Halloween III: Season Of The Witch

Halloween III: Season Of The Witch

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Today’s feature is the seasonal cult classic bad movie, Halloween III: Season Of The Witch.

Halloween III was written and directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, who has been behind flicks like It, Fright Night Part II, Amityville II: The Possession, and acted as an editor on the John Carpenter classics The Fog and Halloween. Uncredited screenplay work was also done by John Carpenter and Nigel Kneale (Five Million Years To Earth, Enemy From Space) over the course of a number of re-writes.

The cinematographer for the film was Dean Cundey, who shot such flicks as Escape From New York, The Fog, Halloween, Flubber, Big Trouble In Little China, Back To The Future, Road House, Hook, and Jurassic Park.

The editor for Halloween III was Millie Moore, who spent most of her career working on television movies, with the exception of 1971’s Johnny Got His Gun, which was written and directed by Dalton Trumbo.

The music for the film was provided by the duo of John Carpenter (Halloween, The Fog, Vampires, Assault on Precinct 13)  and Alan Howarth (The Omega Code, The Dentist, The Dentist 2, They Live, Escape From New York).

The team of producers for Halloween III included original Halloween creator John Carpenter, Debra Hill (Crazy In Alabama, The Dead Zone), Joseph Wolf (A Nightmare On Elm Street), Irwin Yablans (Arena, Men At Work), and Barry Bernardi (Pixels, Cabin Boy, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, The Devil’s Advocate).

The group of effects workers on the movie included Thomas R. Burman (Frogs, Howard The Duck, Hudson Hawk, Suspect Zero), John Wash (Timecop, Demolition Man), Sam Nicholson (Highlander II, The Running Man), Jon Belyeu (The Dead Zone, Jingle All The Way, Tango & Cash), William Aldridge (Class of 1999, Die Hard, Road House, Showgirls), and Ron Walters (The Breakfast Club, Police Squad!).

halloweeniii2The cast of Halloween III includes Tom Atkins (The Fog, Maniac Cop, Lethal Weapon, Night of the Creeps), Stacey Nelkin (Bullets Over Broadway), Dan O’Herlihy (RoboCop, Twin Peaks), Michael Currie (Sudden Impact, The Dead Pool), and Ralph Strait (The Beastmaster).

The plot of Halloween III follows an impromptu investigation into the brutal murder of an old man, which leads his daughter and a local doctor into a rabbit’s hole of mysticism and evil. Eventually, their efforts unveil a sacrificial plot that could threaten countless lives.

Halloween III is best remembered as the only entry in the franchise to not feature the iconic masked killer, Michael Myers. The plan was initially to turn Halloween into an anthology series, with few (if any) recurring characters between the films. This idea was axed after the negative response to Michael Myers’s absence from Halloween III, and Halloween IV was thus subtitled The Return of Michael Myers.

halloweeniii1The children’s masks that feature prominently in the plot of Halloween III were actually produced and distributed as part of the marketing of the film, and can be still found with a little bit of hunting online.

The infamous jingle that recurs throughout Halloween III uses the tune of “London Bridge Is Falling Down”, specifically because it was both catchy and available in the public domain.

Joe Dante, who is best known for movies like Gremlins, Small Soldiers, and The Howling, was at one point attached to direct Halloween III, but ultimately moved on to a different project before filming began.

Halloween III was made on a  production budget of $2.5 million, on which it grossed $14.4 million in its lifetime theatrical run. While this was ultimately profitable, it failed to come anywhere near the lofty expectations of the franchise, and is popularly regarded as a failure.

The reception to Halloween III at the time was overwhelmingly negative, primarily due to the absence of iconic franchise face Michael Myers. Currently, it holds a 4.5 rating on IMDb, along with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 33% from critics and 24% from audiences. However, the movie has grown a significant cult following over the years as a good-bad movie, and is fondly regarded by a vocal subsection of horror fans.

halloweeniii4For all of the criticisms that have been leveled at Halloween III, the movie definitely deserves full points for originality. This film is not a cut and paste slasher movie by any stretch of the imagination, which is more than can be said for most of the other Halloween sequels. The plot is beyond outlandish, but there are certainly no other movies like it.

More important than sheer originality, Halloween III is as entertaining as it is bizarre, particularly as the film comes to a close. Even though the plan doesn’t make much sense when you scrutinize it, the plot is certainly fun to watch unfold. After all, this movie has the rare distinction of not only allowing the bad guys to (more or less) win, but it also implies the mass deaths of countless children, which is nothing if not bold.

