Tag Archives: horror

Critters

Critters

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Today’s feature is 1986’s Critters, which is not at all a knock-off of the 1980s classic, Gremlins. Not at all.

The plot of Critters is summarized on IMDb as follows:

A race of small, furry aliens make lunch out of the locals in a farming town.

Critters was co-written and directed by Stephen Herek, who went on to make The Mighty Ducks, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Mr. Holland’s Opus, Holy Man, 101 Dalmatians, and Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead, among others. His co-writer for the movie was Domonic Muir, who also wrote The Gingerdead Man and the first three Evil Bong movies.

The director of photography for the movie was Tim Suhrstedt, whose long list of credits includes Idiocracy, Little Miss Sunshine, Office Space, Men At Work, Teen Wolf, Mystic Pizza, and Mannequin.

Critters was edited by Larry Bock, who also cut movies like Breakin’, Alligator, Joysticks, Final Justice, Bring It On, The Mighty Ducks, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and The Santa Clause over his career.

The creature effects for the movie were provided by Chiodo Brothers Productions, whose members also worked on Robot Jox, Critters 2, Demolition Man, Critters 3, Carnosaur, Critters 4, Team America: World Police, Screamers, Killer Klowns From Outer Space, Ghoulies, RoboCop 2, and Theodore Rex, among many others.

critters2The visual effects work for Critters was done by two outfits: Fantasy II Effects, which has gone on to work on Moonrise Kingdom, Vampire in Brooklyn, Hellboy, The Core, Last Action Hero, Aliens, and Tremors (and more) in the years since, and Quick Silver FX Studio, which also did Eliminators and Invasion Earth: The Aliens Are Here before apparently dropping off the radar.

The music for Critters was composed by David Newman, who went on to score numerous films, like Death To Smoochy, The Brave Little Toaster, Heathers, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Hoffa, Jingle All The Way, Galaxy Quest, Throw Momma From The Train, Matilda, The Phantom, Ice Age, and The Spirit, among many, many others.

Critters stars Billy Zane (Titanic, The Phantom, Brotherhood of Justice, Demon Knight), Dee Wallace (The Howling, Cujo, E.T.), Billy Green Bush (The Hitcher, Five Easy Pieces), Scott Grimes (E.R.), and Lin Shaye (Pledge This, Kingpin).

Financially, Critters made a decent profit, grossing just over $13 million domestically on an estimated $2 million budget.

Critters received a generally negative response from both critics and audiences. Currently, it holds Rotten Tomatoes scores of 57% from critics and 45% audiences, along with an IMDb user rating og 6.0/10.

Interestingly, one of the handful of critics to give Critters a seal of approval was Roger Ebert, who gave the movie 3 stars:

…what’s interesting is the way the movie refuses to be just a thriller…What makes “Critters” more than a ripoff are its humor and its sense of style. This is a movie made by people who must have had fun making it.

Personally, I agree with Ebert on this to a point. The fact that Critters doesn’t play itself as a straight monster movie does set itself out from a lot of other science fiction, but it also feels very Gremlins. The fact that the monsters here aren’t as emotive or intriguing as their higher-budget cousins doesn’t help, either: they are a little too similar, and Critters doesn’t come close to matching the quality of the humor, gore, dread, or nostalgic awe on display in Gremlins.

I think Critters probably plays better today, with a fair amount of distance from its cohort films like Ghoulies and Gremlins, than it did on its initial release. A lot of the aspects that drew unfavorable comparisons back then feel more like homages than ripoffs when you watch it today. That said, no amount of time or distance passed is going to make this movie good. There are definitely some comedic highlights, but the uneven performances and stilted dialogue hinder the movie as a whole. I will say that this makes for a pretty even waypoint between Leprechaun and Gremlins when it comes to the scale of success of horror-comedies, so it could certainly be a lot worse. Also, the eponymous Critters themselves aren’t too shabby: there are some moments of really excellent puppet work.

critters3If you are looking for a little 1980s flashback, this is a decent movie to serve that purpose. It isn’t great, or even terribly memorable, but it is entertaining enough to justify your time.

