mag·nif·i·cent/magˈnifəsənt/ (adj.)

1. Impressively beautiful, elaborate, or extravagant; striking.
2. Very good; excellent.

Synonyms: splendid - gorgeous - grand - superb - glorious

WARNING: Some spoilers may be bound but I try to keep them light.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)


       "Did you ever watch The Twilight Zone?"

Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), is an anthology film produced by Steven Spielberg and John Landis and is a theatrical version of the the long running Twilight Zone series.

The film contains four stories and a prologue, all the stories are based on episodes from the original series except the first and even that resembles a couple different old episodes. The stories are directed by John Landis, Stephen Spielberg, Joe Dante and George Miller.

One of the consistently good things about Twilight Zone: The Movie is its direction. This is the one way the stories consistently top their original television episodes. These are all good and well seasoned directors well along in their careers by the time they came together to make this and it shows.

These are fair adaptations of the original stories, I still have some preferences that go back to the original series episodes, but I think that comes from my personal attachment to the Rod Serling series (and I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels that way.)

The first story after the prologue, "Time Out" is the only original story of the lot and I feel like it shows. It's not really bad, but it's just clearly not as good as the others. It seems very surface level, I think what it's missing is a resolution with the main characters, I think if this was an original series episode we'd see the main character have a complete change on screen whether (its too late or not.) This one just seems super unsatisfying.

Meridith Burgess, who starred in four separate episodes of the original series, does most of the narration in the film filling the Rod Serling role of the series and I think she really nails it. She somehow does her own thing with it and still subtly suggests Rod Serling's voice over. Steven Speilberg or whoever made that decision really nailed it.

The other thing I really like about this film is that their selections of stories, and variety of tones really do feel like the perfect tribute to The Twilight Zone series!

Twlight Zone: The Movie (1983) is a bold undertaking that is largely successful. It's totally worth a watch.

3.5/5 Stars.

 Happy watching!

This review is part of my 2014 run of 13 Nights of Macabre Movies! Tune in tomorrow as I review another horror anthology sequel Creepshow 2 (1987).

Like this blog? You can support it by buying this film through these fine links:

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Creepshow (1982)


       "You can't shoot us dead, Richard... "

Creepshow (1982), is a horror anthology film written by Stephen King and directed by George A. Romero. The film contains five stories that are inspired by the EC Comics horror publications.

The film is connected by a brightly animated sequences and bookended by a an additional story about a young boy who is not allowed to read a horror comic called Creepshow.

Nearly the first thing you will notice about Creepshow is that it contains these flashy comic book style animated sequences and transitions. All of this stuff works, it's a bit over the top, I'm not sure these brightly color animated sequences best represent the black and white horror comics this film is trying to pay tribute to? It can just be a little over the top is all I'm saying, 'we get it.... it's a comic book.'

The stories in Creepshow aren't bad, like the rest of the film they're over-the-top and sadly they kind of fall into the problem of being very bland because they're trying to represent all-too familiar horror tropes, without adding anything new. Honestly this film would have been better if they just stuck to actual EC Comics stories either literally [much like Tales from the Crypt (1972)] or just adapted them from the seed of a comic story. What's weird is the dialogue throughout is very what I would call 'young slang,' this is far different than the tone of the original comics so I have to wonder what Mr. King was trying to do? Was he trying to attract a young audience for the film with silly dialogue? "Meteor shit!"

I like George Romero's direction in this film. It's very simple, nothing is really that complicated or unique but its all very straight forward and effective. He does one really interesting that you may not even notice on the first watch, every time he's showing something supernatural he adds an unnatural light to the characters and the scene much like what Mario Bava did on Black Sabbath (1964) over twenty years before. I'm not sure Romero was copying Bava because they both use it differently, but the end result really does help link the film together with it's brightly colored animated sequences.

The worst and most over-the-top thing about this film is the zany acting. All of the characters don't act like humans, which is not only distracting but it makes it hard to relate to them. As a viewer you end up laughing more, which I'm not sure was the original intention, but I think this is why the film is such a cult classic among horror fans.