Overall, I consider Halloween III to be a prime example of a good-bad movie. The plot is unparalleled, the acting (particularly from Atkins) is delightful, the deaths are both brutal and excessively campy, and the music makes you want your head to explode in the best possible way. If you haven’t seen this film yet, it is a necessity of the season for both horror fans and bad movie fans alike.

As an added bonus, I highly recommend the coverage of the film by both We Hate Movies and The Cinema Snob if you are looking for additional opinions on the movie.

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Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest

Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest

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Today’s bad movie feature is 1995’s Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest.

The primary writer on Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest was Dode Levenson, who also did some work on the television show Tripping the Rift and the romantic comedy One Small Hitch. Uncredited work on the screenplay was apparently done by Matt Greenberg, who has done writing on movies like 1408, Reign of Fire, The Prophecy II, and Seventh Son.

The director for Children of the Corn III was James D.R. Hickox, whose other credits include the b-movies Blood Surf and Sabretooth.

The cinematographer for the film was Gerry Lively, who worked on movies like Friday, Future Shock, Project Eliminator, Hellraiser III, and Hellraiser: Bloodline.

The editor on Urban Harvest was Chris Peppe, whose other cutting credits include Suicide Kings, Boiler Room, They, and The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys.

The musical score for Urban Harvest was provided by Daniel Licht, who also provided music for Thinner, Children of the Corn II, Soul Survivors, and the hit television show, Dexter.

The producers for the movie included Brad Southwick (Legion, Ghost Shark), Anthony Hickox (Hellraiser III, Waxwork, Waxwork II), Gary DePew (2001: A Space Travesty), and Jim Begg (Leprechaun).

childrencorniii2The makeup effects team for Urban Harvest was made up of Screaming Mad George (Space Truckers, The Dentist 2, Arena), Karin Hanson (Wolf, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie), Gil Liberto (Son Of The Mask, Black Mass), Erik Schaper (Vampire’s Kiss, Child’s Play 2), Shaun Smith (Captain America, Tremors), David Stinnett (Child’s Play 3), N. Brock Winkless IV (Congo, Alien 3), Kevin Yagher (The Dentist, Trick or Treat, A Nightmare On Elm Street 2), Mark Garbarino (Leviathan, Ice Cream Man), Mitchell J. Coughlin (The Dentist, Face/Off), and Bryan Blair (Hollow Man, The 6th Day).

The special effects work for the movie was done by Wayne Beauchamp (Hell Comes To Frogtown, Maniac Cop 2), Adam Campbell (Blade, New Nightmare), John Crawford (Space Truckers, Carnosaur), Robert Freitas (Mimic 2, Dreams in the Witch House), Grady Holder (Lake Placid, Small Soldiers, The Island of Dr. Moreau), Hiroshi Katagiri (Castle Freak, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), Darren Perks (Spawn, Leprechaun 4, Theodore Rex), and Douglas J. Stewart (Daredevil, Torque).

The cast of Children of the Corn III included Ron Melendez (The Legacy), Jim Metzler (976-EVIL, Hot To Trot), Nancy Lee Grahn (General Hospital), Daniel Cerny (Demonic Toys), and Mari Morrow (Virtuosity).

childrencorniii4Much like Children of the Corn II, the plot of Urban Harvest kicks off with two surviving children from the town from the first Children of the Corn getting adopted. However, this time they are taken in by a couple in a nearby city, leading to a new series of hijinks and corn-related shenanigans. The two cultist kids are forced to adapt to their new surroundings, either by making new friends or by creating a new cornfield and murdering people.

Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road, Monster) appears uncredited in Children of the Corn III as one of the children under the spell of the cult, marking her first time on screen.

I wasn’t able to dig up any budget or gross information on the feature, but apparently it did make it into a handful of theaters. That said, it was far from well liked, and didn’t last long: it currently holds a rating of 4.0 on IMDb, along with a 27% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

If there is anything positive to say about Children of the Corn III, it is that the movie tries to take the franchise in a new direction. Moving the setting to a urbanized area isn’t in itself a bad idea, but it is pretty clear from watching the movie that there wasn’t much thought into where to take the story from there. Putting two of the cultist children into catholic school doesn’t exactly make for the most compelling watch if you ask me.

childrencorniii3Once again, the child actors themselves aren’t awful in this movie. I recognized the central kid from his role in Demonic Toys, where he is weirdly dubbed over throughout the entire movie by an adult. Luckily that isn’t the case here, and he pulls off his creepy role well enough.

