Werewolves Within Movie Review

Werewolves Within ©Ubisoft Film and Television

Werewolves Within 2021
Director: Josh Ruben
Ubisoft Film and Television

Newly appointed Forest Ranger Finn Wheeler (Sam Richardson) heads to Beaverfield, a small scenic town whose residents are currently divided by a pipeline proposal presented by a slick oilman Sam Parker. Finn meets the sweet and helpful postal worker Cecily, who helps him navigate his first day and introduces him to the town’s most eclectic residents, including estranged couple Trisha and Pete, wealthy transplants Devon and Joaquim, blue-collar besties Gwen and Marcus, activist environmentalist Dr. Jane Ellis, isolated hunter Emerson, and local lodge owner Jeanine, whose husband has mysteriously disappeared recently.

Werewolves Within ©Ubisoft Film and Television

When a blizzard knocks out all power, the residents take shelter in the lodge. The next day Finn finds a generator ripped wide open and a mutilated body under the lodge porch, which could be Jeanine’s husband. Tensions over the future pipeline continue, as Finn investigates the mystery beast terrorizing the town. Does Forest Ranger truly have a sinister werewolf on his hands or is there a more down-to-earth explanation for these heinous crimes?

Veep alumni Sam Richardson leads an all-star cast in this campy horror-comedy based on the hit video game of the same name. While the video game was set in a medieval village, this movie takes place in modern times. The plot may not seem entirely original but entertains nonetheless. It’s funny, quirky, spooky fun, not chainsaw terrifying blood splatter, and it works perfectly with the witty banter between the characters. Filmed just before the pandemic hit, Director Josh Ruben shot on location in Hudson Valley, near Woodstock in New York, and used mostly practical effects and make-up for the monster and scares. Ruben, known for his successful meta horror-comedy Scare Me for Shudder, makes the most of a low-budget creature feature and impresses audiences with his creativity and wit.

Much in the way of Bruce Campbell’s legendary hero Ash from the Evil Dead series, Finn is not your typical hero. He’s just an ordinary everyday man who finds himself suddenly dealing with an extremely dangerous supernatural problem, maybe. The always solid funnyman Sam Richardson has built an impressive resume playing affable, offbeat characters and he aces the assignment yet again.

Sam Richardson, Werewolves Within ©Ubisoft Film and Television

The town residents are basically a who’s who in television comedy. There are a lot of familiar faces here, including Groundlings and American Dad star Michaela Watkins, What We Do in the Shadow’s Harvey Guillen, American Horror Story heartthrob Cheyenne Jackson, and Orange Is the New Black and Stranger Thing’s comedienne Catherine Curtin, just to name a few. Everyone is a suspect. Everyone is a potential victim. And, they all equal parts funny and annoying in their own way, viewers aren’t sure if we should root for their survival or their slaughter.

Werewolves Within ©Ubisoft Film and Television

The real treat here is Milana Vayntrub though. Best known as the AT&T spokesperson Lily, Milana once again uses her charm and girl-next-door likeability to keep viewers guessing whether she’s a misunderstood postal worker or a wolf under sheep’s clothing. I’ve never seen her in anything but a phone commercial so it was delightful to see her get a chance to shine a little and show off her comedic chops.

Milana Vayntrub, Werewolves Within ©Ubisoft Film and Television

All in all, Werewolves Within is better than most horror movies based on video games. It’s a smartly written whodunnit that keeps the twists and turns going all the way to the end. This is a great date night or just staying home on a Saturday night movie.

Werewolves Within ©Ubisoft Film and Television

Hellmouth Movie Review

Strange Films

Hellmouth 2014

Hellmouth, Strange Films 2014

Director Joe Geddes teams up with Pontypool writer and lead actor Stephen McHattie for visually stunning spooky adventure about a terminally ill grave digger who travels to hell to rescue the beautiful woman he falls in love with.