My favorite things about the film are makeup special effects and props. I'm not sure if it's because this is the first film on my list that was created in the 80s or if its because a young Tom Savini was in charge of them? Either way its definitely a good reason to check out the film and makes me sad that they don't belong in a more 'serious' horror film, rather than the madcap film that is Creepshow.

Creepshow (1982) folds under any kind of a critical eye, but it makes up for a lot of that by being a whole bunch of fun.

3/5 Stars.

Happy watching!

This review is part of my 2014 run of 13 Nights of Macabre Movies! Tune in tomorrow as I review the film version of The Twilight Zone produced by Stephen Spielberg and John Landis, Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983).

Like this blog? You can support it by buying this film through these fine links:

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Vault of Horror (1973)


       "Do you think that our fears, could be some kind of warning?"

The Vault of Horror (1973), also known as Vault of Horror, Further Tales from the Crypt and Tales from the Crypt II, is a British anthology film directed by Roy Ward Baker and produced by Amicus Productions. This is the sequel to Amicus' Tales from the Crypt (1972), and like that film The Vault of Horror contains five stories almost entirely taken from the pages of the long-running Tales from the Crypt EC Comics anthology.

Five men walk into an elevator, which then goes directly to the basement floor despite no one pressing it. When it opens they find a gentleman's club, and they find themselves 'trapped' there. Making the most of it they sit down and have a drink and start to talk, each man starts to talk about strange dreams they've been having recently.

The stories in Vault of Horror are all quite good, much like Tales from the Crypt they picked stories that translate well on screen. The direction in them is less good than that of the previous movie, but it is effective. I think my favorite story is the second one, "Midnight Mess" it's simple and silly and very amusing.

The acting here is not bad over all, if anything it leans on the bland if nothing else it starts to blend together but that's more to do with the casting, but more on that in a second. Sadly this is the only Amicus Horror anthology that doesn't have Peter Cushing, and it could have probably benefited from his consistently strong performances. Instead, here we have Tom Baker, (Yes, Whovians the fourth Doctor!), and while he's about as diverse as the cast gets (because his hair isn't gray?) his acting saves a story that I probably wouldn't have like otherwise!

One of the things I can't not see about this film is how it seems mildly sexist. At the very least this film should be an argument for diversity in casting, because I can't imagine a film with a cast made up of a bunch of old white men really getting that diverse of a following. I'm even a (soon to be old) white man and I felt dirty watching this!

The framing story of this movie is quite boring if you've seen Tales from the Crypt, which okay yes I did watch them back to back but the films came out a year apart in their original release, so I can't imagine many people saw these movies farther apart than that! It's the SAME exact formula only done worse because there's no Crypt Keeper! It's like they set out to do something different but in the end just looked at the original and copied it point by point.

The Greatest thing about The Vault of Horror is the way the stories ramp up and with each one they get more peculiar and strange as they go on. This works super well so much so that I wasn't really feeling this movie from the beginning (you'll realize it's a rehash of Tales from the Crypt, pretty darn quickly) but as the movie went on my interest was raised with each story!

The Vault of Horror (1973) is not terrible, but I'd probably always pick watching Tales of the Crypt over it. It ends up less as a sequel and more like a rehash.

3/5 Stars.

Happy watching!

This is part of my 2014 run of 13 Nights of Macabre Movies! Tune in tomorrow as I review a different take on a tribute to the EC Comics with the original Creepshow (1982).

Like this blog? You can support it by buying this film through these fine links:

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tales from the Crypt (1972)


       "Who's next?"

Tales from the Crypt (1972), is an British anthology horror film directed by Freddie Francis and produced by Amicus Productions. It contains five stories all detailing the strange occurrences of someones death. The stories are also lifted from the EC Comics publications: Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror and The Haunt of Fear. 

Five strangers get seperated from their tourist group as they are visiting old catacombs. They encounter a hooded, old Crypt Keeper who tells each of them a story.

The acting overall in the film ranges from bland to good, that's kind of what you get with these kind of movies with such large casts. I think my favorite acting coincides with the darkest stories of the film the third story, "Poetic Justice" and the final "Blind Alleys," these are both really messed up and dark stories but they both wouldn't have been as effective without the strong acting preformances.