While the main kid is creepy, and the subplot about monetizing the evil corn is hilariously outlandish, there isn’t quite enough going on here to make it worth the time spent watching it. Overall, there isn’t a whole lot to recommend with this movie outside of a few highlights (a memorable corn-based decapitation and the appearance of a giant corn monster, for instance). It generally lacks the entertainment value of Children of the Corn II if you ask me, and is ultimately just an odd idea that never really came to fruition.

 

Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice

Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice

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Today’s feature is yet another much-maligned horror movie sequel: 1993’s Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice.

Children of the Corn II was written by A L Katz and Gilbert Adler, a duo that also worked on the cult horror television shows Freddy’s Nightmares and Tales From The Crypt, and would later do the screenplay for the vampire comedy Bordello of Blood.

The director for the movie was David Price, who only has two other feature credits on IMDb: Son of Darkness: To Die For II from 1991 and Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde from 1995. Outside of directing, Price served as a producer on Leprechaun, and is connected to an upcoming reboot of the Knight Rider television series.

The cinematographer for Children of the Corn II was Levie Isaacks, who also shot Leprechaun, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, The Dentist, Tooth Fairy 2, and numerous episodes of shows like Tales From The Crypt, CSI: NY, Malcolm In The Middle, and Dawson’s Creek.

childrencornii4The editor for the movie was Barry Zetlin, who but numerous other b-movies, including Cyborg 3, Ghoulies II, Friday the 13th Part VII, Breeders, Galaxy of Terror, and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.

The musical score for Children of the Corn II was provided by Daniel Licht, whose other credits include the television series Dexter, Thinner, Children of the Corn III, and Soul Survivors.

The team of producers behind the movie included Gilbert Adler (Ghost Ship, Constantine, Valkyrie, Superman Returns), Lawrence Mortorff (The Omega Code, Hellraiser III, The Omega Code 2), David Stanley (Legends of the Hidden Temple), and Scott A. Stone (The Man Show, Freddy’s Nightmares).

The makeup effects for Children of the Corn II were done by a group that included Martin Astles (Event Horizon, Van Helsing, Son of the Mask), Shaune Harrison (Jupiter Ascending, Nightbreed), Herita Jones (Super Mario Bros, Hellraiser III), Dave Keen (Candyman, Hardware, Aliens), and Steve Painter (Alexander, From Hell).

childrencornii3The special effects team for the movie included Ray Bivins (Mr. Destiny, Paul Blart Mall Cop), Bob Keen (Highlander, Event Horizon, The Dark Crystal, Krull), and Gary J. Tunnicliffe (Wishmaster, Blade), and the visual effects crew was made up of Rob Burton (Con Air, The Rock, Howard the Duck), Chris Casady (Brainscan, My Science Project), John Follmer (Mortal Kombat, McHale’s Navy, Red Planet, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), and Barb Meier (True Lies, Double Dragon).

The cast of Children of the Corn II included Christie Clark (A Nightmare On Elm Street 2), Rosalind Allen (Pinocchio’s Revenge), Ed Grady (Children of the Corn III), Wallace Merck (Super Mario Bros), Terence Knox (St. Elsewhere), and Ryan Bollman (Only The Strong).

The plot of Children of the Corn II picks up after the end of the original Children of the Corn, where the surviving children of the devastated town of Gatlin are taken in by various locals in the nearby town of Hemingford. Unfortunately, the children are under the influence of a cult leader, and soon the killings begin again.

Children of the Corn II was made on a reported production budget of $900,000, on which it grossed just under $7 million in its domestic theatrical run. While this was profitable, the movie was not well-regarded: it currently holds an IMDb rating of 4.1, alongside Rotten Tomatoes scores of 22% from critics and 20% from audiences.

childrencornii2Personally, I am a big fan of well-portrayed creepy children characters. However, it is really easy to have them go wrong, given there is a significant scarcity of child actors out there with any kind of talent. Children of the Corn II is a rare flick that manages to hit straight down the middle in regards to the significant cast of child actors: they aren’t terrible or remarkable, which is in itself a feat. The first Children of the Corn has a couple of memorably creepy kids, so this sequel is a downgrade in that regard.

That said, Children of the Corn II is actually pretty fun as a bad movie. There are a number of ridiculously over the top deaths, an outlandish plot, some cheesy makeup effects, and just enough nonsense dialogue to make it oddly endearing.

If you ask me, Children of the Corn II isn’t a top tier good bad movie, but there is definitely entertainment value to be had with it. The original movie is no masterpiece, so there shouldn’t have been any high expectations for this flick to start with. That said, I am amazed that the franchise has kept chugging along for as long as it has, given how poorly received they all seem to be.