This highly-stylized CGI endeavor pays homage to 1950’s horror and sci-fi cinema, but lacks the campy fun of any such movies. Truth is this is more of an offbeat fantasy drama than horror and it takes itself quite seriously, which would have been fine if the story had made any sense. Despite the eye-popping visuals, the movie slogs along without actually going anywhere, which is a real shame for Stephen McHattie, who does a fine job playing Charlie Baker, a graveyard caretaker suffering from episodic pran disease (brain clunk). In addition to his head pounding pain, Charlie endures daily harassment from local children and starts to notice some bizarre vandalism happening in the cemetery. Problem is Charlie can’t be sure if this isn’t all an illusion. Charlie is tired of looking after the dead and wants to move to Florida, but after a visit from his employer, Charlie learns he’ll have to delay retirement for reasons not entirely clear and inherits a box with a mysterious map, which he can’t stand more than 10 feet away from. While on an afternoon drive, he meets an alluring woman named Fay, who is running away from an unseen force. The two quickly fall in love and Hell doesn’t seem to like it very much. Fay disappears just as quickly as she showed up. 

Hellmouth, Strange Films 2014

The movie then introduces a subplot involving a squirrelly policeman on the hunt for two dangerous escaped criminals from the local insane asylum. The copper tells Charlie several small and strange tales of the cemetery’s more notorious residents. These small stories are perhaps the most interesting part of the whole movie. Unfortunately, the escaped criminals storyline goes nowhere fast, and soon after, Charlier Baker uses the mystery map to find his way into Hell, where he battle the forces of evil to win back his beloved Fay.

Hellmouth, Strange Films 2014

Unfortunately, the Sin City-style visuals and amazing set design are not enough to carry this one. I didn’t really have any problem with any of the other actors, particularly Julian Richings, who I felt was criminally underused here, but the characters needed more fleshing out and more clarity to their relevance to the main story. The end is one big beautiful muddled mess.

Hellmouth, Strange Films 2014

Horror fans won’t find any scares here, but for those who want weirdness and to witness some really cool visuals, this one’s for you.

Cryptid Monster Marathon – Monstrous, The Retreat, and Dawn of the Beast Movie Reviews

After missing my own self-imposed deadlines in January and February, where I was to present a movie review for the month, I am determined not to miss March! Thus, I decided to triple down and do three movie reviews in celebration of our legendary creatures theme.

The truth is, earlier this March, I watched Dawn of the Beast, but it was only when I started writing the review did I realize the movie was actually the third cryptid monster film, following Monstrous and The Retreat, all directed by Bruce Wemple. Naturally, I had to watch the other two films.

Armed with a great love for campy horror films and his trusty cast of relative unknowns, New York director Bruce Wemple creates fresh horror that makes the socially conscious Gen Z crowd proud. All boxes checked. Wemple knows all the horror tropes, and these films felt like proper indie horror movies. There was decent acting, strong female characters, and lots of action. The camerawork makes good use of those shadows, close-up shots, and practical effects to perpetuate the scares and despite the low budget, the production quality was pretty good. I was even forgiving of the few man-in-a-monster-suit shots, which were super cheesy, but hey look, considering the third film was entirely developed during the pandemic, all of us should be impressed by that. I’ll be honest, I never gave much thought to Adirondack mountains before watching these films, and whatever location Wemple chose to shoot on location is some damn beautiful country. If I wasn’t so scared of the real Wendigo, I’d run out and buy a Winnebago.

The Retreat, 2020 (377 Films)

There’s a lot of good psychological horror here too, especially in the second film, The Retreat. The biggest flaw of this cryptid trilogy was the films suffered from having too much story. I guess having too much story is better than having no story, right? It’s just these long drawn out or overly heavy exposition scenes take away our monster time, and when you make a feature film starring these two legendary creatures, you have got to have more monster!!

I should also mention upfront, each of these movies is stand-alone. You’ll understand each of them on their own just fine, but movie marathons are so much more fun.

Continue reading “Cryptid Monster Marathon – Monstrous, The Retreat, and Dawn of the Beast Movie Reviews”

Thanksgiving Night Movies

The turkey is cooked, the pie devoured, and the guests are all passed out in the living room…you survived Thanksgiving…time now to kick back with a cocktail and watch some really bad horror films filled with annoying victims who didn’t.

Blood Rage – currently on Tubi
Nothing says Thanksgiving like a murderous bad twin on a rampage. Run-of-the-mill low-budget 80s slasher, good for laughs and showcasing the once impressive state-of-the-art gory special effects of that time.

Thankskilling – currently on Pluto
For those wondering what would happen if our turkeys turned on us and tortured us with bad puns before killing us, this one’s for you. Exactly what you’d expect for $5,000 Kickstarter film that promises boobs in the first few opening seconds of the film.

