Reviews of horror and sci-fi classics, and movies on video including DVD, Blu-ray, and yes, even the venerable VHS!

  • Video Vault Review: ‘Halloween: 10-31-78′ The Limited EditionBox Set [VHS] (1978) Back in the days before DVDs, and long before BluRay, there was the venerable VHS. And on September 1st, 1998, Anchor Bay released Halloween: 10-31-78 – The Limited Edition VHS Box Set, just in time for for the movie’s 20th anniversary. Niceties like deleted scenes and making-of featurettes were a rarity back then, due to the ...
  • Top 10 Creature Features All top ten lists are highly subjective, so let’s just be clear here: these are MY top 10 creature features, not the results of scientifically sound survey or research.  Oh, and I limited my selection to ‘inhumanoid’ creatures, so humanoid monsters like Hannibal Lecter and Dracula are not in this list.  Obviously, not everyone’s favorite ...
  • REVIEW: House of Dark Shadows With Tim Burton’s big-budget adaptation of Dan Curtis’ classic horror-soap Dark Shadows hitting theatres, much debate has been made regarding whether the new film will pay enough homage to the original series. Would the beloved franchise be bastardized? Before that question can be answered fairly, however, a look to the first film adaptation of Dark ...
  • Online Series- Mortal Kombat Legacy Of any fighting game franchise, I can’t think of one that has a lore as rich and interesting as Mortal Kombat. While other developers were pumping out loosely explained fighting tournaments between cartoonish cultural stereotypes, Midway Games Chicago created a dark and sinister fighting tournament in which combatants (or Kombatants) fight for the very livelyhood of their ...
  • Movie Review: The Thing (1982) Kurt Russell stars as an Antarctic scientist trying to discover the identity of a mysterious alien that slaughtered a neighboring research team. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you’ve never seen John Carpenter’s The Thing, and you call yourself a horror fan, you are in for the biggest pants-shitting session of your ...
  • Movie Review: Stake Land (2010) Simply, this is a post apocalyptic zombie movie with vampires instead of zombies.  The vampires are portrayed as vicious beasts with no time for talking, who leave bodies mutilated and very much dead.  There’s no romantic, two fang pin points on the neck, blood drained and the victim turned into a vampire themselves, type story line here. In ...
  • Movie Review: Cloverfield (2008) With Drew Goddard’s hotly anticipated directorial debut – Cabin in the Woods – only a few days away (as of this writing), now seems like a good time to peek back at his last cinematic work, Cloverfield. Though not the film’s director, Goddard was Cloverfield’s writer, a position that has pretty much been his wheelhouse ...
  • Movie Review: Absentia (2011) 7 years ago, Tricia’s husband went missing.  Now, she’s moved on, is pregnant, and her sister is back in town to help with the baby.  And to help file the paperwork to receive the death certificate.  That’s when Tricia starts seeing him again. At first she just sees him out of the corner of her eye. ...
  • Movie Mini-Review: Tightrope (1984) Clint Eastwood plays a New Orleans detective teamed with a rape counselor played by Genevieve Bujold (Dead Ringers, Coma) to track a murderer whose spree starts hitting closer and closer to home. Eastwood’s performance is more grounded than his more famous ‘man with no name’ portrayals. I’m not saying he deserved an Oscar, but he ...
  • Movie Mini-Review: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) Since I first saw it back in college, my absolute favorite horror film in the whole wide universe has been the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre. I love this movie so much I want to have its babies, so I’m pretty much incapable of reviewing it in any self-respecting manner. So for this iconic, bright ...
  • Movie Mini-Review: The Lost Boys (1987) The public will never let Joel Schumacher live down his Batman movies, but let’s not forget that before there were nipples on the Batsuit, there was The Lost Boys. I think it’s Schumacher’s taste that made this movie what it is: the essence of cool. It was one of the first movies to make vampires ...
