Time’), Virus of the Dead (2018, segment ‘Routine Stop’), Blood Craft (2019)]

The plot of this found footage film is simple. A Jewish family (mother, father, and three children) are new to the neighborhood, and are attacked by three brutal Neo-Nazis.

We have some pretty shocking scenery in this film, the two most shocking being the surprising death of a character early on and one of the male children being forced to rape his mother. There’s an eye-gouging in there too, along with a swastika being burned into a boy’s cheek, but the two scenes I mentioned before strike me as far more brutal. Really, there’s not much going on here – the break-in happens literally two minutes into the movie, and from there on out, it’s a bloodbath.

The three perpetrators are despicable people (and on cocaine half the time), and their actors do the job well. The family is sympathetic not because we know much about them, but because of the heinous acts being done toward them (during the credits, though, we’re given a little glimpse into the family via video of them moving to their new house).

My one gripe is the ending – after all of this is done, we’re presented with the “This video was found by someone. Those who committed these crimes were arrested, and are facing multiple life sentences.” Instead of playing it off as the movie it is, they make it out to be a real-life event, which just annoys the hell of out me. If found footage movies stopped using this tactic as much as they seem to, I’d be a much happier guy.

Hate Crime is a shocking film, no doubt. I got very little joy out of watching it. It does what it means to (at the end, it lists some statistics on hate crimes), but it’s not a movie that you’d watch multiple times, I feel. Just once is enough.

6.5/10

Halloween (2007)

Halloween

Directed by Rob Zombie [Other horror films: House of 1000 Corpses (2003), The Devil’s Rejects (2005), Halloween II (2009), The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009), The Lords of Salem (2012), 31 (2016), 3 from Hell (2019)]

I cannot express how much I despise the first 50 minutes of this film – I always have. Because I completely understand why Michael would kill his stepfather, his sister and her boyfriend. I can’t imagine a more annoying family than that. And therein lies the problem – I don’t want to understand why Michael is the way he is. It’s not necessary.

From the fourth Halloween film, Donald Pleasence’s character said it best: he’s evil on two legs. And while I appreciate what Zombie was trying to do, and I know he was told to make it his own, I cannot pretend that I enjoy the first half of this film. From the song “Love Hurts” to the quote “It hides my ugliness,” I just can’t help but cringe.

It does get better, though. Marginally. But Laurie’s character here is not the innocent girl from the original Halloween (her first scene, where she mimics being molested, shows us that) – her two friends are worse. In fact, there are few sympathetic characters here – funnily enough, I think the most sympathetic are Laurie’s parents, and we see what happened to them (same can be said for Danny Trejo’s character). We have some worthwhile sequences in this film, such as Laurie trying to escape from Michael nearing the end, but too much here just bothered me. Truth be told, the best character had such little time, and that, of course, would be Joe Grizzly. This might have some decent gore, but it’s just a disappointing movie, and a disappointing remake.

6/10

End of Days (1999)

End of Days

Directed by Peter Hyams [Other horror films: The Relic (1997)]

Arnold Schwarzenegger never did much for me as an actor, and End of Days, though I’ve seen it three times now, never did much for me as a movie. Now, that being said, this is a mostly enjoyable film. But things fall apart at the end. Satan chasing after Arnold’s character and the girl who is supposed to deliver his spawn doesn’t do it for me.

It’s just run-of-the-mill, especially when other Satanic movies around the same time are so much better (The Ninth Gate, I’m looking at you). Honestly, I don’t have much more to say. This movie isn’t necessarily bad, but I wouldn’t go in expecting much.

5.5/10

Salem’s Lot (2004)

Salems Lot

Directed by Mikael Salomon [Other horror films: N/A]

Here’s a little secret for you all: so far in my horror movie viewing, I’ve not yet seen the original Salem’s Lot. I’ve been meaning to, but it’s never happened. What I have seen twice is this 2004 adaptation, starring Rob Lowe (of The West Wing fame). And overall, I am pretty pleased with it.

Many of the characters are enjoyable, and the acting is solid; toward the end, the little vampire-killing group was enjoyable to observe, though I wish they were seen together a few more times than they were. Being a mini-series, it’s pretty lengthy, much like the original (both over two hours, I believe), but I was quite happy with what I saw.

Oh, there’s the occasional subplot or scene that didn’t do much for me, but those were far outweighed by stuff I enjoyed. Andre Braugher’s character, Matt Burke, for example, was a fine character, but not necessarily overly likable. The ending was somewhat reminiscent of Fright Night, where they go to the main house and hope to finish the vampires off, which was sort of fun. I’ve no major complaints, really, and I feel this is worth a watch, despite the changes they made from King’s original novel.

8/10