Black Friday – currently on On Demand
Bruce Campbell. Zombies. Black Friday hell. I mean, what more do you need? Okay, fine, a group of toy store employees fight off hordes of Black Friday shoppers infected by some alien parasite. It’s a decent horror-comedy and like all good Zombie films, it has a little something to say about consumerism, customer service, and corporate greed.
It’s campy, it’s fun, it’s a gross-out fest, and it’s a Thanksgiving film. Make sure dinner is settled in your tummy before watching.

Kristy – currently on Tubi
Yes, I watched this because of the name, but it turned out to be a great thriller about a evil killer cult that randomly stalks a girl named Justine spending her Thanksgiving break on campus alone, believing her to be a “Kristy” aka a follower of God. It is a bit of a slog in the beginning and the story is not exactly original or even scary. That said, it is nicely shot and the acting is decent. Once things pop off, the cat and mouse chase is enough to keep the tension going. This isn’t a slasher per say, but I was definitely rooting for Justine to be a final girl.

Pilgrim – Only on Hulu
Hulu’s Into the Dark season 2 has given us some great horror for all holidays and this is another truly creepy gem, beautifully shot, well-acted and genuinely scary. I should probably mention that I think historically pilgrims for real were evil people. Why someone thought to invite weirdos to re-enact the first Thanksgiving is beyond me. The question we keep asking throughout the film is whether these pilgrims are some crazy religious cult or demonic souls returned from the netherworld. This is definitely my idea of Thanksgiving hell.

Throwback Thursday: Night of the Comet

Night of the Comet (1984)

I saved the best for last.  If you ever hear a Cyndi Lauper song in a horror film, this is peak 80s in all its surreal neon day-glowiness!

At face value, Night of the Comet is a mindless mash-up of several low-budget B-movie horror Sci-fi gems from the 50-60s, but look closer, and you’ll see Writer-director Thom Eberhardt actually penned a smart, witty satire, in tribute of such fine films. The question asked, what happens when two valley girls are the only two people left after a comet wipes off everyone on the planet?  If your first guess was ‘they go mall shopping and then get attacked by zombies’, give yourself a prize!

Two sisters Regina and Samantha played by Catherine-Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney, are more than just gum popping, ripped-denim, leg warmer wearing bimbos full of sass. As if!
They’re actually pretty smart, and they manage to fight off armed invaders with Uzis in a sinister turf war, blood-seeking evil scientists with one-foot in the grave, and of course, comet-induced flesh-eating zombies, that always seem to come outta nowhere, all while working through why always-absent daddy married that money-hungry bitch Doris.
Level one up for the ladies of the eighties!

It’s true, there’s a lot of “family drama” with our feather-haired heroes, and less zombies than an average Walking Dead episode these days, but there’s still plenty of fun-filled comedy and bursts of non-gory action.  That’s right, no gore in this one, which is probably while the movie missed its mark as a really great horror film, but horror fanatics can’t live on blood-splatter alone. We need something to break up the monotony. If your eighties Halloween movie marathon contains Nightmare on Elm Street, any Hellraisers or early Maniacs, or John Carpenter’s The Thing, consider throwing in this campy zombie romp as a breather. You’ll thank me later.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Throwback Thursday: Horror 3D

Anyone who follows film, knows the history of 3D is a bit murky. Some people just don’t take to it. During the 80s, 3D made a short-lived comeback with big name franchises such as Friday the 13th Part III, Amityville 3D, and the biggest money-maker of the three, Jaws 3D. All of the films were critically panned and stand out from their predecessors as the campiest of all. I don’t know if you could call them B-movies. Beside the weirdo 3D effects, they were hella expensive and mad glossy, but everything about those stories were heinous. Barf!

This isn’t a best of horror list though, this is a best of 80s horror, and we gotta embrace the fact that for like two hours, 3D was totally gnarly!

Friday the 13th, Part III (1982)

Believe it or not, Friday the 13th was supposed to be a trilogy and this was the movie to end it all. It marked the first time Jason Vorhees appears in his signature hockey goalie mask and for sure that had something to do with the film’s growing popularity, enough to convince studio suits to keep making movies.

As far as 80s connections go, I’ll be honest, the campground setting makes it harder to distinguish the time era, but take one look at those feathered locks and cashmere sweaters, now, you know you’re time traveling.