Creepshow 2

Creepshow 2

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Today’s feature is Creepshow 2, the 1987 sequel to the hit anthology horror film, Creepshow.

The plot of Creepshow 2 is summarized on IMDb as follows:

Three more bone-chilling tales that include a vengeful wooden Native American, a monstrous blob in a lake, and a hitchhiker who wants revenge and will not die.

Creepshow 2 was directed by Michael Gornick, who served as George Romero’s director of photography on Martin, Dawn of the Dead, and the original Creepshow. However, Creepshow 2 is his only feature-length directing credit.

The movie’s screenplay was written by George Romero, who directed the original Creepshow (as well as influential horror films like Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead). Interestingly, he didn’t have any hand in the writing of Creepshow, as Stephen King penned the screenplay. While King did lend material for Creepshow 2, he was not involved with the sequel’s screenplay writing process beyond that.

The special effects and makeup effects team for the film provided early credits for Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger, who have each had distinguished careers in the decades since, working on films and television shows like Kill Bill, Inglorious Basterds, The Hateful Eight, Drag Me To Hell, Sin City, Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead.

Tom Savini, who provided the effects for the original Creepshow, returned as a consultant for this sequel, and appears on screen as the host between segments.

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The stars of Creepshow 2 include George Kennedy (Cool Hand Luke), Tom Savini (From Dusk Til Dawn), Stephen King (Creepshow), Daniel Beer (Point Break), and Lois Chiles (Moonraker).

Apparently, Creepshow 2 was initially intended to have 5 sequences, just like its predecessor. However, budget constraints led to two sequences being cut. One of them, “The Cat From Hell,” eventually made it on screen as part of Tales From The Darkside: The Movie, which many consider to be the spiritual successor to Creepshow 2.

In 2006, a Creepshow 3 was released without any involvement from George Romero or Stephen King. The fan reaction, predictably, was overwhelmingly negative. However, its release was so limited that most fans of the franchise aren’t aware of its existence.

The reception to Creepshow 2 was generally negative, and paled significantly in comparison to the original. It currently holds an IMDb user rating of 6.0/10, alongside Rotten Tomatoes scores of 39% from audiences and 33% from critics.

Creepshow 2 took in an estimated $14 million in its total lifetime theatrical release. While this was profitable given its $3.5 million budget, it was hardly a blockbuster smash.

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The biggest burden that Creepshow 2 has to carry is the baggage of its namesake. Honestly, I think this is a pretty decent horror anthology movie, but it so fails to live up to the affectionate detail and loyalty of the original Creepshow, that it is actually made worse by bearing its name.

The original Creepshow is fun, funny, and did a whole lot on a very small budget, thanks to a scrappy, independent crew. Creepshow 2 was expected to match it with a fraction of its budget, a director without a track record, and without the direct help of Stephen King on the screenplay. From the onset, the die was cast for Creepshow 2 to be a disappointing sequel.

Yet, while it certainly isn’t as good as Creepshow, Creepshow 2 could certainly have been a lot worse. Most of the makeup effects actually look quite good in spite of the budgetary limits, thanks in large part to folks like Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero, who were still making names for themselves as quality and innovative effects workers. The writing is probably the weakest aspect of the movie, but I suspect this is the result of the last 2 sequences being cut out of the film: they needed to make up that time somewhere, so they padded out the existing features. Unfortunately, the result is that all 3 remaining vignettes feel bloated as all hell, and the pacing of the film as a whole suffers for it.

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Creepshow 2 desperately misses a bunch of the little details that really defined the original movie, too. While there is an attempt to recreate the animated transitions, the result isn’t creepy as much as it is cartoony and goofy, and the style just seems a bit off. Likewise, there is a limited attempt to re-capture the creative and vivid lighting work from the first film, but it is definitely minimal. The dramatically limited death sequences from Creepshow, for instance, don’t make a return.