For more on Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice, check out Stephen Holden’s review in The New York Times, and Richard Harrington’s coverage in The Washington Post. For some less formal overviews, GoodBadFlicks has a video about the film on YouTube, and Werewolves On The Moon has a comparatively positive spin on it.

House II: The Second Story

House II: The Second Story

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Today’s feature is 1987’s House II: The Second Story.

House II was written and directed by Ethan Wiley, who provided the screenplay for the original House and directed Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror. Some credit was still awarded to Fred Dekker (RoboCop 3, The Monster Squad, Night of the Creeps) as a writer, due to him coming up with the original story concept for House.

The cinematographer on House II was the veteran horror director of photography Mac Ahlberg, a frequent Stuart Gordon collaborator who shot such films as King of the Ants, The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit, Space Truckers, Robot Jox, Arena, DeepStar Six, House, Re-Animator, Dolls, From Beyond, Ghoulies, and Trancers, among many others.

The editor for the film was Martin Nicholson, who has cut films like Halloweentown, Forbidden Zone, The Big Picture, and worked on handful of episodes of Game of Thrones.

The two credited producers for House II were Sean Cunningham (Friday the 13th, Jason X, The Last House On The Left, DeepStar Six, House) and Andrew Z. Davis (Volcano, Red Dragon, Rush Hour 3, Your Highness).

houseii2The musical score for House II was provided by Harry Manfredinim who is best known for his work on the Friday the 13th franchise, as well as movies like House, Slaughter High, DeepStar Six, Wishmaster, The Omega Code, Wolves of Wall Street, and A Talking Cat!?!.

The special effects team for House II included Mark Walas (Signs, Gremlins), Chris Walas (Humanoids From The Deep, Piranha, DeepStar Six, Scanners), Peter Chesney (The Ladykillers, Waterworld), Mike Smithson (Battlefield Earth, Dollman, Brainscan, Suburban Commando, The Island of Doctor Moreau), Gregg Olsson (RoboCop 2, Gremlins), Kelly Lepkowsky (Hot to Trot, Arachnophobia), Jarn Heil (Iron Eagle), and James Isaac (Jason X, DeepStar Six).

The visual effects for the film were done in part by Eric Brevig (Wolf, Wild Wild West), Phil Tippett (RoboCop 3, Howard the Duck), Mark Sullivan (The Stuff, Ishtar, Demolition Man, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), Craig Newman (Speed, TRON), Randy Dutra (The Golden Child, Willow), Scott Beattie (Con Air, Freejack), Jon Berg (Laserblast, The Crater Lake Monster, Piranha).

The cast of House II includes Arye Gross (Castle), Jonathan Stark (Fright Night), Royal Dano (Ghoulies II, Killer Klowns From Outer Space), Bill Maher (Real Time with Bill Maher), John Ratzenberger (Cheers), Lar Park Lincoln (Friday the 13th Part VII), Amy Yasbeck (The Mask, Wings)

houseii4The plot of House II starts off with a man inheriting a house from his deceased parents. While going through the belongings, he discovers that a family heirloom is missing: a mystical crystal skull, which was apparently lost some generations before. On a hunch, he believes the skull may be buried alongside his great great great great grandfather, and convinces a friend to help dig him up. To their shock, not only do they find the skull, but also the living corpse of the impossibly old ancestor, However, instead of being a brain-hungy zombie, “Gramps” turns out to be a pretty cool guy, and leads the two friends into a series of misadventures as they protect the crystal skull from evil.

On paper, House II is a sequel to the cult classic horror-comedy House, which came out in 1986. However, it only bears slight thematic similarities with its predecessor, and is arguably an entirely different genre. It was followed up with the perplexingly titled House IV, which was came out in 1992. House III technically never existed, though the unconnected 1989 movie The Horror Show was labeled as such in foreign markets, necessitating the bizarre title of the franchise’s third installment.

I wasn’t able to dig up an estimate for the production budget, but House II did manage to rake in 7.8 million in its lifetime theatrical run. The reception, however, was not warm: it currently holds a 0% aggregate score from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, alongside a 40% audience score and an IMDb rating of 5.3.

houseii1This movie is, above all else, weird. House is a surreal and at times humorous horror adventure into the depths of a possessed house, and is kind of like The Burbs crossed with The Amityville Horror. House II, on the other hand, jettisons a lot of the body horror and otherwise disturbing elements of the first film, and focuses more on the idea of an adventure through alternate dimensions within the confines of a home. I definitely understand why fans of the 1986 House were disappointed in this follow-up, because it is definitely a different kind of movie. That said, I don’t think it is nearly as bad as its reputation would have you believe.