  • Movie Mini-Review: The Last House on the Left (2009) Wes Craven’s original tale of torture and revenge is warmed up and reserved, and on the whole, I actually like this remake better than the original. The cast is very good, especially the victimized daughter, played by Sara Paxton. I loved seeing Tony Goldwyn and Monica Potter fight fire with fire to avenge their daughter. ...
  • Movie Mini-Review: The Island of Dr Moreau (1977) The fine line between what is human and what is animal is one of my favorite subjects, so I love H.G. Wells’ original story, and despite popular opinion, I really liked the 1997 film version, too. This version is less faithful than the ’97 one, but I do enjoy the fact that Dr. Moreau attempts ...
  • Movie Mini-Review: The Devil-Doll (1936) The Devil-Doll is a strange little movie from Tod Browning (Dracula, Freaks) that sees Lionel Barrymore shrinking people down to doll-sized proportions, then using mind control to force them to carry out his revenge. Most movies of this sort rely on gimmicks for gimmicks’ sake, but The Devil-Doll manages to successfully incorporate its namesake as ...
  • Movie Mini-Review: The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion animation and Bernard Herrmann’s rousing music give this movie wings. You can see and hear their passions in this movie, and these achievements pretty much make The 7th Voyage of Sinbad what it is: sweet, charming, escapist fare for the whole family. The story is set in motion by an evil sorcerer ...
  • Movie Mini-Review: Motel Hell (1980) Motel Hell is a noteworthy midnight movie from 1980 which definitely gives a nod to Texas Chain Saw Massacre. While it’s nowhere near as relentlessly paced or ‘verite’ as Texas Chain Saw, this movie finds its own groove by steering a bit closer to comedy. I’d always thought The Evil Dead began the great ’80s ...
  • Movie Mini-Review: Martyrs (2008) I was beginning to wonder if torture could ever be depicted in a movie without the movie becoming “torture porn”, without any other cinematic merit. This French horror flick answers my question. In Martyrs, torture isn’t just a dirty gimmick. It’s the thematic subject of the movie, where the reasons for torture are more disturbing ...
  • Movie Mini-Review: Jeepers Creepers (2001) Jeepers Creepers begins with a Spielberg-esque road Duel, and then morphs into a disturbing mystery. Justin Long (you know, the Mac guy) and Gina Philips give solid performances as a brother and sister who unwittingly fall prey to the ‘Creeper’, director Victor Salva’s stab at incarnating his very own version of the boogey man.  While ...
  • Movie Mini-Review: Hangover Square (1945) A very good, dark period drama featuring a great performance by Laird Cregar as a classical pianist who can’t explain his frequent black-outs and who begins to believe he may be responsible for a series of grisly murders in turn-of-the-century London. Some say this movie is a remake of The Lodger (also starring Cregar), but ...
  • Movie Mini-Review: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) A free-wheeling road trip with drug addicts is not for everyone. Many viewers are going to be disgusted, some will find it pretentious. Filming a drug-induced descent into madness can’t really help from becoming cinematic masturbation. And that’s why I liked this movie. Terry Gilliam (Brazil, Twelve Monkeys) sees things in a grotesquely exaggerated way ...
  • Movie Mini-Review: Donnie Darko (2001) Donnie Darko stands alone: an edgy, sophisticated science-fiction movie that mixes time travel and nightmarish visions with family drama and `80s nostalgia. The narrative is tangled and often hard to follow, but essentially boils down to one boy’s effort to prevent future tragedy by heeding the advice of a rabbit-masked nihilist. The director’s cut of ...
  • Movie Mini-Review: Deranged – Confessions of a Necrophile (1974) This movie may never get out from under the shadow of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which came out the same year and was also inspired by the notorious Ed Gein. And it’s too bad, because this is a terrific flick. Like TCM, it is very low-budget and raw, which gives both films a ‘cinema verite’ ...