I think the key to enjoying Creepshow 2 is to manage expectations, and ignore its title. When stacked up against Creepshow, it just can’t compare. However, I think it is better than similar anthology films like Cat’s Eye, and is worth checking out for horror fans, at least for the effects work. However, that does come with a massive caveat.

There is something that absolutely has to be mentioned about this movie: it features the most egregiously inappropriate and unnecessary sexual assault I have ever seen in a major motion picture. During the segment “The Raft,” two characters (a woman and a man) are trapped on a raft in the middle of a lake, set a-siege by a flesh-eating blob that floats on top of the lake’s water. By the time night falls, both of their respective partners have been eaten by the creature, and they decide to take shifts to keep watch. During the male’s shift, he decides not to watch the monster, but to kiss and fondle his fellow trapped acquaintance in her sleep, which leads directly to her death via his negligence.

There are so many things wrong with this, that it is hard to know where to start. First off, pragmatically, it was also in his interest to keep an eye on the killer monster lurking mere feet away, rather than assault his fellow captive. Secondly, from a writing standpoint, there was no established precedence for the action: the character was never shown in a negative light, or revealed to have salacious intent towards the woman. The action is completely out of nowhere, and turns the character into something totally different than he was established as: a cautious, science-obsessed quasi-dork who plays second fiddle to an alpha jock friend. Last but not least, what the ever-loving fuck was the point of it? This kind of casual sexual assault is way too common throughout the genre, and contributes to the genre as a whole having a reputation as a tone-deaf dudes’ club. Particularly without any kind of story or character justification, this was clearly just thrown in for the hell of it, and was even tossed into the movie’s trailer to boot. The ultimate result of the sequence is that the monster is able to sneak up on the pair, which would happen anyway if they had just fallen asleep of exhaustion. It isn’t like there wasn’t an obvious alternative here.

If Creepshow 2 were absent that short sequence, I could confidently recommend it to people. As it is, however, it merits that caution.

Targets

Targets

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Today, I’m going to take a look at a controversial cult classic: Peter Bogdanovich’s 1968 feature, Targets.

The plot of Targets is summarized on IMDb as follows:

An elderly horror-film star, while making a personal appearance at a drive-in theater, confronts a psychotic Viet Nam War veteran who’s turned into a mass-murdering sniper.

Targets was written, produced, edited, and directed by Peter Bogdanovich, a lauded film critic who became one of the stalwart figures of the New Hollywood movement. After Targets, he built a strong career that included features like The Last Picture Show, What’s Up, Doc?, Mask, Paper Moon, Daisy Miller, and At Long Last Love, among many others. His wife at the time, Polly Platt, is credited as both his co-writer and the film’s production designer. She later gained more notoriety as a producer on such movies as Bottle Rocket, The War of The Roses, Broadcast News, and Say Anything.

targets2The cinematographer on Targets was Laszlo Kovacs, who had a lengthy and notable career shooting films like Easy Rider, Shampoo, Paper Moon, Say Anything, and New York, New York.

Roger Corman was an uncredited executive producer for the film, and was instrumental in its creation. He essentially gave Bogdanovich free reign on the project with a set budget, provided that he was able to make use of stock footage from a previous Corman production, The Terror, and found a way to use the elderly Boris Karloff for just two days. Ultimately, Karloff was needed for five days of shooting, but he waived his fee thanks to his fondness for the screenplay.

targets3The shooting spree featured in Targets was inspired by true events, most notably the 1965 Highway 101 sniper attack, in which a sniper fired on moving cars from a nearby hill, and the Charles Whitman shootings at the University of Texas in 1966. The realistic depictions of mass shootings caused the film to be particularly controversial, even for a b-feature intended for a niche audience.

Samuel Fuller, a noted writer and director in his own right, apparently contributed significantly to the screenplay for Targets, but turned down credit for the movie.

Targets is regarded as one of the starting points for a new era in film horror, as well as a key point in the development of New Hollywood. Books like Shock Value and Easy Riders, Raging Bulls have gone into detail about the film’s production, and how it influenced Bogdanovich’s career and the way audiences thought about horror.