I feel about the same way about House II as I do about Halloween III: if you can divorce the film from its fan expectations, it is actually a pretty fun ride. Just like with Halloween III, House II makes little to no sense, bouncing from one bizarre reality to the next. Magical crystal skulls, giant dog-worms, pterodactyls, and zombies from the old west all play important parts, and none of that makes any more sense in the context of the film. That said, I found it to be generally fun, if not entirely coherent. I might go so far as to say that House II is like John Dies At The End without the edge or the cynicism.

In general, I think this weird, weird movie deserves a second look from a new generation. This comedic ride into complete nonsense is a blast: perhaps not a Troll 2 or The Room, but it definitely deserves more recognition as an entertainingly bad movie. Who doesn’t love a story of bonding between a man and his great great great great grandfather?

976-EVIL

976-EVIL

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Today’s feature is the horror flick 976-EVIL: the directorial debut of Robert Englund, who is widely recognized for his role as Freddy Krueger from the A Nightmare On Elm Street franchise.

976-EVIL was written by the duo of Brian Helgeland (Mystic River, The Postman, L.A. Confidential) and Rhet Topham, whose only other theatrical credit was Trick or Treat.

As mentioned, 976-EVIL was the directorial debut of Robert Englund. Outside of the A Nightmare On Elm Street franchise, Englund has also featured in movies like Wishmaster, The Mangler, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, Python, and Lake Placid vs. Anaconda.

The cinematographer for the film was Paul Elliott, who shot Friday the 13th Part VII, My Girl, and did camera work on movies like True Grit, No Country For Old Men, Trick Or Treat, Humanoids From The Deep, and Legion.

The editor for 976-EVIL was Stephen Myers, whose other credits include the documentary The Pixar Story, the Hulk Hogan holiday flick Santa With Muscles, and Sometimes They Come Back…Again.

976-EVIL had two credited producers: Lisa Hansen (Scorcher, 976-EVIL II) and Paul Hertzberg (Hotel Erotica).

976evil2The musical score for the film was provided by the duo of Steve Rucker and Thomas Chase, who are best known for working on cartoons like Dexter’s Laboratory and The Powerpuff Girls.

The effects work for 976-EVIL was done by a team that included Marcus Tate (Darkman, UHF), William Mesa (Death To Smoochy, Red Planet, Deep Blue Sea), Tim Donahue (Timecop, Deep Blue Sea), Hal Miles (Leprechaun 4, Communion, Leviathan), Howard Berger (Intruder, People Under The Stairs, Maniac Cop 3, Vampires, The Faculty), Robert Kurtzman (It Follows, From Dusk Till Dawn 3, From Dusk Till Dawn 2, Ghosts of Mars), Kevin Yagher (A Nightmare On Elm Street 2, The Dentist, Trick or Treat, Children of the Corn III), Christopher Swift (Congo), Grant Arndt (Leviathan, Hell Comes To Frogtown, Pumpkinhead), Gino Crognale (DeepStar Six, From Beyond, Troll, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2), Rick Lalonde (Son Of The Mask, Child’s Play), Larry Odien (Legion, Space Truckers, Captain America, The Pit and The Pendulum), and Zandra Platzek (Masters of the Universe).

976evil4The cast of the film includes Stephen Geoffreys (Fright Night), Patrick O’Bryan (No Holds Barred), Sandy Dennis (Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf?), Jim Metzler (Hot to Trot, Children of the Corn III), J.J. Cohen (Almost Famous), and Paul Willson (Office Space).

The plot of 976-EVIL centers around an oft-bullied high school nerd, who calls a hot line that promises to end the peer bullying that he constantly faces. However, this hot line is actually run by Satan, who grants the nerd supernatural powers to take revenge on his bullies.

976-EVIL ultimately grossed just under $3 million on an unreported budget. While that was hardly impressive, the movie did wind up getting a direct to video sequel in 1992: 976-EVIL II: The Astral Factor, which was directed by Chopping Mall‘s Jim Wynorski.

The reception to the film was overwhelmingly negative: it currently holds a 5.0 rating on IMDb, along with Rotten Tomatoes aggregate scores of 9% from critics and 28% from audiences.

Right out of the gate, the premise behind 976-EVIL is more than a little bit ridiculous. A demonic hot line would be all fine and good if this movie were written as more of a horror-comedy, but it just doesn’t quite nail that balance. The screenplay never brings the laughs or the scares adequately, and comes off more or less like one of the later (and lesser) A Nightmare On Elm Street movies as a result.

Speaking of which, one of the few positive aspects of those later Nightmare movies are the effects, which at times carry them. 976-EVIL, unfortunately, doesn’t have the impressive level of gore and makeup that those movies could provide, which means there isn’t a whole lot to distract from the other weaknesses of the movie.

On the positive side, the movie generally looks decent (outside of the effects). The production design and cinematography are both on point for this kind of flick, but they aren’t nearly enough to carry it when all is said and done. Without startling effects, well-written jokes/scares, or a stand-out performance, good shooting and design isn’t enough to pull the movie through.

Personally, I think most of the value of 976-EVIL comes from the novelty of it being directed by Robert Englund. I can see why some people like it well enough, but I don’t think anyone out there really loves this movie. Best case scenario, this is a mediocre horror film. However, I would recommend it to anyone who appreciates a kick of nostalgia, because it offers plenty of that to go around.

For some other thoughts on 976-EVIL, I recommend checking out the coverage by Film Connoisseur for a more-or-less positive spin, and We Hate Movies for some comparatively less-than-charitable opinions.

Demonic Toys

Demonic Toys

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Today’s feature is 1992’s Demonic Toys, a horror film that unsurprisingly prominently features a group of demonic toys.

The original idea for Demonic Toys is credited to company head Charles Band, with screenplay credit going to David S. Goyer, who has since become a bit of a Hollywood sensation with films like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Man Of Steel, The Dark Knight, and Blade. However, his earlier credits include b-movies like Puppet Master vs Demonic Toys, the abysmal early Marvel film Nick Fury: Agent of Shield, and Kickboxer 2.

The director of Demonic Toys was Peter Manoogian, who was also behind low budget flicks like Arena, Eliminators, The Dungeonmaster, Seedpeople, and DevilDolls.

The cinematographer for the film was Adolfo Bartoli, who shot such movies as Prehysteria, Trancers II, The Pit and The Pendulum, Dollman vs Demonic Toys, Subspecies 4, Trancers 4, and Trancers 5.

demonictoys1The editor for Demonic Toys was Andy Horvitch, who cut the Stuart Gordon movies Stuck, Edmond, The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit, and The Pit and The Pendulum, as well as the low budget flicks Arena and Beeper.

The musical score for Demonic Toys was provided by Richard Band, who has worked on Re-Animator, From Beyond, Dreams in the Witch House, Castle Freak, The Pit and The Pendulum, Arena, Troll, and Laserblast, among many others.

The most prominent producer of the film was Full Moon Features and Empire Pictures head, Charles Band, who is widely known for his low budget horror films. His companies have been behind franchises like Dollman, Puppet Master, Ghoulies, Demonic Toys, and Trancers, as well as cult classic films like Robot Jox and Re-Animator.

The effects work for Demonic Toys was done by a team that included Palah Sandling (Dr. Alien, Trancers II), Dennis Gordon (Robot Jox, Q: The Winged Serpent), Harvey Mayo (Robot Jox, Puppetmaster), Kevin McCarthy (Ice Cream Man, Hobgoblins, The Ambulance), Phil Meador (Splash, Ghost Dad), Mark Rappaport (Predator 2, Killer Klowns From Outer Space, The Core), David Allen (Dolls, The Stuff, Laserblast, Q: The Winged Serpent), Yancy Calzada (Mega Piranha, Trick or Treat), Chris Endicott (Prehysteria), and Allen Gonzales (Mortal Kombat, Highlander II, Ghost Dad).

demonictoys4The plot of Demonic Toys follows a group of people who are trapped in a locked toy storage facility, where they inadvertently awaken a demon. The otherworldly creature then uses the various shelved trinkets as vessels and weapons, and makes himself stronger with each subsequent kill.

Demonic Toys has had crossover sequels with fellow Charles Band properties Puppet Masters and Dollman, but didn’t get a true standalone sequel to its own until 2010, with Demonic Toys 2.

demonictoys2The reception to Demonic Toys was generally negative: it currently holds an IMDb rating of 5.1 and a Rotten Tomatoes audience review aggregate score of 32%. As with many Full Moon movies, it never released to theaters, and has thus not had a huge number of eyes on it outside of dedicated horror fans.

First off, the eponymous toys in the movie look absolutely terrible. Most of them are nothing more than semi-elaborate hand puppets, which is painfully obvious every time they are on screen. Worse than that, however, is that a couple of them are vocal, meaning that they have constant, jarring mouth movements. It would be one thing if they were saying things that were menacing or otherwise necessary, but most of the dialogue from the monstrous playthings are poorly delivered one liners and riffs. Speaking of which, the biggest weakness of this movie is a sense of humor that never finds its footing. Throughout the whole film, I can’t think of a single joke that honestly landed for me, and I can’t imagine it looked any better in screenplay form.

The primary antagonist of the movie is a mysterious demon who controls the various toys. However, he doesn’t use the toys for much other than his casual dirty work, preferring do engage in a few parlor scenes and monologues with various characters himself. Typically, I wouldn’t mind that so much out of a b-movie villain, but the demon here has a huge problem: until the very end of the movie, he is played by a child, who is dubbed over with an adult voice with a heavy effects filter. It both sounds and looks terrible, and is immensely distracting in all of his scenes.

Speaking of which, I’m not entirely clear as to why each of the toys had a unique personality, when they are all being directly controlled by the same demon. Wouldn’t they all be identical reflections of that demon, rather than different based on their appearances? Unsurprisingly, there isn’t much time spent on how the toy possession works, so it just stands as lingering logic issue.

demonictoys5The setup for the plot of Demonic Toys is a bit overly complicated and over the top, to say the least. The plot kicks off with an undercover illegal gun trafficking bust that goes wrong, which sounds like the start for a very different kind of movie. Apart from establishing the location and revealing a tiny bit of character backstory, this elaborate initial setup doesn’t have any real bearing on the rest of the plot. Some good movies can pull this off really well, as crucial information is revealed before the turn. However, there isn’t much revealed about the characters in the opening, apart from the fact that the lead is newly pregnant. The experiences shown in the opening don’t reveal a whole lot about the gun runners or the demon either, making it feel basically like wasted time.

Towards the middle of the story, it is revealed that the demon is looking for a new physical body, and needs to take over an unborn human child to do so. From that point on, the plot centers around the demon setting up a ceremony to take over the woman cop’s 1 month old fetus, which is a bit of an odd turn. From there, an umbilical war occurs between the demon and the fetus soul of the unborn kid,  which eventually ends in the demon being thwarted. The end of the movie shows a bit of a creepy/supposedly-touching moment between the cop and her fetus-ghost, which gives the movie a vague anti-abortion vibe. After all, it is established that this fetus, which is less than 1 month into development, has a fully developed soul that is capable of possessing objects and influencing the natural world. To put it mildly, the tone of the entire last act is fucking weird. I half expected a post-credit sermon about the demonic evils of abortion.

demonictoys3Overall, Demonic Toys is just a less entertaining or well developed version of Dolls / Puppet Master / Child’s Play, and it doesn’t try to hide that at any point. Much like Dolls, there is a giant killer teddy bear. Much like Child’s Play, there’s a innocent doll with a filthy mouth. Much like Puppet Master… it is almost exactly the same thing as Puppet Master. For the life of me, I don’t understand why this is its own franchise when Full Moon already had Puppet Master in their arsenal. In any case, the bizarre third act almost makes it worth watching for the WTF-factor, but not quite. I still enjoyed seeing shitty hand puppets murder people, but enough to recommend this to anyone but the most die-hard Full Moon die-hards.

Trick or Treat

Trick or Treat

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Today’s feature, in the spirit of the Halloween season, is 1986’s Trick or Treat.

The screenplay for Trick or Treat is credited to producer Michael S. Murphey, Joel Soisson (Dracula 2000, Piranha 3DD, Mimic 2), and Rhett Topham (976-EVIL), with uncredited work done by Glen Morgan (Final Destination) and James Wong (The X-Files).

The director on Trick or Treat was character actor Charles Martin Smith, who has appeared in such movies as The Untouchables and Starman. His other directing credits have included Air Bud, Dolphin Tale, and Dolphin Tale 2.

The cinematographer for the movie was Robert Elswit, who has shot such acclaimed films as Nightcrawler, There Will Be Blood,  and The Town, as well as less acclaimed flicks like Gigli and 8MM.

The editor for Trick or Treat was Jane Jaffe, who was an assistant editor on films like Pretty In Pink, Terms of Endearment, St. Elmo’s Fire, and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension.

trickortreat2The music for the movie was provided by Christopher Young, who has provided scores to such movies as Swordfish, Sinister, Priest, The Core, and Hellraiser over his career.

Trick or Treat was produced by co-writers Michael S. Murphey (From Dusk Till Dawn 2, From Dusk Till Dawn 3, A Nightmare On Elm Street 2) and Joel Soisson (Maniac Cop 3, The Prophecy, Dracula 2000), along with Scott White (Gotham).