  • Ginger Snaps: 1, 2 & 3 The wave of irony that had swept through American pop-culture in the late 90s, catching vampires in Buffy and serial killers in Scream, took a little longer to hit werewolf films. Maybe that’s because werewolf films are rarer overall or because it’s easy to mistake a few of the later Howling’s as ironic. Whatever the ...
  • Film Review: Wolfen (1981) Albert Finney, Gregory Hines, Edward James Olmos, and Diane Venora star in this thriller about ancient shape-shifters lashing out at New York land developers for encroaching on their sacred ground. The wolf attacks are depicted with steadi-cam point-of-view shots and colored photography, which isn’t all that cool the first time, much less the second or ...
  • Film Review: Willow (1988) George Lucas produces and Ron Howard directs this sword and sorcery fantasy adventure about an unlikely band of heroes who protect a prophetic baby against an evil queen who seeks to destroy them all. Willow is its producer’s baby and has a lot in common with the Star Wars movies. It’s characters are broadly drawn, ...
  • Film Review: Wild at Heart (1990) David Lynch’s surreal cinematic mash-up of love and depravity won the Cannes Film Festival’s prestigious Palme d’Or. It’s a simple story about two fierce lovers, Sailor and Lula (Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern) who try to keep their heads above water in a world gone, almost literally, to Hell. The overt Wizard of Oz references ...
  • Film Review: War of the Worlds (2005) After wallowing in sappy Tom Hanks movies for the better part of a decade, Steven Spielberg finally gets off his ass and makes another great thriller. Of course, this remake of War of the Worlds is no Jaws. This movie may have some problems, but fact of the matter is, it fills me with genuine ...
  • Film Review: Vanishing on 7th Street (2010) I was watching The Killing this weekend, and in the opening frames appeared the words “Directed by Brad Anderson.” Man, if there was a name that ever-so-briefly excited genre fans for a few moments in the earl-to-mid-00’s, it was Anderson. Director of Session 9, The Machinist, and the Hitchcock-aspiring Transsiberrian, Anderson once seemed like ...
  • Film Review: UNCLE SAM (1996) Ah, the holiday-themed slasher film. What began with the badassery of BLACK CHRISTMAS, HALLOWEEN, and FRIDAY THE 13TH soon spiraled into a themed slasher for nearly every holiday. Valentine’s Day has MY BLOODY VALENTINE, Saint Patrick’s Day has LEPRECHAUN, and New Year’s has NEW YEAR’S EVIL. Yes, the calendar is littered with holiday-appropriate madmen, ready ...
  • Film Review: Twilight Eclipse (2010) Director David Slade (Hard Candy, 30 Days of Night) tries to elevate the material to Lord of the Rings calibre, with several gratuitous aerial fly-over shots and a suitably brooding score from Rings composer Howard Shore. But, somehow, infuriatingly, and against all probably odds, Eclipse is still an interminable snooze-fest. The first three-quarters are like ...
  • Film Review: Twilight (2008) I don’t generally like a story where one character pines obsessively over another (which is why I don’t like most John Cusack movies), so when two characters start pining obsessively, I’m bound to be in for a rough ride.  I simply don’t understand Bella (Kristen Stewart) or Edward (Robert Pattinson), and I definitely don’t give ...
  • Film Review: Twilight – Breaking Dawn, Part 1 (2011) Scott has already spelled out most of what you need to know about the Twilight films in his last three reviews – they ain’t good. There’s a bit of campy sensibility that can be squeezed out of Catherine Hardwicke’s first film, but the next two play as bland and lifeless as anything you’ll see ...
  • Film Review: True Romance (1993) First, allow me to speak for my inner thirteen-year-old: This is a fucking cool-ass movie. Okay, now I’ll try to be more adult. The screenplay by Quentin Tarantino is an exciting blend of violence, sweetness, and dark humor. Tony Scott (Top Gun) brings it to life with his usual polished style, and attracts a large ensemble of ...