I would say the film is a little dated. It's definitely not as flashy and fun or exciting as some of the other ones on the list I'm reviewing this season, but there's plenty of other reasons to watch it.

And the effects are one of the places it's most evident, some of the makeup and props hold up but all of the 70s special effects look very tacky today.

Easily my favorite thing about Tales from the Crypt is the framing story. I love how the viewer is just as confused as the main characters at the beginning and if you're paying attention you start to realize the stories all involve death. Then you notice the characters who die are the ones represented in the cave and by the time you realize what's actually going on the film ends. It's everything I liked about the framing device in The House that Dripped Blood (1970) but pulled off much more successfully!

And (as if that wasn't enough) the stories themselves are really good too. It's hard for me to pick a favorite because I enjoyed them all! There's lots of films now that are tributes to EC Comics but this film is the first one that actually makes me feel the same way reading the comics do. These are very dark stories, really not intended for kids at all and nothing is held back. I absolutely love them, honestly all horror films should really strive to be as good as the stories featured here in Tales from the Crypt.

Tales from the Crypt (1972) is a great example of what an anthology films should be and the stories, all taken directly from old horror comics, still work beautifully to this day.

3.5/5 Stars.

 Happy watching!

This review is part of my 2014 run of 13 Nights of Macabre Movies! Tune in tomorrow as I review this film's sequel The Vault of Horror (1973).

Like this blog? You can support it by buying this film through these fine links:

Monday, October 20, 2014

The House That Dripped Blood (1970)


       "That's what's wrong with the present day horror films. There's no realism."

The House That Dripped Blood (1970), is an British anthology horror film produced by Amicus Productions. It contains four stories all involving previous tenants of a large house in the countryside who met their demise in a strange way, and the stories are connected by a framing story about a couple of police officers who are investigating the most recent death of a tenant.

Although it takes a while to understand what they're trying to do, one of the best things about this film is the interesting way it connects the stories. I have to say its definitely one of the most interesting ways I've ever seen to connect an anthology film, despite not being pulled off as good as it could have been. But there's also something to be said about a framing story that doesn't just lay its cards out in the first scene too. I do appreciate films like this where you have to get to the end to understand what is really going on.

The worst thing about this film is the stories. They're not written particularly badly, but they're almost all just so dull and uninteresting. They're all very reliant on each stories twist and almost all of them contain what we call a "Double-Shyamalan," which in its self isn't inherently bad and fits the genre well, but to see a double twist 4 times in a row gets really, really repetitive.

I also think the selection of stories is weird. Not to spoil, but the first two stories are non supernatural of nature, and the second two are. Which is weird to me because when I'm watching an anthology film I'm thinking about the common themes and tropes of the stories selected and put together. So when I watch two stories that end up being non-supernatural of nature, I'm really thrown off when the next two are? The least they could have done was switch them up so they were non-supernatural, supernatural, non... etc.

The acting in this film is also pretty terrible or dull at best. There's a couple exceptions I'll get to in a minute but otherwise they really just weigh down the already dull material. Even Christopher Lee seems like he's phoning in his acting, to the point where I couldn't figure out how his character was supposed to be feeling toward his daughter, which happens to be a major part of that story! Pretty un-excusable.

The two best things about this film are Peter Cushing and Jon Pertwee, and for two completely different reasons. Peter Cushing is the perfect counter weight to Christopher Lee. Where you can tell how much Chris Lee liked the source material based on his performance in the film, you'd never know with Peter Cushing because he really gives his all in every film I've ever seen him in! And even though I've seen him play a variety of roles, his acting in this movie is new to me, I've never seen him play a role like this and he really nails it.

Jon Pertwee on the other hand (yes Whovians, the third Doctor,) is really hamming up his role here and while I'm less familiar with his career so I'm not sure if this is intentional for this role or not, but he really sells his segment of the film. And it's also very ironic that he's playing an aging Christopher Lee-type role in a film that also stars Christopher Lee! So it's no surprise that these two actors really made the film for me and the second and fouth stories are my favorite of the bunch, easily.

The House that Dripped Blood (1970) isn't a great film, but it's probably a good stand alone example of the many Amicus Productions Horror anthologies.

3/5 Stars.

