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.
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.
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.
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.
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 filmThe 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!
Summer is always a rough season. Summer combined with the Corona virus lockdown is almost unbearable, but being stuck inside doesn’t have to be torture. I found these five low budget gems, definitely better than expected, that should satisfy your horror movie cravings.
We Summon the Darkness (2019) Service: Netflix
“There’s a lotta evil out there.”
For anyone’s who has ever worn a leather vest over a jean jacket, sported big feathered hair, or been bullied for listening to Ozzy or Slayer, all over the misguided belief that heavy metal is Satan’s music for devil worshippers, this one’s for you. Set in the 80s, this low-key thriller about three victims falling prey to a murderous cult with diabolical intentions isn’t particularly scary or gory, but it definitely harkens back to those old glossy B slashers that the studios used to churn out. The movie stars a gaggle of Hollywood’s brightest teen stars, led by Alexandra Daddario, and Johnny Knoxville, surprisingly right at home, playing a smarmy televangelist. The energy is high and acting is decent, honestly though, absolutely nothing else stands out here. Both the plot and the twists are totally predictable, it’s a little hard to tell if that’s by design or not. If I was one of the filmmakers, I’d get all meta and say, ‘oh yeah, it was supposed to be that way.’ People really enjoy homages, and stickin two giant middle fingers up to the real evil in the world, those big greedy corporate churches, for lying to the world about great music, using the lord’s name in vain, and besmirching religion. That, plus a bitchin’ soundtrack, and heavy metal couture, so 80s, you can almost smell the AquaNet, there are worse ways to spend a Saturday night.
Spring (2014) Service: Shudder
“I gotta make sure you’re the kinda crazy I can deal with.”
There aren’t too many well-made horror romances out there in the world, but this movie is in top ten. Spring, the story of grieving young man who finds love with a mysterious woman, while on a vacation in Italy, is just as refreshing as its name sounds. It’s simply a beautiful movie, everything from the strange Lovecraftian story to the incredible cinematography, and the dark, creepy suspense to the blossoming love between two strangers. What makes the film work, besides getting lost in charming scenery of Southern Italy, is the chemistry between the leads Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker, it’s sweet, like saccharine, yet, definitely filled with a touch of danger and mystique. Their romance moves a little fast and even seems unrealistic, but if you factor in love at first sight (hey, it can happen), and remember the vulnerability of a lonely, grieving, inexperienced young man, it becomes real easy to understand why he would be attracted to an alluring, beautiful, mystical 2000 year old creature. It’s almost sad to watch her toy with him so effortlessly, then again, the boy is as impulsive as he is lost. A violent episode in the film’s beginning shows he’s far from a perfect hero and they might just be morally matched. As for the girl and her “condition”, well, you’ll just have to go watch the movie to see if her intentions are pure or not.
Ghost Stories (2017) Service: Hulu
“Things are not always as they seem.”
This movie about a skeptical professor and paranormal debunker is a cleverly disguised anthology from IFC Midnight, turns out to be one of the scariest movies that I’ve seen in a long time. Triple threat writer-director Andy Nyman stars as the wry skeptic investigating the disappearance of his hero mentor. Once he finds him, he is then tasked with looking into the old man’s three most disturbing cases, which brings the professor on a terrifying journey of self-discovery. Nyman, along with co-creator Jeremy Dyson based their script off their hit theater show of the same name. The writing, cinematography and performances here are all phenomenal, in particular, Martin Freeman as a haunted banker, and in a mystery role, that I won’t give away. Ghost Stories makes good work of jump scares and sports some deep Hammer vibes, paying homage to numerous horror films, so it’s not inventing the wheel or anything, just making really good use of the tools from the tool box. Sometimes, that’s all a proper horror film needs.
One Cut of the Dead (2017) Service: Shudder (Japanese subtitles)
“One take, no cuts. With one camera from start to finish.”
Shin’ichiro Ueda’s brilliant feature debut is a bit of movie inception. The movie starts off as a seriously cheesy low-budget zombie movie about an indie film crew filming a zombie movie in an abandoned warehouse, when suddenly, they’re attacked by real zombies, much to the director’s delight. If you’re still watching by the time the credits roll about 37 minutes in, yes, you read that right, boy, are you in for a treat! As you’re sitting there wondering ‘what the hell was that?’ a new movie starts. Well, sort of, it’s a flashback, and all good things to those who wait. One Cut of the Dead isn’t really a cheesy low-budget zombie film, it’s a hilarious meta-satirical comedy about filmmaking, including the backstage antics of producing live television. There are a ton of references to zombie movies and lots of gore and screaming, of course, but, the real prize here is the storytelling. One Cut features a strong message about the collaborative filmmaking process, and the resourcefulness, courage and heart it takes to be in the entertainment business. I guarantee, by the third act, you’ll forget all about those 37 minutes wasted in the beginning and cheer on the film crew’s spirited efforts to make their zombie movie.