Targets currently has Rotten Tomatoes ratings of 88% from critics and 81% from audiences, along with an IMDb user score of 7.4/10. Its reputation over the years has only grown, as its influence has been felt and appreciated both in and outside of the horror genre.

Targets is, above all else, an effectively eerie movie. The lack of a soundtrack in particular gives the tense and shocking sequences a more pronounced and uncomfortable vibe. There are no cues to indicate what the audience’s reaction should be to any given action, which plays into the fact that the audience is subjected to the killer’s perspective for most of the movie. He doesn’t react to killing someone, and the film doesn’t either. I think that this apect, more so than the shooting sequences themselves, is what made the film so controversial and uncomfortable for people. Murder wasn’t a new topic for film, but showing it from a killer’s perspective was (and still is) genuinely unnerving.

While there are a lot of impressive elements to Targets, it is far from a perfect movie. As with most debut features, it is a little rough around the edges, particularly when it comes to the pacing of events. There are some distinct moments where the lulls in progress last a bit too long, but that said, this is a damn impressive first flick. While Bogdanovich arguably peaked early and has waned since the 1970s, this film provides a good overarching sense of his talents and potential.

targets4For fans of b-movies, horror movies, the New Hollywood era, or even just film history in general, Targets is worth your time to dig up in my opinion. There are a lot of things to like about it, and they certainly far outweigh the negatives.

Interview with Larry Cohen

Welcome to a special feature here at the Misan[trope]y Movie Blog!
Recently, I had a chat with one of the best known cult movie writer/directors: Larry Cohen.

Cohen has had a career that has included hit television shows, blaxsploitation classics, and blockbuster screenplays, but he carved his unique place in film history by writing and directing memorable b-movies like The Stuff, It’s Alive, and Q: The Winged Serpent.

For more on his career, check out the Larry Cohen Collection here at Misantropey, where I have been working through his entire filmography.

Now, enjoy this interview with the one and only Larry Cohen.

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Bargain Bin(ge): Bucket O’ Blood (Chicago, IL)

Bucket O’ Blood is a bizarre little shop tucked away off the beaten path in a small neighborhood of Chicago. It is primarily a record store, but also has a specific niche as an emporium of science fiction and horror books, magazines, and movies. As a bonus, it also has an enviable and eclectic selection of film scores on vinyl.

bucketoblood13 bucketoblood11 bucketoblood10 bucketoblood8 bucketoblood7 bucketoblood6The store has been around for the better part of a decade according to the clerk I spoke with, though its current location is only a few months old. There isn’t much else around it: a couple of restaurants and a bar, but it is hardly a thriving commercial area.

bucketoblood5The selection of movies here isn’t particularly wide, but it is quality. A few standouts I left on the shelves include a (probably bootleg) copy of Sam Fuller’s Shark, a hilariously deceptive copy of Roger Corman’s self-parody Creature From The Haunted Sea, and a Korean movie about a killer Taxi Cab.

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Likewise, you might not find a bargain here, but the ambiance makes the cost worth it in my mind. Check out some shots of their delightful decorations:

bucketoblood1 bucketoblood2 bucketoblood4 bucketoblood3Now, on to my bucket o’ movies from Bucket O’ Blood:

Robot Wars

Apparently, according to IMDb, this movie is a sequel to Robot Jox, the cult classic by Stuart Gordon. I had always heard that Crash And Burn was the sequel, but apparently that movie just features some re-used footage. Honestly, though, I doubt that either movie bears much in the way of a real connection to Robot Jox. Robot Jox was a huge financial undertaking for Empire Pictures, and wound up contributing to that company’s bankruptcy. However, out of the ashes of Empire, Charles Band created Full Moon Pictures as a successor, which produced both Robot Wars and Crash And Burn in the early 1990s. As is often done with low budget pictures, a bunch of the more expensive special effects shots from Robot Jox were re-used, so that the company could get more bang for their buck. I imagine this is the only reason why multiple giant robot movies were put out by Full Moon Pictures in the years following Robot Jox.