 Happy watching!

This review is part of my 2014 run of 13 Nights of Macabre Movies! Tune in tomorrow as I review one of Amicus Productions' most well know horror anthologies, Tales from the Crypt (1972).

Like this blog? You can support it by buying this film through these fine links:

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Black Sabbath (1964)

Welcome again to my favorite time of year! Unlike the last two years I will be reviewing only 13 horror films rather than the 31 I did the previous years as part of my 31 Nights of Macabre Movies. There's a few reasons I'm switching this up this year but the main reason is two years ago when I started this I was unemployed and its a lot easier to take on a commitment like that when you don't have a full time job!

But this will also allow me to focus on one topic or sub-genre of horror film so I think in the end it will make it a more focused countdown than it used to be. This year I'm reviewing 13 Anthology Horror films, but enough blabbing lets get on with it...


       "You have no reason to be afraid."

Black Sabbath (1964), also known as I tre volti della paura (literally: The Three Faces of Fear), is an Itallian-French anthology horror film directed by Mario Bava. Black Sabbath contains 3 stories: "The Drop of Water," "The Telephone", and "The Wurdalak" with introductions by Boris Karloff.

The stories although written by Bava, Alberto Bevilaccqua, and Marcello Fondato are all based on and heavily influenced by horror literature and ghost stories. All three stories deal with the theme of a loved one returning from beyond the grave in a different way.

[This review will focus on the English version of the film]

I love Boris Karloff, and I think having him introduce the stories in this film was actually a genius way to get a wider International audience but he's really just blabbing spooky gibberish most of the time here. So my love for Boris Karloff and spooky stuff lets me enjoy these sequences but they really could have put some effort into tying what he's saying into the films more. I've read that some of these scenes were actually filmed for the American release on a Hollywood set with an unknown director, so that really makes me want to see the original release just to see if it's improved.

Like lots of other films I've reviewed from the 60s and 70s the production design always stands out to me. There was obviously an added level of care put into the sets of these films and this is another example of it really working. "The Telephone," for example was set in a (then) contemporary setting and the production design throughout is so good that the jump in time wont even be noticed by the viewer!

The English dub here is predictably quite terrible. It's amusing to me actually because I can tell the International actors are really quite good, they're just dubbed over terribly, which is common with foreign films of this era.

The clunky dub might not have been as noticeable except that these stories have a LOT of dialogue, all of these stories work very well and are quite creepy but they are very unnecessarily 'talky' that it holds back the film in my opinion. Just let the scenes play out, no need to fill the silence by having characters ramble what's going through their heads!

Hands down, the greatest thing about this film is Mario Bava's outstanding direction. Much like Black Sunday (1960) Mario Bava really knows how to move a camera and frame a shot to maximize the amount of terror and suspense. This film is a different experience entirely from Black Sunday though solely because it's in color. Bava takes the time to really think about the color in a scene and has a very unique approach to it also. He often places strange unnatural colored lights (like purple and yellow green) and often has them moving or flashing across or on and off in a shot to add a subconsciously surreal and suspenseful effect that often times as a viewer you won't really notice upfront.

I really enjoyed each of the stories in Black Sabbath. The way they're layed out is a bit weird because the first two are (arguably) ghost stories and the final story is not and is about as long as the two previous combined. But beyond that they're each great unique stories that had me on the edge of my seat! I think "The Drop of Water" is my favorite of the three because it's simplicity and how just plain creepy the whole premise is, but "The Wurdalak" is quite good and not far behind for much different reasons. There's something really admirable about how dark and bleak the story is.

As I mentioned above Boris Karloff's introductions as a framing story are quite entertaining, but when he appears in the final story "The Wurdalak," that's when you will really recall how good of an actor Boris is. His performance here as the returned father Gorca, is (in my opinion) as good as his early work in the Universal Frankenstein films!

Black Sabbath (1964) is a surprisingly terrifying film that holds up very well for its age, this is due mostly to the great stories and Mario Bava's great storytelling an camera movement. AND it has Boris Karloff!

4.5/5 Stars.

 Happy watching!