Amityville 3D (1983)

This movie was sort of an anomaly of the franchise. At the time of filming, a legal dispute between the famed Lutz family and studio producers broke out and the result was the film featured brand new fictional characters and the story didn’t follow either of its predecessors. Also, supposedly, the home owner at the time was totally being a spaz and the studio had to make physical changes to the infamous haunted house.

Sadly, the film was not well-received by fans or critics. The 3D was reportedly bad compared to technology used by other 3D films of the time, and so, it was all just a major bummer. We did get the future America’s sweetheart and Aunt Becky playing with Ouija Boards in jean jackets and feathered hair, conjuring slimy demon creatures from Hell, like, it doesn’t get more 80s than that.

Jaws 3D (1983)

I think Jaws 3D had the toughest sell considering how beloved the first film was to audiences. They did get to keep the fancy disposable cardboard 3D glasses and I pity anyone who didn’t keep those amazing souveniors, cuz they totally still work. Of course, because televisions weren’t equipped with 3D capabilities at the time, thus, the name of Jaws 3D changed to Jaws III once it hit home video and there were no 3D versions until the early 2000s.

Unfortunately, not even the magnificence of Louis Gossett, Jr. and the curiously coked-out Dennis Quaid performance could save Jaws 3D from being anything more than fish food. If you want real scares, stick with the original, Jaws, a magnum opus of horror filmmaking. For frivolous fun, under the sea in 3D shots, a fantastic historical look at Sea World parks before Blackfish backlash killed their business, and great 80s vibes, including water-skiing stunts, this is the movie for you!

I think to truly appreciate the small strides 3D has made over the years, one should watch the even older scary movies, like House of Wax, starring Vincent Price. That was the first feature length 3D film with stereophonic sound. Arguably the most famous 3D movie ever was Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) and its 3D spawn, Revenge of the Creature (1955), was the only 3D sequel of a 3D movie of the time. That was major back then. Other notable 3D horror films are It Came from Outer Space (1953), The Mad Magician (1954), The Tingler (1959), House on Haunted Hill (1959), and 13 Ghosts (1960).

What you do think about 3D movies? Hit me up in comments section or tag me on Instagram or Twitter @HalloweenHaiku9 and let me know your thoughts.

Trick or Treat Tuesday: Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Full-length, remastered HD version of Night of the Living Dead,
directed by George A. Romero, brought to us by Public Domain Films

Ever wonder how the most popular zombie film of all time, Night of the Living Dead ended up in U.S. public domain? Well, it happened after the original theatrical distributor, Walter Reade Organization, failed to replace a necessary copyight notice on the title card of the print of the film, after changing the movie’s title from Night of the Flesh Eaters to Night of the Living Dead.(1) 

According to U.S. copyright laws, any work made or published before 1923 automatically enters the public domain. According to the 1909 Copyright Act, all creative works needed to have a sufficient copyright notice. That’s why most works are accompanied by the following symbol © and a year.(2) The act has since been updated, but at the time of its release, Night of the living Dead needed to follow this simple rule. 

As a result of the distribution company’s error, George A. Romero immediately lost the rights to his film, and subsequently, millions of dollars in lost revenue, advertising and merchandising. In fact, up until Night of the Living Dead, zombie movies were about mind-controlled humans through manipulation, sorcery or voodoo. Romero was actually the first to create an undead flesh-eating creature that preys on the living. So, we can pretty much speculate that if Romero had retained the rights to Night of the Living Dead, every zombie book, film, TV and video game would have been controlled by George A. Romero.

Romero often expressed that losing the rights to his first feature film was one of his biggest regrets. The famed horror director passed away in 2017, after watching his creation grow into a monsterous sub-genre of horror. Strangely enough, Night of the Living Dead falling into public domain helped make zombies more popular, inspired creativity across the globe, helped spawn several horror franchises, and even launched the careers of some of today’s best horror directors. The entire zombie industry owes a debt of gratitude for its existence to this man. Maybe the universe knew the power to control zombies was too big a task for one human being.

It all worked out for George A. Romero too. As zombie popularity grew, Romero earned more opportunities to make movies, created projects, wrote books and comics, and even capitalized on his own notoriety as the “king of the zombie films.” In 1999, Night of the Living Dead was added to the U.S. National Film Registry for its historical and cultural significance.