Blood Quantum (2019) Service: Shudder
“Every one of those motherf****** is a time bomb.”
Blood Quantum is essentially zombies on a modern-day reservation. You get all the blood-thirsty ravaging undead and pensive natives struggling to survive day-to-day, while reconciling their anger, resentment, and fears. Writer-director Jeff Barnaby channels his inner Romero and delivers biting social commentary on real life native troubles by drawing parallels to surviving in the zombie apocalypse, thus, immediately making it a better than average zombie story. Life on the reservation hasn’t improved, but it hasn’t necessarily deteriorated either. The white man is still trying to kill us. Same shit, different millennia. A little closer to the heart, there’s nice family drama subplot involving a wayward son named Lysol, wonderfully played by Kiowa Gordon. Lysol is one complex dude. He’s angry and alluring, righteous, and terrifying, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say he represents a lot of young native men across the North America. Sadly, in a film filled with quirky interesting characters, Lysol is one of the few fleshed out characters. Dropped plot points involving back stories is just one of tiny problems that all add up over time, keeping the film from being truly great. I read director Barnaby wore several post production hats to ensure he told the story he wanted to tell, but I can’t help but wonder what the film could have been, if only it had a bigger budget and better editing. Despite its obvious flaws, this is a solid horror movie with nice cinematography, comical one-liners, ranging from cheesy to endearing, and plenty of zombie action and bloody carnage.
Posting this blog a day late and a dollar short, just like dear ‘ole dad. If you were one of the millions who spent Father’s Day pining over your lost, non-existent volatile relationship with daddy dearest, cheer up, and be glad you weren’t the offspring of any of these bad dads of horror.
10. Satan – Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
It doesn’t really get much worse than having Satan for a dad. Sure, there are probably perks to being the Antichrist, but the trade-off is lifetime of micromanagement from mid-level staffers on daddy’s payroll. Satan’s coven rape, conspire, commit murder and drive the chosen mother-to-be to the brink of insanity, all to ensure Satan’s son is born on the exact date that will make him 33 years on the millennial, the same age as Jesus when he came into his own. Who would’ve guessed the devil would be so petty?
I was supposed to post this on Mothers Day but I was too busy hanging out with my momma.
Moms have one job, protect their children. There’s a reason why you’re not supposed to mess with women with offspring. Ever heard of mama bears? Hell hath no fury like a pissed-off mum! Now, most moms are good moms, but all moms have the potential to be scary. If you manage to survive their wrath, these terrifying ladies of horror will keep you in therapy for years.
10. Mama/Spirit – Mama, 2013
Mama is a vengeful spirit who doesn’t know how to let go. When she finds two children alone in the woods after a tragic accident, she cares for them, in the only backwoods way that a dark, scary cursed ghost can. Years later, the girls are finally rescued and sent to live with their father’s twin brother and his wife, but unfortunately, Mama is not okay with the new living arrangements. It’s unfortunate this movie tried so hard to be twisty because the plot only ended up in knots, but at its heart, this is a classic ghost story with solid jump scares.
For a country so rich in myths and folklore, Ireland doesn’t produce many horror films. Let’s hope someone is carving out some funds from the $250 million that the Irish Film Board received last year to help usher in more scary movies from the Emerald Isle. Until then, here are five great Irish horror films to watch this month.
“Take a look at yourself. Everything about you, says victim.”
A grieving new father joins forces with a grumpy priest to protect his baby from being taken by feral children.
Nothing will prepare for the barrage of emotions you’ll feel, watching a grieving young man struggling to care for his baby, fight the broken system, and deal with his post-traumatic stress disorder, all while fending off a group of freaky feral children from trying to kidnap his child. Suspenseful and unsettling, in the same vein as the French thriller Them, sadly, The Citadel misses the opportunity to truly be a frightening horror film, nonetheless, I still recommend it for the outstanding performances from Aneurin Barnard and James Cosmos.’
January is almost over and few of us have kept our resolutions. Don’t worry, the year is still new and second chances can happen anytime. So, in keeping with that theme, here’s my picks for the best horror reboots/remakes.
Typically, I’m a big fan of the phrase “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. However, with the superior technological advances in both filmmaking and special effects, some reboots or remakes are pretty darn good, a few even surpass their predecessors. Let me know what you think.
10. Fright Night (1985/2011)
Yes, the characters aren’t half as charismatic as the original cast, but the acting talents of Colin Farrell, Anton Yelchin, Toni Collette and David Tennant are what keep Fright Night from being a bad remake. While the story itself hasn’t changed much, the remake loses most of its humor, in favor of a more sardonic style, making the film more of a thriller.
Biggest Changes: Setting location moves from main town, USA to a glitzy suburb of Las Vegas. No more camp, just blood-thirsty vampires.