This is the first review of my 2014 run of 13 Nights of Macabre Movies! Tune in tomorrow as I review Amicus Productions' The House That Dripped Blood (1970) starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing!

Like this blog? You can support it by buying this film through these fine links:

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964)

       "He wants to turn that egg into the golden egg."

Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964) (モスラ対ゴジラ), also known as Godzilla vs. the Thing, is a Japanese kaiju film directed by Ishiro Honda. This film is a sequel to both Mothra (1961) and Godzilla vs. King Kong (1962) and is the first time Toho tried pitting one of its previously stand-alone kaiju against Godzilla, a trend that would continue quite a bit after this and often lead to some of the most popular fan-favorites of the kaiju films.

When a typhoon washes a giant egg ashore, the capitalist heads of Happy Corporation decide to turn it into a giant tourist attraction. A group of reporters investigating discover Mothra's twin fairies who beg them to help return the egg to it's home on Infant Island. But when the capitalists refuse, and Godzilla was also re-awakened by the typhoon Japan finds itself right in the middle of a giant monster battle.

[Note: this review is referencing the original Japanese version of the film.]

The moral tale in this film works really well, it may be a little heavy handed in the end but it's the key that ties the human protagonists story together with that of Mothra's story.

This film's story is basically a remake of the original Mothra (and to a lesser extent King Kong vs. Godzilla too) but what I liked about it is that each of these films isn't a direct remake and it really feels like Ishiro Honda (who directed all three) is experimenting with each one and trying something new, which in this case works out because he takes the plot of Mothra and the better protagonist story from King Kong vs. Godzilla and incorporates Godzilla into the story also and it is in my opinion the best of the trio. I also really liked the twist toward the end involving the egg. It's a clever way to catch even your big kaiju-fans on their toes and keep everyone interested in the film!

Despite being a little jarring at first, I actually thought the super-cartoonish portrayal of the capitalists actually works really well, and quickly helps you to root against these guys. I just don't understand why they get killed off so early? Maybe Honda just got tired with this particular storyline as it's the third time he's done it?

I also felt the endangered school children on the island at the end was a little over dramatic for my tastes but it really did help up the ante and provide more drama and suspense for the final battle of the film.

The special effects and use of models here are better than they've been in the last few films actually. It feels like Honda really took the time to shoot each of what works best on it's separate medium (models, costumes, live-action) and incorporate them as best as possible.

This is the first in the series they didn't even try to explain a lot of things (for example the origin of the first Mothra and Godzilla) this isn't necessarily a bad thing as the film works more or less on its own, and I feel like it was bound to happen with this being the fourth Godzilla film and probably the eight or so kaiju film Toho had made up until this point. I already thought the film rushes a bit in the beginning to set up everything but you're going to feel extra rushed if you haven't already had an intro to Godzilla or Mothra before this film.

I feel like this film is a prime example of a movie that could use a better structure. It seems like the film speeds up just to slow down in parts and we lose track of our human protagonists during giant monster battles that seem unfocused and there's large parts of the film that just go needlessly on for a bit too long.

Also maybe this was the result of a technical issue with scale or the models or something but the first battle with Mothra is WAY too close for some reason? There's a tone of super-close up shots during this battle that quickly cut to each other and make the otherwise very cool monster fight pretty hard to watch.

I really love the human protagonists in this film! They're probably the first ones since the original Gojira (1954) that actually made the human element of the film really worthwhile. They're a bit pure and idealized but their goodness plays into helping the kaiju in the story really well so it works for the film.

Also super note-worth is this is the first Godzilla film in a while where they actually took the time to show the destructive nature of Godzilla and how he affected people on the ground level on screen. Also this film cleverly incorporates his radioactivity into the story and ties nuclear testing on Infant Island into the theme and plot without over doing it very masterfully.

Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964) is a very enjoyable kaiju film, one of the good ones where the humans' story works really well with giant battling monsters' story.

4/5 Stars.

 Happy watching!

I'm tackling most of the early Toho Studios' Godzilla and Kaiju films in honor of the newest Godzilla (2014)

Like this blog? You can support it by buying this film (and 5 other classic kaiju films) through these links:

Friday, May 23, 2014

King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)

       "King Kong can't make a monkey out of us!"