The makeup effects on Trick or Treat were provided by Alec Gillis (Mortal Kombat, Wolf, Leviathan), Chris Goehe (Howard the Duck, Signs, Dead Heat), Everett Burrell (Castle Freak, Re-Animator, DeepStar Six, Troll), Rudolph Eavy III (Cyborg, Weekend at Bernie’s), David Kindlon (Leprechaun, DeepStar Six, Hell Comes To Frogtown, From Beyond), Daniel Marc (House II), Ralph Miller III (Dolls), Brian Penikas (Tank Girl, Leviathan), and Kevin Yagher (A Nightmare On Elm Street 2, Child’s Play).

The special effects crew on Trick or Treat was made up of Thomas Love (Midnight Run), Steve Wolke (Swordfish, Lawnmower Man 2), Larry Roberts (House of Yes, Masters of the Universe), Randy Kenan (The Abyss, Muppets from Space), and Jeff Frink (Dead Heat, Maximum Overdrive).

trickortreat6The visual effects team for the movie included Doug Beswick (Aliens, Evil Dead II, Blade), David S. Williams Jr. (Blood Diamond, xXx, Tremors, SpaceCamp), Dick Ramirez (Dune, SpaceCamp), Richard Malzahn (Suburban Commando, Leviathan, Kull The Conqueror), and Jeff Burks (The Abyss, Predator).

The cast of Trick or Treat is made up of Marc Price (Family Ties), Tony Fields (Santa Barbara), Doug Savant (Desperate Housewives), Elaine Joyce (Motel Hell), Gene Simmons (Never Too Young To Die, Runaway), and Ozzy Osbourne (The Osbournes).

The story of Trick or Treat centers around a outcast high schooler with a deep love for metal music, whose musical idol is killed in an apparent hotel fire. After the rocker’s death, his last recording winds up in the hands of his biggest fan. However, this final release proves to be more than a standard album, and the young fan starts having strange visions and dreams after listening to it.

The songs used for the movie were provided by the band “Fastway,” which was made up of Dave King of Flogging Molly and Eddie Clarke of Motorhead.

Glen Morgan, a now-prolific Hollywood producer of such movies as Final Destination, Black Christmas, and Willard, appears in his only on-screen acting role in this movie.

Trick or Treat was produced by Dino De Laurentiis’s company, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, which also released such films as Blue Velvet, Maximum Overdrive, Manhunter, Evil Dead II, and Pumpkinhead.

Trick or Treat now has a bit of a cult following based on its outlandish plot, soundtrack, and rock star casting. This is in spite of the film not receiving a new video release in a number of years, reportedly due to rights issues with the music included in the soundtrack. Currently, it hols a 5.7 rating on IMDb, along with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 63% from aggregated audience reviews.

trickortreat4Trick or Treat capitalizes on the widespread fear of the rebellious influence of rock and roll on the youth of the United States, which was the loathed genre of choice of middle class parents prior to the rise of rap and hip hop as the new musical social pariahs. The inclusion of Gene Simmons and Ozzie Osbourne in the cast was clearly designed as a nod to their own penchants for controversy, not unlike the fictional rock star at the center of the film. Both men, on top of releasing controversial rock music, were known for their wild concert exhibitions, and were thus the ire of many religious zealots and puritanical social critics.

I don’t think that this movie was ever meant to be taken particularly seriously as a horror flick. The film makes it pretty clear that the idea of rock music inspiring violence and misbehavior is ridiculous, and the plot seems to mock the ludicrousness of the concept. Basically, the film takes the position that the only way that music could cause teens to commit crimes is if they were possessed by evil ghosts of metal gods. That said, the comedic elements aren’t explicitly laid out, and there aren’t any jokes to speak of, so it defies being labeled a comedy. I can’t help but wonder if this could have been a really hilarious horror/comedy movie if they had been willing to lean into the comedic elements a little harder. Alas, the movie sits in a no-man’s-land between being funny and scary, and never really finds a good balance.

The effects work in the movie is surprisingly interesting and strange, and goes in directions that I did not at all expect or predict going into it. I thought that this would be a pretty simple possession deal, but there are some proper monstrous shenanigans in this flick, which is certainly a memorable aspect to the movie. I also think Wes Craven took some notes from this movie when he was working on Shocker, as there are a few notable similarities with that flick, particularly in regards to the villain.

Overall, Trick or Treat is a case where the concept was way better on paper than the execution wound up being on screen, which is a real shame. It is still worth seeing for the novelty value and a few highlight moments, particularly for anyone looking for a 1980s metal nostalgia trip. But, because it isn’t particularly easy to get a hold of, it may take more effort than it is worth to dig up a copy. That said, it isn’t impossible to find online if you do some searching for it.