Crash And Burn

In a delightful happenstance, the box set that contained Robot Wars also included Crash And Burn, the other wayward descendant left in the wake of Robot Jox. Thanks to this haul, I might have enough material to do another Killer Robot Week in the near future.

Murdercycle

First off, what an awesome title. I don’t know anything about this movie, apart from a single clip of the transformation sequence that I watched on YouTube. That and the title were enough to sell me on this movie. It remains to be seen if this is a forgotten masterpiece or a disappointing failed concept, as Full Moon has been perfectly capable of creating both.

The Demon

The Demon is early 1980s slasher film that came out during the biggest boom period for the genre. From what I have seen, it is a bit polarizing: some dismiss it as no more than a Halloween clone, while others have positive things to say about the film’s atmosphere. However, most seem to agree that it isn’t a good movie when all is said and done. I haven’t seen it before personally, and the plot struck me as just odd enough to make it worth checking out. A serial killer movie involving a psychic detective made me immediately think of Suspect Zero, though I imagine that is where the similarities will end.

Creature

Creature is yet another film from the dark era of Klaus Kinski’s twilight years, not unlike Star Knight. From what I hear, it is a notably gory Alien knockoff that has developed some clout as a b-movie cult classic. Interestingly, it apparently re-used props and sets from an earlier abysmal Alien knockoff, The Forbidden World.

The Ward

The Ward

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Today’s entry into “Worst of the Best” is John Carpenter’s 2010 effort, The Ward.

The Ward was written by the duo of Michael and Shawn Rasmussen, who also wrote the movies Long Distance, Dark Feed, and The Inhabitants.

The Ward is (to date) the final directorial effort of John Carpenter, who is highly regarded for both his horror and action movies, including Halloween, They Live, Escape From New York, Big Trouble In Little China, Assault on Precinct 13, The Fog, Starman, Christine, The Thing, and Vampires.

The cinematographer for the film was Yaron Orbach, who has worked extensively on Orange Is The New Black, as well as on movies like The Ten, Birds of America, The Open Road, and The Joneses.

The editor for The Ward was Patrick McMahon, who cut the 2008 remake of It’s Alive, Little Monsters, Strange Brew, P2, and A Nightmare On Elm Street, among others.

The producers for the movie included Peter Block (Saw, Saw II, Saw III, Crank), Doug Mankoff (Nebraska), Mike Marcus (You Kill Me), and Hans Ritter (Hard Candy).

The musical score for The Ward was provided by Mark Kilian, who provided music for movies like Traitor, Rendition, Pitch Perfect, and the television series Castle. This is particularly notable because historically, John Carpenter has provided most of his film’s scores himself.

The makeup effects were provided by a team that included Howard Berger (976-EVIL, Intruder, The People Under The Stairs, Vampires), Greg Nicotero (The Black Cat, Dreams in the Witch House, From Dusk Till Dawn 2, From Dusk Till Dawn 3, Maniac Cop 3), Kerrin Jackson (Son of the Mask, Jonah Hex), and Kevin Wasner (Catwoman, Jennifer’s Body).

The special effects unit for The Ward was made up in part by Brian Goehring (The Last Airbender, Species), Stephen Klineburger (Drive Angry), Dirk Rogers (The Stepford Wives, Collateral, Death Proof), Casey Pritchett (Vampires, Face/Off), Ray Brown (Class of 1999).

The cast of The Ward was made up of Amber Heard (The Rum Diary, Drive Angry, Zombieland), Mamie Gummer (Cake, Side Effects), Danielle Panabaker (The Flash, Friday the 13th), Laura-Leigh (We’re The Millers), Jared Harris (Dead Man, Lost In Space, Mad Men), Mika Boorem (The Patriot, Hearts In Atlantis), and Lyndsy Fonseca (Agent Carter, Kick-Ass).

The plot of The Ward is summarized on IMDb as follows:

An institutionalized young woman becomes terrorized by a ghost.

theward1The Ward currently has an IMDb user rating of 5.6, along with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 33% from critics and 27% from audiences. Financially, it lost a significant amount of money: on an estimated budget of $10 million, is grossed barely over $1 million, almost entirely from international markets.