King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) (キングコング対ゴジラ) is an Japanese kaiju film by Toho and directed by Ishiro Honda and is technically a direct sequel to Godzilla Raids Again (1955) and less so to King Kong (1933).

An American submarine gets caught in an inceberg that happens to be the same iceberg that Godzilla is trapped in and accidently awakens the kaiju from his slumbler. As the world becomes aware of Godzilla's reappearance, it's world leaders quickly try to figure out a solution. At the same time looking for something to boost ratings on a television program he sponsors, Mr. Tako the head of a pharmaceuticals company just confirmed the existance of King Kong on the tiny Faro Island. Tako sees this as an opportunity to stop Godzilla and boost ratings at the same time.

[Note: this review is referencing the English-dubbed, American cut of the film.]

The overall story of this film isn't bad. It's actually very similar to Mothra (1961) and shares a lot of the same themes and character moments as that film. I also enjoyed our protagonists' story/journey here, not the most original, but the characters are likable and they definitely give you something to root for.

One of the coolest things about this story is that it actually works on its own perfectly and is the sequel to Godzilla Raids Again (1955) at the same time. The last time we saw Godzilla he was defeated by firing missiles into a mountain causing the kaiju to be buried in ice, which is where we find him is this film. The genius thing about the start of this movie is that if you've never seen a Godzilla movie in your life, you can watch this movie and just assume that it's Godzilla awaking for the very first time since the Ice Age because it pretty much plays that way here.

The other good thing about this film is how very humorous it is. It's not a good film at all, but it's very watchable.

First off the English-dub for this film is absolutely terrible. Someone thought that in order to make this film more watchable we'd need to constantly cut to these TERRIBLE English inserts that were shot to explain what is happening inside the story. Guess what we don't. The inserts were clearly shot at a different time, have a much poorer production design, and are just hilariously bad.

This may also be a weird dub thing but the film introduces all of these "weird science" rules like for some reason Kong is energized when exposed to electricity, while it has the opposite effect on Godzilla...? Which doesn't make sense because I clearly remember a scene of Godzilla tearing through electric powerlines in the original Gojira (1954).

This is one of those things that is overly apparent because I recently watched the original King Kong (1933), but Kong's acting in this is terrible. The funny thing about this statement is that I thought Kong's acting was really good in the original and that was all stop-motion, where here you have an actor in a suit and it's so much worse? In the original they based the way Kong moved off of wrestlers, if these filmmakers even looked at the original (which after watching this, I'm not really sure they even did) they would have notice the distinctive way he moves! Though Godzilla's acting here is pretty bad also so maybe the movie is just a good example of why fight choreography and story boards are necessary.

Another weird thing is for some reason this Kong is narcoleptic in this film? There's at least 4 times where Kong just lays down and goes to sleep, I was fine with it once but when it kept happening I started to think that maybe Kong needs to lay off the medication.

This is the first of Toho's kaiju films where I really felt like everything here was models and guys in suits. I don't know if this production was on a swifter budget, or Ishiro Honda had made a few of these by now, so with each one he cared less and less or what? One of the things that I noticed that may have added to this was that this film has an over-reliance on models. Where many of the other kaiju films would go shoot anything they could outside against a mountain or a hill, this film is mostly indoors and anytime the characters go outside it's on a set, overall it's just lazier.

The one magnificent thing about this movie is how bad it is considering all of the things it had going for it. This is one of the first "Godzilla vs." movies. They've pitted Godzilla, their most popular kaiju, against King Kong who greatly inspired the original creators of Gojira and the entire Toho kaiju franchise. And if that wasn't enough Ishiro Honda is directing, who literally has created all the best kaiju films I've seen up to this point. Some of this is probably due to some things being lost in translation with the English dub and the American cut, (to which I can't comment because I haven't seen the original Japanese version yet...) but still.

King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) is not a good movie, but it is very watchable and strangely enjoyable  too.

3/5 Stars.

Happy watching!

I'm tackling all or most of the early Toho Studios' Godzilla and Kaiju films in honor of the newest Godzilla (2014), check back next time as I review the fan favorite: Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964).

Like this blog? You can support it by buying this film (and two others) through these links: