Sunday, May 27, 2012

Pet Sematary (1989)

King films like MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE (1986) and SLEEPWALKERS (1992) still make me cringe today. Not because they are scary, but because they are really hard to watch and generally horrible. :) So, why did the 1989 film PET SEMATARY work as well as it did? It was still based on a Stephen King story and had a King screenplay. King even directed Maximum. 

Even though the well respected Mick Garris directed Sleepwalkers, he couldn't save it from the truck wreck of a script he had to work with. Alice Krige couldn't even save that film for me. 

Mary Lambert was the key to PET SEMATARY.  I think she got the whole of it - the world it took place in, the players and what was at stake. Loss and death were the main focus of the film and she seemed to take it and run with it. Sadly, she didn't really go on to do more items of note on the horror side of things. SEMATARY II, which I don't recall and a TALES FROM THE CRYPT episode are there, but it looks like she moved on to music videos and B films. I do hope her latest venture - HIGH MIDNIGHT - brings her back into the world of horror direction! (A sheriff teams up with a vampire hunter. Stars Vincent D'Onofrio, Rachael Leigh Cook, and Elizabeth Hurley. Not bad!)

Now, don't get me wrong - this is FAR from a perfect film...even though THE RAMONES did the theme music! :)

We're still dealing with child actors Blaze "I memorized all my lines!" Berdahl and Miko "I'm really too young to understand what a movie even is" Hughes as a backbone to this movie. And, that's really difficult. They are just kid actors and I think you'd agree that more often than not, they are fighting to stay in the movie most of the time and trying not to mug for the camera.  Denise Crosby and Dale Midkiff and fine and do a good job, but Fred Gwynne and Brad Greenquist really steal the show. Their characterizations are fun and so very "King". I enjoyed them immensely. Gwynne is fantastic.

The budget seemed ok and there were some fine effects gags going, but everything seemed a bit...low budget. It may have just been the time this was filmed. Late 80s stylings. (And shoulder pads) 

When the scares come, they don't pull any punches, however. There is gore and there is violence for sure. And, the vision the created to show the horror movie style spinal meningitis victim...:::shiver:::   Rather haunting. The film slices, dices, and plows into several unfortunate folks during its run time and each victim actually means something. It's not just the classic "Set 'em up and knock 'em down" teen movie. These people are loved and it shows. That makes their loss all the more gut wrenching.

The film presents a sad tale of death and how we deal with it. Or, in this case, deal with it badly. That's what makes this film interesting. Louis Creed keeps making the wrong choice. Over and over. Three, to be exact. Each is worse than the last until his luck finally runs out and his bad choices catch up to him. At first, you may say, "That's ridiculous - no one would do that." But I'm sure you know people who have on a lesser scale. Bad choices in jobs of relationships time and time again leading them into troubles they should know to avoid. PET SEMATARY takes that to the extreme, showing just how far some people go to avoid dealing with death. I loved that. 
Far from perfect, PET SEMATARY has enough going for it to make it an enjoyable watch. Especially if you toss it on around midnight...with the lights out. :)

What better way to watch the trailer than through a grab of a VHS tape!

Happy 75th, Golden Gate!

What better way to celebrate the Golden Gate's 75th Anniversary than taking a look at a clip from the 1955 classic It Came From Beneath The Sea?!  The great Ray Harryhausen's Giant Octopus beast attacks our great bridge. Take a look!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tales That Witness Madness (1973)

Fans of TALES FROM THE CRYPT or CREEPSHOW style horror anthology movies may want to check out TALES THAT WITNESS MADNESS. The 70's pace and style may throw some people off, but I found it to have a certain charm - like an old, worn in sweater you toss on when it's cold and rainy outside.

Freddie Francis directed the film and I was happy to see the style carry over from his older films like the freaktastic Girly (1970) - a strange, personal fave of mineand the other anthology films he headed up like Tales from the Crypt (1972) and Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965). 

The cast includes the talents of Kim Novak, Donald Pleasence and Joan Collins. The English production quality is top notch for the time. We have a classic, two person base to work from as Jack Hawkins visits Pleasence at his asylum to celebrate his recent psychological progress with four mental patients - aka our four stories.  I talk them through in broad strokes.

Mr Tiger
There's nothing stronger than a child's imagination. So creative. So...dangerous. Fighting parents just don't understand a lonely child's need for a companion.

Penny Farthing
Items passed over from an aunt who has passed over prove to be life altering.  And, Uncle Albert proves to be a very bad man.

"I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree."  A tree found in the woods is looked at as an objet d'art by one and an eyesore by another. Anger, jealousy and fighting ensues. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.  
Rituals of all sorts take place in this, the last tale. Friends, family and gods play a game of chess in this tale of betrayal. You are what you eat.

And the final tale proves to be an interesting one as well. 

Now, this is 1973 and this does seem like a low budget film. However, the stories are fun and the acting works. The "effects" are limited and subtle. In some cases, they are very basic and the eye of the 2012 viewer may be disappointed. I found them to add to the film's charms. That cozy feeling of story wrapping around you and effects not getting in the way.

Mel and Mr. Tiger proved to be the strongest stories for me. The most interesting as well. I saw where Penny Farthing was going, but the various elements that went into it didn't play well together 100% and it made for some disjointed moments. The wrap up was fun, however - it held my interest. Luau was good and dark, but seemed a little long. I would have liked to see some of these stories streamlined a bit, then one more story added to pad it out. I think things would be stronger overall.

If you're looking for a little something that's older and more tame than say SAW, this is for you. Creepy and dark, TALES THAT WITNESS MADNESS is a fun 'ole time.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Giallo (2009)

Adrien "Batman Voice" Brody stars in Dario Argento's GIALLO.  And, want to know what's really odd about it - the movie, that is. I didn't DETEST it. It was actually ok.

DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK was the last Argento film I watch and didn't hate. MOTHER OF TEARS was extremely disappointing. To the point of wanting my 90 plus minutes back. It was such a horrid round out of the Mother Of Tears Trilogy. So, when the negative rumblings started about GIALLO and the over the top Brody was cast, I didn't have high hopes at all. But, you know didn't suck.
 We're into old school giallo fair here. There's a bad man killing hot girls. Ok. Sure. It's Italy. Happens all the time, right? Serial killer madness with Brody on the case. See, he's a tough, New York cop in Italy looking for this killer. The killer is bad, see, and Brody...see...he's a tough cop. See? :)  Seriously, Dario manages to dial in many of the old giallo tropes and I liked it. The bait and switch, the red herrings and McGuffins and the crazy giallo violence. It all works for the most part. I'd even say that Dario manages to tap into some old school giallo vibes that have not been seen a while. This thing even had the classic flash back stuff we all know and love in giallo. But, if you're a hardcore movie and giallo fan, you'll poke holes in this film. you'll HAVE to.

All jokes aside, it's not bad. If you like old school giallo mysteries, you can check this out. Just keep expectations a little lower and you'll be fine. Brody doesn't suck. He's himself. The lead actress is Emmanuelle Seigner and she's better than Dario's daughter. :::grin::: She's been around a while with movies like FRANTIC and LA VIE EN ROSE under her belt. The script is fine. Low key and simple. And the pace is good. We have the classic "look for the victim before she expires" going on here and it works.

And, of course, this is a recent Dario Argento film, so there are things that DON'T work, of course. The "Killer" isn't great. I won't give anything away, but I will say he doesn't work. It seemed sloppy. And I had to watch the end a few times to get it. It was comical. I watched it and said, "Wait....what?" So, I rewound.

"Wait....did he...."  Rewind two.

"Ah...ok......I think that's what happened. I'm pretty sure that's what happened...."  I didn't bother rewinding. I just went with my assumption. PROBABLY not a good thing, know...Dario has some street cred and can be cut some slack.

It's available for streaming as of this posting, so if you're a giallo fan and have Netflix streaming dialed in, do give it a go. If you're only planning on watching one Dario Argento giallo this year, re-watch or watch INFERNO or SUSPERIA or DEEP RED get the picture. :)

I loved the theme music, too. Pretty nice work.

Check it out. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012


I love this creepy little song. It's the poem "Antigonish", an 1889 poem by American educator and poet Hughes Mearns. It has the awesome spin of Glenn Miller, too. It's all at once cute and creepy at the same time. A personal fave of mine. :)

Yesterday, upon the stair, 
I met a man who wasn’t there 
He wasn’t there again today 
I wish, I wish he’d go away... 

When I came home last night at three 
The man was waiting there for me 
But when I looked around the hall 
I couldn’t see him there at all! 

Go away, go away, 
don’t you come back any more! 
Go away, go away, 
and please don’t slam the door... (slam!) 

Last night I saw upon the stair 
A little man who wasn’t there 
He wasn’t there again today 
Oh, how I wish he’d go away