Source Material:
1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_of_the_Living_Dead
2) https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ15a.pdf

Throwback Thursday: The Toxic Avenger

These movies are so painstakingly 80s, they serve as a tubular tribute to both spandex and bloodsplatter.

The Toxic Avenger (1984)

Today is National Cheese Curd Day (10/15) and cheese curd is basically immature cheese that hasn’t gone through any proper process. That’s kinda how I view Troma movies, films shot, cut raw, and served to the masses as unrefined horror. It’s definitely an acquired taste. The Toxic Avenger is a story of a bullied young man who gains superhuman strength after falling into a vat of toxic waste. The new mop-carrying hero promptly sets out to get revenge on those who tried to kill him, but also manages to clean up his small town of Tromaville, by getting rid of the bad guys and corruption along the way.

Directed by Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman, who also helped write and produce the film, The Toxic Avenger was panned upon its initial release but gained a strong cult following after being the featured midnight show at a popular movie house in Greenwich Village in 1985. The rest is history. Troma Entertainment went from making campy sex romps to campy horror, building a franchise of Toxic Avenger movies, which spawned five films and even a short-lived cartoon television series.

Armed with a specialized in a brand of satire, Troma effectively exaggerated the issues of the 80s drug-fueled excess, gym craze obsession, raging crime, political corruption, and clear class divisions, while serving up a satisfying revenge fantasy. The Toxic Avenger is campy, it’s gory, it’s silly, and may have played on stereotypes of the time, but once you swim through the bloodsplatter and Aquanet cloud, the Toxic Avenger is just as heartwarming as any of those John Hughes teen comedies of the 80s, and it had a lot to say about teen bullying. The Toxic Avenger isn’t the best-looking superhero on the planet but he sure is the hero the world needs.

Throwback Thursday: Chopping Mall

These movies are so painstakingly 80s, they serve as a tubular tribute to both spandex and bloodsplatter.

The Chopping Mall (1986)

The fear of machines taking over and destroying mankind was all the rage in 80s, and Chopping Mall delivered feathered hair and killer lasers in spades. One-time protégé of B-movie king Roger Corman, Director Jim Wynorski kicked off a long career of B-horror movies and exploitation films, with this story about of group of mall employees partying after hours, only to find themselves the target of the mall’s new nighttime security system. I’m sure the movie had some meaningful message about not having sex in furniture stores and trusting machines to do a man’s job, but who cares, we came to see robots vs. humans!

These formidable Dalek-looking knock-offs rack up a kill count that could make the Terminator proud. They start by impaling a couple of techs and electrocuting a night-time janitor, played by character actor and Corman alum, Dick Miller, before moving on to our horny co-eds, played by a cast of hot 80s hopefuls, including Kelli Maroney, Tony O’Dell, and the legendary Barbara Crampton, in one of her earliest roles. Our spunky protags fight back with Molotov cocktails, flares and propane tanks, but ya know, bad bots and their neon lasers gotta steal the show.

Honestly, most of the special effects are as cheesy as the gratuitous boob shots, but one death does stands out as unbelievably gory, even by today’s blood-thirsty audience standards. It wasn’t as well done as say, Scanners, but it probably was the highlight of Suzee Slater’s career.
All and all, Chopping Mall isn’t the best killer robot movie in the world, but I think true horror fans will appreciate it, besides, once Hollywood figured out how to make heads explode, even bad 80s B-flicks got a little more interesting.

Throwback Thursdays: The Howling II

These movies are so painstakingly 80s, they serve as a tubular tribute to both spandex and bloodsplatter.

The Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf (1985)

In celebration of the Harvest full moon, we’re kicking off Throwback Thursdays with this 80s classic, chosen over Joe Dante’s brilliant first film The Howling because it stars Christopher Lee as aging werewolf hunter, who recruits a young American couple to accompany him to Transylvania, on a hunt for the immortal witchy-werewolf queen Stirba, played by B-movie queen Sybil Danning and all her royal glory!
You get the Prince of Darkness himself, cheesy special effects, awful werewolf costumes that were actually ape costumes, bloody carnage, bitchcraft, werewolf menage a trois, werewolf orgy, a catchy theme song on repeat throughout the entire movie, a Czech club full of punk rockers, 80s perma hair, sunglasses at night, the tightest black leather outfit ever stitched together for film, and Sybil Danning’s gigantic scene-stealing breasts. My friends, this is a masterclass in 80s B-movies!