The Ward isn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen. Really, it isn’t anywhere close to the worst. However, it represents a really disheartening fall from grace for both John Carpenter and the genre as a whole, because it is just so overwhelmingly mediocre and familiar. If there is anything that John Carpenter has never been in his career, it is familiar. Even his other arguable missteps, like Ghosts of Mars and Escape From L.A., still feel like John Carpenter at the end of the day. The Ward, however, seems like it could have been made by any half-assed horror director in Hollywood, and people just expected something better than that from Carpenter.

The most similar film in Carpenter’s filmography to The Ward is probably In The Mouth of Madness (though it is a stretch). Comparing the ways that the two movies (and the two versions of Carpenter) deal with a similar steady blurring of fiction and reality reveals a lot about why The Ward feels so tired and unremarkable. In The Mouth of Madness presented an eerie world from the start, where things feel off-kilter naturally, and the environment steadily declines until the conclusion of the second act, when sanity takes a nosedive. It is a profoundly surreal movie that utilizes fantastic effects work and visuals to create the atmosphere of a world descending into a Lovecraftian hell. The Ward, on the other hand, is never quite so dramatic. It is a slow story punctuated solely by jump-scares (a tired tactic), where the entire world seems to exist in a bland scale of sepia tones. The visuals are never particularly compelling, and the tension is mostly reliant upon musical cues. The world doesn’t feel as curious or strange on the whole, which ruins what could have been a really cool claustrophobic atmosphere. The whole direction of The Ward strikes me as passionless, like Carpenter went into autopilot and just wanted to color between the lines.

That said, there are some definite positives to The Ward. Specifically, I think that the performances are solid from top to bottom: Amber Heard deals with her leading responsibilities well, and Jared Harris absolutely kills it as the hospital’s primary doctor. The last act also sees the story and action start to kick into gear, and makes for a pretty compelling last 25 minutes or so.

Overall, The Ward isn’t bad so much as it is disappointing. I don’t think it is worse than the field at large, but Carpenter’s reputation looms over it, and might have put expectations on it that it couldn’t possibly have been lived up to. Regardless, it may very well stand as the final entry in Carpenter’s filmography, as much of a shame as that might be. However, for what it is worth, I though it was better than the flaming garbage pile that is Ghosts of Mars. Stay tuned for that one.

Black Christmas (2006)

Black Christmas (2006)

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Today’s feature is the 2006 remake of the classic horror movie Black Christmas.

Black Christmas was written, produced, and directed by Glen Morgan, who also directed the remake of Willard in 2003, wrote Final Destination, and wrote and produced a number of episodes of The X-Files.

The cinematographer for the movie was Robert McLachlan, who shot Final Destination, Final Destination 3, The One, Wes Craven’s Cursed, and a handful of episodes of Game of Thrones.

The editor on Black Christmas was Chris G. Willingham, who also cut Dragonball: Evolution, Final Destination 3, and numerous episodes of television series like Grimm, 24, The X-Files, The A-Team, and 21 Jump Street.

The producers on the movie included, outside of writer/director Glen Morgan, Marc Butan (The Road), original Black Christmas director Bob Clark (Baby Geniuses 2, Baby Geniuses, Rhinestone), noted businessman Mark Cuban, Ogden Gavanski (Tremors 5, Good Luck Chuck), Steven Hoban (Ginger Snaps), Kent Kubena (Turistas), Victor Solnicki (Scanners, Videodrome), Mike Upton (Leprechaun In The Hood), and James Wong (American Horror Story, The X-Files).

The makeup effects team for Black Christmas included Chris Devitt (The Fog, American Mary, Hollow Man II), Juliana Vit (Supernatural, Slither), Joann Fowler (Final Destination 5, X-Men 2), Geoff Redknap (Seventh Son, Sucker Punch), Fern Levin (The X-Files), Rob Miller (House of the Dead, Blade: Trinity), and Toby Lindala (The Man in the High Castle, Lake Placid, Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Core).

The special effects unit for the movie included the likes of Steve Collins (Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, Pick Me Up), Rory Cutler (Baby Geniuses 2, The Fly II), Bleau Fortier (Horns, Far Cry), W. David McGuire (Blade: Trinity, Baby Geniuses 2), and Wayne Syzbunka (Marmaduke, The Black Cat, Pick Me Up, Dreams In The Witch House, Lake Placid).

The extensive visual effects work for Black Christmas was provided by a number of companies, including Spin West VFX (Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead), Soho VFX (47 Ronin, Jonah Hex, Dragonball: Evolution), and iO Film (The Mist, Resident Evil: Extinction).

The music for the film was composed by Shirley Walker, who also provided music for movies like Final Destination, Final Destination 2, Final Destination 3, Ghoulies, and Escape From L.A.. Unfortunately, it would be her last film, as she died just before the movie’s release.

The cast of Black Christmas includes Katie Cassidy (Arrow, Taken), Michelle Trachtenberg (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Gossip Girl), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World), Kristen Cloke (Final Destination), Andrea Martin (Wag The Dog), Crystal Lowe (Insomnia), and Oliver Hudson (Nashville).

blackxmas3The plot of Black Christmas is summarized on IMDb as follows:

An escaped maniac returns to his childhood home on Christmas Eve, which is now a sorority house, and begins to murder the sorority sisters one by one.

Andrea Martin, who plays the role of the house mother in the 2006 remake of Black Christmas, was also in the original Black Christmas in 1974 at the beginning of her career, and was cast due to her connection to that film.

Much like what happened with Silent Night, Deadly Night, Black Christmas faced significant public backlash for its content and holiday release. However, many people were upset about the film’s trailer for an unexpected reason: much of the footage used was not actually from the movie, and was shot specifically for advertising purposes. This left a bitter taste in many people’s mouths, particularly horror fans who were already uneasy about the idea of a remake of such a classic film.

Director/writer/producer Glen Morgan placed the blame for the failure of Black Christmas on the infamous Weinstein brothers, whose Dimension studio released the film. Apparently, Bob Weinstein in particular pressured for the movie to be more gory and violent, against Morgan’s wishes.

Black Christmas grossed just over $21 million in its lifetime theatrical run on a production budget of $9 million. While this was profitable, it didn’t come anywhere near its expectations, and it wasn’t helped by the abysmal critical reaction. Currently, the movie holds a 4.5 user rating on IMDb, along with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 38% from audiences and 14% from critics.

Black Christmas is, above all else, unremarkable. I’ve seen this movie a number of times over the years, but there is almost nothing I have retained from one viewing to the next, because there is just nothing in this movie that stands out. It is a run of the mill slasher flick that fancies itself a horror-comedy, but never quite figures out how to be funny. Worse still, the kills aren’t even anything to write home about, which is about the worst sin you can commit as a slasher movie. The characters are dull, the story is generic, and about the only thing the movie has going for it at the end of the day is gore, which isn’t nearly as impressive or effective as it could be.

Overall, this is a painfully generic movie that doesn’t even begin to live up to the reputation of its classic predecessor. Astoundingly, this is probably worse than any of the other Christmas-themed horror films I have seen, just because it is just so painfully forgettable. Sure, Elves might be terribly constructed, but it is certainly an unforgettable experience. Unless you are absolutely determined to sit through this movie, it isn’t much more than a waste of time. There are plenty of technically worse and more entertaining flicks out there that make for better holiday viewing if you ask me.

Silent Night

Silent Night

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Today’s feature is the 2012 remake of Silent Night, Deadly Night, which goes by the simplified title of Silent Night.

Silent Night was written and produced by Jayson Rothwell, who also penned screenplays for flicks like Second In Command, Malice In Wonderland, and Blessed.

The director for the movie was Steven C. Miller, whose other credits include Under The Bed, Automaton Transfusion, and The Aggression Scale.

The cinematographer on Silent Night was Joseph White, who has shot a variety of horror movies, including the cult favorite Repo! The Genetic Opera, Fear Clinic, 11-11-11, Shelter, and the 2010 remake of Mother’s Day.

The editor for the film was Seth Flaum, who has primarily spent his career cutting comedy features like Vegas Vacation, High School Musical, Juwanna Mann, The Great Outdoors, Grumpier Old Men, Fanboys, The Replacements, The Country Bears, and The Whole Ten Yards.

The team of producers for Silent Night included Joe Laurin (ATM), Richard Saperstein (Lost In Space, Hancock), Patrick Murray (Kill Me Three Times), Kevin Kasha (The Butterfly Effect 2, The Howling: Reborn), Adam Goldworm (The Black Cat, Pick Me Up, Dreams In The Witch House), Aaron L. Gilbert (Daydream Nation), James Gibb (Whiplash, Drive), Brian Witten (Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Spawn, The Wedding Season), and Phyllis Laing (Heaven Is For Real, The Haunting In Connecticut).

The music for Silent Night was provided by Kevin Riepl, who has primarily worked on scoring high-profile video games like Gears of War and Unreal Championship.

The Silent Night makeup effects were provided in part by George Frangadakis (Sushi Girl), John Wrightson (The Dog Who Saved Christmas), Josh Wasylink (The Taking of Deborah Logan, V/H/S: Viral), Gregory Ramoundos (Dogma, Frankenhooker), Doug Morrow (Capote, Wrong Turn 4), Vincent J. Guastini (Thinner, Super Mario Bros., The Toxic Avenger Part III, The Langoliers), and Andrew Freeman (Battle Los Angeles, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters).

The special effects unit for Silent Night included Evan Campbell (The Faculty, Elves, Spawn, Darkman II, Darkman III), Tim Freestone (Curse of Chucky, Home Alone: The Holiday Heist), James Kozier (White Noise, The Core), and Paul Noel (X-Men 2, X-Men: The Last Stand).

The visual effects work for the movie was done by a team that included Conrad Dueck (Swordfish, The Core), Michael Shand (Catwoman, Paycheck), Scott Purdy (88 Minutes, The Wicker Man), and Tyler Hawes (Superman Returns).

The cast of Silent Night includes Malcolm McDowell (Suing The Devil, Caligula, A Clockwork Orange, Class of 1999), Jaime King (Sin City, The Spirit), Ellen Wong (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World), and Donal Logue (Gotham, Terriers, Reindeer Games).

silentnight3The plot of Silent Night is summarized on IMDb as follows:

The police force of a remote Midwestern town search for a killer Santa Claus who is picking off citizens on Christmas Eve.

In spite of the title of the movie, Silent Night is far less inspired by the original Silent Night, Deadly Night than you might expect: the similarities essentially end with the common appearance of a killer dressed as Santa. The plot is more derived from the real life 2008 Covina massacre, in which a number of attendees at a Christmas party were murdered by a man dressed as Santa in a combined shooting and arson.

Silent Night received a very limited theatrical release, which didn’t reach a particularly wide audience. Those that did see it gave it a mixed reception: the film currently holds a 5.2 user rating on IMDb, along with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 64% from critics and 33% from audiences.

The biggest criticism I have of Silent Night is that it didn’t need to masquerade as a remake of Silent Night, Deadly Night: it really should have staked its claim as something entirely new, with the sole commonality of a killer Santa.

silentnight2The tone of the movie does have some significant issues, however. For the most part, Silent Night is a straight horror movie, though it borrows a number of elements from cop thrillers as well. The problem comes with the insertion of some inconsistent moments of humor in the screenplay, which aren’t enough to push the movie as a whole into horror-comedy territory, but are enough to not be negligible.

Overall, this is a totally watchable horror movie, though I might call it unremarkable. There are some amusing performances scattered throughout that keep it entertaining, and the gore effects are everything that you could want from this sort of movie. I wouldn’t recommend it strongly, but there are certainly worse ways to spend your time than watching this flick

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.