"CHEERS"-STARS-RUN-OUT-OF-GHOSTLY-BUBBLEGUM 80's TWOFER!Steve Miner's HOUSE (1986, 93 min.) on DVD for the first time.All your 80's favorite TV stars ("Greatest American Hero's" William Katt, "Cheers'" George Wendt and "Night Court's" Richard Moll) in one easy-to-swallow haunted house picture that deftly mixes laughs, chills and even some tender family drama... awww! After the aunt that raised him (Susan French) hangs herself in the house where he grew up, struggling horror author Roger Cobb (Katt, excellent) moves there to finish writing the Vietnam memoir nobody wants him to work on. Still traumatized by the disappearance of his son that led to his divorce from primetime soap star Sandy Sinclair (Kay Lenz), Cobb and his noisy next-door-neighbor Harold (Wendt) stumble on a closet that becomes a gate to another dimension at the stroke of 12... AM or PM, doesn't matter. What's a neighborly guy like Roger to do when hot single mom Tanya (Mary Stävin) drops her little son at his doorstep with the hacked decomposing hand of his turned-into-a-monster ex attached to the boy's back?Based on producer Sean S. Cunningham and director Steve Miner's body of work (mainly the first two "Friday the 13th" movies), I didn't know they had the talent to pull off such a goofy-but-earnest scary horror tale. Having one Fred Dekker ("The Monster Squad") co-writing the script probably helped. There's a moment that comes out of nowhere when William Katt pumps his fist after flying gardening tools decapitate his ex-wife. I cheered and laughed so hard at that moment it probably woke up the neighbors. Like Ian Ziering in the "Sharknado" movies, Katt is the calm, cool and collected center around which a lot of crazy stuff revolves. One moment Roger's fighting an "Evil Dead 2"-type deadite inside a medicine cabinet, the next he's shedding real tears when he hugs the missing son he hasn't seen for ages. All that, plus one of the most iconic 80's horror movie posters of all time, period! Recommended, an entertaining and scary ghost movie that walks and talks the "Ghostbusters" cinematic language for a fraction of that movie's production cost. HOUSE II: THE SECOND STORY (1987, 84 min.) on DVD for the first time.While most of the behind-the-scenes players (producer Cunningham, composer Harry Manfredini, cinematographer Mac Ahlberg, stunt coordinator Kane Hodder, etc.) return for this downgraded-to-'PG-13' sequel, Fred Dekker and Steve Miner did not. Screenwriter Ethan Wiley now also directs, and the tone switches to a more goofy and cartoony vibe. It's a new house and new tenants, with Jesse McLaughlin (Arye Gross) playing a yuppie that accidentally revives his great great grandpa (and outlaw namesake) thanks to the magical powers of a crystal skull buried with him. Naturally beings from other dimensions want that skull, which would mean the death of Grandpa Jesse. The worst is Jesse's old West partner-in-crime Slim Razor (voiced by Frank Welker), who will have to get through Jesse and his comic relief best friend Charlie (Jonathan Stark) to get his skull.While "House II" is your typical diminishing-returns comedy sequel, there are great bits spread throughout. Chris Walas and his EFX team ("The Fly," "Gremlins") concoct adorable creatures (giant puppy worm, baby pterodactyl). 170-year old Grandpa Jesse becomes acquainted with the joys of drunk driving an Alfa Romeo Spyder convertible. And best of all, Bill Towner ("Cheers'" John Ratzenberger) shows up to fix some electrical wire and swashbuckle with Mayan priests to save the life of a sacrificial virgin. Nothing like a little CLIFF-CLAVIN-SPLOITATION! to brighten up this mediocre-but-still-fun sequel.
Story time...when I was around 13ish, I saw The Exorcist 3 and House 2 at a "youth night at the rec hall" thing. I was terrified and had nightmares for weeks, particularly from House 2 and that weird cowboy dude. And a scene where there is a door upstairs, and there is light coming from under the door, but you don't know what was behind it. Scary!I steered clear of horror movies for pretty much the next 20 years, and only started watching them around the time I joined the FThisMovie family. I still haven't revisited House 2, but it's amusing to hear it described as more comedy than scary.
Dude, I watched both "House" flicks back to back and the second isn't even close to being scary. All the frights and good scares are on the first one. "House II" is like an amusement ride or a Halloween dress-up party: even the scariest-looking person there can't frighten you because the setting is designed to put your mind at ease. That's the sequel, which is still a fun time. It's just not Steve Miner's (and Fred Dekker's) "House."
Faust: Love of the Damned (2000, dir. Brian Yuzna)Had I seen this movie when it came out, I would've though it was the best movie ever. I was 17, listened almost exclusively to the metal bands that are heavily featured on the soundtrack (Machine Head, Fear Factory, Sepultura, Soulfly, Coal Chamber...) and would've just eaten up the body horror, sex, and constant fast-paced editing.A meek artist makes a deal with the devil('s representative) to get revenge on the criminals who murdered his girlfriend, and turns into Spawn with Wolverine claws, who's torn between his newfound bloodlust and protecting his new love interest. Despite the name, the movie's much closer to the aforementioned Spawn than the classic Faust myth.Jeffrey Combs plays the cop trying to investigate the deaths "Faust" leaves in his wake, and Andrew Divoff is M (for Mephistopheles), the demon who promises the protagonist "life everlasting" in exchange for his soul (wonder where they got the idea to cast him in that part?). They're both good, but Mark Frost (no, not the co-creator of Twin Peaks) and Isabel Brook as the main couple are pretty terrible.
House on Haunted Hill (1959)A five people are challenged to the stay the night in a allegedly haunted house. The ones who make it through the night will get $10.000. Vincent Price is an incredible actor; his voice is like sweet velvet in my ears. He plays his role as an eccentric millionaire incredible convincingly.The Iconic soundtrack creates an incredible soundscape for the movie. Even the effects a quite good even compared to today. It’s a movie dripping in atmosphere, that turns in to a clever whodunit. But somebody should tell people not to have an acid vat in their basement that’s a serious health hazard.
I am not sure the Shaw Brothers’ Black Magic films are a perfect fit for this category, but the central character in each is certainly demonic. It is best to start with the better film.BLACK MAGIC 2 (1976, dir. Meng-hua Ho) This is pure B-movie craziness, and I loved it. Black Magic 2 is part horror and part exploitation. Set in Singapore, the film has a bonkers plot involving a witchdoctor/black magician, played by the wonderful Lo Lieh. There are all kinds of bizarre twists that do not follow much narrative logic. A little bit of everything- sex, violence, zombies, strange rituals- is thrown into the film. At the end, there is a bizarre showdown between the powers of good and evil. You get a funky soundtrack that would feel at home in blaxploitation and some very ‘70s clothes, too. This is my idea of a great Junesploitation film. Black Magic 2 is available on Amazon Prime in its English dub. That version looks a few minutes shorter than the one on DVD, and I cannot say anything about the image quality. I am not a Prime member.As for the DVD, the film looks pristine. It is well shot and has some nice colors to look at. I watched it in Mandarin with subtitles, but I did check out the English dub out of curiosity. It is not the worst nor is it the best dub I have heard. A bit of warning: there is a scene involving a dead alligator being cut open at the beginning of the film. BLACK MAGIC (1975, Meng-hua Ho) Though the lesser of the two films, Black Magic is not a terrible film. It is far more conventional than the second film, with a story that remains consistent throughout the film. A white magician and a black magician battle for control over a construction engineer. It is about a matter of love. The film does get a little crazy at points, but it is not at same level as the sequel. Both films have virtually the same cast, with the major difference being the actors playing the magicians. Black Magic is also on Amazon Prime.
Night of the Demon (1957 - dir Jacques Tourneur)I love Jacques Tourneur. So watching this movie was a little like sitting down infront of an accomplished chef, knowing you will like what ever he puts in front of you. Albiet, with a goofy looking Monster wheeling up and down occasionally. The movie tries to struture like a mystery but they don't really bury the lead.But, but this a movie of atmosphere and it's gorgeous. The way he uses light and shadow is beautiful, gothic and envoking. The way Tourneur uses specific angles is unsettling in the best way. It is a wonderful movie to spend time in, and even more perfect for a weird cult to hang out in. Also the more I see him stuff, the more I like Dana Andrews. He looks like he is going to be a block of wood, but there feels like this anger simmering below the surface. It's interesting to watch.
Dana Andrews is one of the best things about Otto Preminger's 1944 opus "Laura," a hell of an atmospheric noir.
Laura is fantastic. He's also great in Where the Sidewalk Ends also another Preminger.
The Exorcist Three (1990 dir - William Peter Blatty)The movie may change significantly in the third act, but The Exorcist 3 along with Stagefright are my favourites so far this Junsploitation. I adored the quietness of the piece. I also loved the 70s feel, I was surprised to see a computer pop up. This is probably that jump scare works so well. I knew a little about the scare saw the set up and it still got me. But holy crap the performances in this. George C. Scott and Brad Dourif are next level in this. Dourif's first monolgue rises and falls like the most grotesque symphony. And Scott, just the pieces of business he gives his character, the emotion and heart in his performance. And the fact that he brought his friend a toy Penguin. It says everything about him. In a movie that was about a great evil it wasn't afraind to show its humanity, and I loved it.
The Devil and Father Amorth (2018, dir. William Friedkin, First Time Viewing) Friedkin presents and personally leads you through a "real" exorcism. Not quite sure what to make of this one. It almost feels like a Fox "Alien Autopsy"-style TV special. From what I can tell, the exorcism and "possessed" victim appear authentic so why then was the choice made to clearly alter her voice with post-production effects? Kinda throws the whole thing into doubt. Still, I'm glad I saw it. Doesn't really matter to me how real it is, what is presented is pretty compelling. Light recommend, especially if you like hanging out with Friedkin.
End of Days (1999 - dir Peter Hyams)I wanted to end big. And nothing is bigger than the Devil, except when he is punched by Arnold Schwarzenegger. The movie itself is dopey - fun, but ultimately fine. Gabriel Byrne is just that right around smug cool and Irish as the Lord of Darkness. It was half way through when I remembered that I had saw it back in 99.
The Church (1989) Dir: Michele SoaviWhen people talk about movies that are all about atmosphere they might as well be talking about The Church. A pretty standard story, of demons being unleashed on a group of people who are trapped in a single location, becomes a masterclass on building dread by Soavi. The church used for the location becomes an imposing presence itself, and the unnerving score by Keith Emerson, Phillip Glass and Goblin keeps the tension even in mundane scenes. As I've said before I'm not the biggest Italian horror fan, but this month has really made me appreciate the artistry Soavi brings to his films. This one is one of the definite winners of the month for me. I know I'm late to the party on Soavi, but if you haven't seen this I recommend it completely.
Wishmaster (1997)Alright Riske, today's finally the day. I can't believe the stellar Tami "Fuck you!" has overshadowed the legendary Tortelli "Ok!" in terms of cinemas greatest performances. Someone get me to a ballgame, hotdogs optional.
Ghost Graduation (Promoción fantasma) (2012, dir. Javier Ruiz Caldera)Watched a demon movie earlier, gotta balance it out with a ghost movie. Betcha I'm the only one seeing a Spanish comedy for today.Five students died in a fire in their high school decades ago, and have been stuck in the school as ghosts ever since, harassing the students and faculty. A new teacher arrives, and turns out he's the only one who can see the ghosts, so naturally he helps them graduate so they can finally be free.It's a fun twist on all the familiar high school movie tropes and 84 minutes is exactly the right running time for a movie like this.
Nightmare Sisters (1988) Dir: David DeCoteauYikes, this movie is not good. Three nerdy sorority sisters are possessed by a succubus and become man-slaying demons allergic to clothes.OK first the positives: Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens and the amazing Michelle Bauer share the screen for only the second time and they are their usual awesome selves (except for a skeezy character choice on Brinke's part). And the Vinegar Syndrome Blu is nicely done. Aaaaand that's it.Made in four days because DeCoteau had film stock left over from his previous film and access to a free house, Nightmare Sisters has none of the fun or charm of Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama. Starting with an interminable and racist opening scene, continuing to a bath scene that lasts entirely too long, Brinke Stevens going for a young girl vibe once possessed, and a climax that was made with props from the Halloween Store, this is a total miss. Only my undying devotion to Michelle Bauer kept me going.
Demons 2 (1986 dir. Lamberto Bava)Demons use a television as a portal to attack and possess tenants of a high-rise. While not as good as "Demons", it is still entertaing and the gore effects are appropriately gross. Also, there is a demon design that was clearly inspired by "Gremlins".
Insidious: The Last Key (2018)While the law of diminishing returns certainly applies, I still enjoyed this fourth (and probably final) trip into The Further. It was a good move for writer Leigh Whannell to make Lin Shaye’s Elise Rainier the focus of the prequels, as Shaye is always solid and plays her with a dignified grace that isn’t always found in movies built to be roller coasters. This time we follow Elise and her sidekicks Tucker and Specs to her childhood home in New Mexico, where she has been summoned by the new owner to find the source of a haunting. There are a few decent jolts (though none as effective as the window gag from Insidious Chapter 3, a movie I still really like a lot) and a good use of the single PG-13 f-bomb, so points for that. It’s a little slow (particularly in the middle) and easily the weakest in the series, but even still it’s worth seeing just for Shaye. I’m so glad we have a franchise anchored by a presence like hers.
The Ghost of Yotsuya (1959)I really want to watch some of the other versions of this story, but everything I've read cites this as the best film adaptation. I honestly can't think of many ways that this could be topped. The ghost scenes, especially the ones in the final sword fight in the cemetery, are among the most terrifying things I've ever seen.
A Chinese Ghost Story (2011) Dir: Wilson YipBig budge Chinese remake of Ching Siu-Tung's seminal 1987 film. The original is one of the foundations of the HK new wave and one of the movies that got me into HK cinema. The remake has all of the hallmarks of modern Chinese blockbusters, which means it looks gorgeous, has impressive CGI, and lacks any of the heart or reckless spirit that made the original such an undeniable joy. Liu Yifei and Yu Shaoqun are pleasant enough as the leads but the lack even 10% of the smoldering chemistry Leslie Cheung and Joey Wang brought to their roles in the original. We know from SPL and Ip Man that Wilson Yip knows his way around an action scene but it's glossy CGI that lacks any visceral thrill. I know it's not always fair to compare remakes to originals, but this is so close in plot and tone that it can't be helped. And as such, it's a let down. It's not a bad movie, but your time is better spent seeking out the original, which a bona-fide classic.
THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959) Another bona fide classic. Vincent Price plays an eccentric millionaire who challenges a group of folks to spend the night in a haunted house, with plot twists galore. Price is great of course, and Carol Ohmart keeps pace with him as his wife. There are great performances all around, and the movie cleverly covers the low-budget effects by keeping the audience guessing to whether the ghosts are trickery or genuinely supernatural.THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1999) Geoffrey Rush plays Mr. Price (get it?), a Walt Disney-style theme park owner who gathers folks to spend the night in a haunted house, etc. I was enjoying this at first. The over-the-top production design and even more over-the-top acting prepared me for a movie that would be quirky and weird in the best way. The rest of it didn’t live up to its promise, though, with a lot of people walking around dark hallways with flashlights and unfinished-looking ‘90s CGI. Oh, well. RETURN TO THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (2007) A group of good-looking people explore the house from the 1999 film, revealed to be a haunted hospital, where they search for a magic amulet. There’s a ton of gore and nudity in this one, and yet I was bored. This could have benefited from the style-over-substance visuals of its predecessor, but it instead just feels generic.
Night of the Demons (1988, dir. Kevin S. Tenney)Completely unoriginal choice for the day, but I felt like revisiting it because I've been listening to the score in the car lately. What a goofy, fun movie. It's not one of the best horror movies of the '80s, but it's everything I love about '80s horror.
Watched this today as well, mostly to purge Nightmare Sisters from my system. It really is the epitome of what makes 80's horror so fun. Plus major scene scored to Bauhuas' Stigmata Martyr, possibly the gothiest song that has ever gothed!
Night of the Demon (1957, dir. Jacques Tourneur)I think I would have had a better experience with this film under better circumstances. Through some interruptions I had to watch this film in a few settings, and that's not good for a film that's greatest asset is mood and atmosphere. I could still appreciate it from a distance for being very well made, but never quite got wrapped up in it.Interestingly, the producer forced everyone involved to include an actual monster on screen, even thought that was not the original plan. I recognize it may have been less dated if that was the case, but I really liked seeing the monster. I thought it looked awesome!
Agree on the monster! That design is A+, especially for 1957
The Fog (1980) Dir: John CarpenterMuch to my shame this is a first time watch for me. Even though I've been watching Carpenter since I was a kid I just always opted to rewatch Escape from NY or Halloween instead of watching this for the fist time. What a mistake that was.There's nothing I can say about this amazing movie that hasn't already been said a million times over, other than I loved it. It's textbook Carpenter. It's not in my top five Carpenter, but when you have a career like his that's not a slight. If you haven't seen this yet, don't be like me. See it as soon as you can.
Demons (1985)Fun concept of people being trapped in a movie theater and getting possessed by demons. My only real complaint is that nobody making the film realized that Bobby Rhodes as the pimp Tony should have been the star of the movie.Ghosts of Mars (2001)One of the fun things about Junesploitation is I feel like it gives me a valid reason to watch and actually enjoy something like Ghosts of Mars. Even though the movie is a complete mess on a technical and story level, and it's a depressing reminder of how the careers of so many horror greats end up, I can have a good time watching it because it's checks off a ton of exploitation boxes and is very much in the spirit of the month.
The Demons of Ludlow (1983)The cover for this one looked a lot better than It was, especially after watching Ghost House first, but this one was low-budget with just enough weird editing and cheap effects that it reeks of so much exploitation I assumed it was shot in the early 70’s.
Rosemary's Baby (1968, dir. Roman Polanski)This was by far my biggest horror blindspot. Finally checked that off the list!Sometimes when you get to the huge classics late it's a bit of a disappointment. You've just absorbed too much of it through pop culture and you can't understand how people felt at the time it came out. That was my experience with The Exorcist, and I wondered if this would be the same. Nope, not at all. This is one of the best films I've ever seen and it actually scared me a lot. What an absolutely amazing film. News flash, right? haha
What I liked best about the movie is you spend much of it wondering if what she is experiencing is based in reality or just paranoia.
The Gate (1987, dir. Takacs)A b-movie with the ambitions of a Spielberg flick.
So I'm not a fan of ghost and demon movies, they rely too much on the jump scare and I have a highly active fight or flight response (read: I'm chicken shit), so I took a freebie day. Also a buddy came to visit.The Street Fighter (1974) This was like an R-rated version of Bruce Lee's movies. Chiba played a dirty bastard that felt no remorse in killing anyone or grabbing the ladies. He did his best Bruce Lee impression that sort of wore thin by the end, not nearly as intimidating if you don't have Lee's body. All in all a fun ride but nothing special either.Coffy (1973)I've more than double my stats on blacksploitation this year and this was one of the more polished. Pam Grier just had IT, probably still does. She blows a drug pusher's head clean off in the first few minutes with a point blank shotgun and it never lets up. The movie indicts everyone from the white politicians, to the police, to the people pushing the drugs to their own communities. One-Armed Boxer (1971)If this is someone's favorite I do apologize, but this movie kind of stunk. Holy shit some of the designs in this film. So we've got a Japanese vampire, an "Indian" yogi in black face (not his hands though) and a monk with eyebrows more impressive than the Duck Dynasty beards. The fights were dull for the most part. Did get a chuckle out of the stop motion hand stand movements. Essentially this turned into me and my buddy narrating an MST3K. Again, sorry if there is love for this movie but it is easily the worst Kung Fu movie I've watched.Master of the Flying Guillotine (1976)This is the sequel to One Armed Boxer and a spiritual sequel to The Flying Guillotine, which I also wasn't a big fan of. Thus, the expectations were low to say the least. This delivered though. The movie came off more like a spaghetti western. We open with a blind Pai Mei type being informed his two apostles (from One Armed Boxer) have been killed and for him to avenge them, so he dusts off the old flying guillotine, oh and he has a badass theme song, like Imperial March levels of badass. The One Armed Boxer attends a martial arts tournament, but doesn't compete. This portion drug a tiny bit but they did a decent job keeping the battles interesting and varying them with the different styles unlike the previous film. Eventually the One Armed boxer meets the cage slinger and shit gets good. Not perfect, but a fun ride. Highly recommended.
The Unholy (1988)New Orleans has always been my second home, so I’m a sucker for any movies set there. There’s so much character to the city between the history, climate and wildlife, music, culture, etc. that really makes for some good versatility in filmmaking. It’s the perfect setting for a horror movie, especially one that deals with religious elements like this. I vaguely remember this movie being discussed on ‘Shock Waves’ a while back and I think they were mostly positive about it. While it has some interesting plot elements and a few moments of gnarly gore, it’s pretty damn slow. Ben Cross is not the most charismatic leading man either, and there’s not an active villain (besides maybe the red woman) to fall back on. Where a movie like ‘Angel Heart’ really leans into the culture of New Orleans in it’s plot, this movie only seems superficially interested in the city. It could’ve been set anywhere. Always good to see Hal Holbrook and Ned Beatty, even if they don’t have a ton to do. Fun enough to throw on if you have nothing else to do, but be prepared to ride the fast forward button a good bit.
Demon Wind (Charles Philip Moore, 1990)It doesn't have the (intentional) humor or visual stylings of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead flicks, but it feels like a cousin. The spirit is there...in terms of set up and a clear love for really good and plentiful practical gore makeup and effects...you could do worse than a pretty well made wannabe Raimi, ya know? Highly recommended.
Amityville II: The Possession (1982):Who was it that said that Burt Young reminded them of a wet bologna sandwich? I'm going to start calling him "Jimmy Coldcuts." Anyway, a guy gets possessed with an incest demon.
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ugh forgot to begin with the movie title. I'm rusty.
The Manitou (1977, dir. William Girdler)I’m late to the Junesploitation game this year but happy to have kicked things off last night with The Manitou, a 1977 supernatural horror starring Tony Curtis and Susan Strasberg. I nearly dismissed this one due to dry cover art, but my friendly clerk at Scarecrow Video promised that it’s never slow and has a batshit climax. The premise of this film is that Karen (Strasberg), a polite San Francisco woman, checks into a hospital regarding a rapidly growing tumor on her back. Men in mustard lab coats read x-rays and reveal an impossibility: a growing fetus inside the lump. Following a quick research montage scene, it’s concluded that what we’re dealing with here is an ancient Native American demon growing inside of gentle Karen. Karen’s (ex?) boyfriend Harry (Curtis) makes a cushy living as a fraudulent psychic wearing a velvety zodiac robe and catering to a steady client stream of old women. It’s truly a delight to watch him strut around his funky apartment. He’s by her side at the hospital, where the supernatural powers that he’s supposed to be tapping into become a real issue that he doesn’t know how to handle.He takes it upon himself to immediately drive to a South Dakota reservation to fetch a “medicine man” who might know more about the Native American spirit. He finds John Singing Rock, who informs him matter-of-factly about the Manitou, a powerful spirit that must reincarnate using other people and animals until it is accepted by the spirit world. Just go with it.From here it becomes a battle between a masculine medical team, aided by the wisdom of a token Native American, against the seemingly limitless power of The Manitou, who eventually emerges to reveal his totally ripped 4-foot frame in a crazy scene of body horror. Karen eventually stands up for herself too, but must do so topless.The simplification and demonization of Native American culture central to this film’s theme is obviously problematic. Also, John Singing Rock is played by Michael Ansara, a handsome Syrian. But in 2008 Taylor Lautner, a white kid from Grand Rapids, was cast as Quileute tribe member Jacob Black in Twilight so, I don’t know. We continue to ask you to work on your shit, Hollywood.As promised, the movie was extremely watchable. Solid acting and pleasant cinematography make the first half a breeze to follow. When the action escalates later on, the effects are deliciously and consistently bad in a way that I’d rather watch than modern CGI any day. This film is a strange cup of ‘70s medical thriller with an unforgettable Ghostbusters finish. If you can find it, see it.
The Ring (2002) - first watch - Demons and GhostsThis is movie is creepy as hell! Glad I caught up with it, and was pleased to see Naomi Watts. I'm going to watch more jittery J-horror this October.