  • Film Review: Titus (1999) Julie Taymor’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus is, quite simply, an orgasm of cinematic delights. The story of Titus Andronicus is a fascinating dissertation on human violence.  It opens in the aftermath of war, as Titus (Anthony Hopkins) returns victorious to Rome, having just defeated the Goths and captured their queen, Tamora (Jessica Lange), and her ...
  • Film Review: Titan A.E. (2000) Being such a big fan of The Secret of NIMH and An American Tail, I was eager to see what director Don Bluth would do with a big-budget animated sci-fi adventure. The story takes place years after Earth is destroyed by an alien race called the Drej. Our hero is an orphaned teenager (voiced by ...
  • Film Review: Thunder Rock (1942) Part ghost story, part wartime propaganda flick, this heady British production is truly an unusual find. Michael Redgrave plays an American lighthouse keeper who has withdrawn from the world. Facing the imminent Nazi blitzkrieg, he’s lost all faith in humanity, so it’s up to the deceased crew of a sunken ship to help him restore ...
  • Film Review: Thor (2011) Ever since the rise of the superhero film in the early 00’s, the films have walked a perilous line between cashing in on a massive built-in fan base and being too obscure or weird to interest mainstream audiences. Iron Man proved that a second-tier superhero could make for a first-tier box office hit. But ...
  • Film Review: Them! (1954) Them! is often regarded the best of the atomic age ‘giant critter’ flicks, and not without good reason. The story is quintessential for the time and genre: radioactive ants grow to unusual size, threaten humanity, and only the military and leading scientists can save everyone.  What really helps put Them! over the top is its ...
  • Film Review: The Two Faces of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1960) Dr. Jekyll (and Mr. Hyde) must be one of the harder characters to pull off in any believable way.  So while I admire Paul Massie’s bravery in this Hammer film version of the character(s), he wasn’t quite able to convince me.  I think it’s primarily because of the weird voice he uses while he plays ...
  • Film Review: The Thing from Another World (1951) When an arctic science team finds an alien buried in the ice, they bring it back to their facility where it gets loose and tries to drain their blood to feed its progeny in The Thing from Another World, directed by prolific television director Christian Nyby and produced by Howard Hawks.  This is a great ...
  • Film Review: The Superman Franchise The original Christopher Reeve Superman: The Movie is my favorite to date (see my original review here), but how about the rest of the franchise? As Hollywood prepares to give us a new Man of Steel next summer (Superman: Man of Steel, starring Henry Cavill), let’s take a look back at Supey’s checkered cinematic past… Superman ...
  • Film Review: The Stepford Wives (1975) Joanna (Katharine Ross) moves with her husband and children to idyllic Stepford, where the women love making cookies, cleaning house, and servicing their husbands. Yes, ladies, it’s a horror movie. And one that holds up remarkably well. Sure, it’s a little campy. But a dose of dark humor hardly lessens ...
  • Film Review: The Shrine (2010) The cover for The Shrine alone is creepy, but when the story started with a reporter and her boyfriend having relationship problems, I was skeptical. The premise is pretty standard. A reporter (Cindy Sampson), her photographer boyfriend (Aaron Ashmore), and her assistant (Meghan Heffern), go to Poland to investigate the story of a missing college student. ...
  • Film Review: The Secret of N.I.M.H. (1982) I have a big soft spot in my heart for The Secret of NIMH.  As a kid I thought it was pretty kick-ass for a cartoon, and as I grew up I began to admire it more for the incredible handmade artistry.  In terms of dramatic storytelling, NIMH delivers the goods as well as any ...
  • Film Review: The Pit (1981) A sexually infatuated twelve-year-old boy (is that redundant?) does what his teddy bear tells him to, which includes feeding the locals to a pack of monsters who dwell in a pit in the woods. I don’t know what the teddy bear and the pit monsters have to do with one another, but the first half ...
  • Film Review: The Phantom of the Opera (1962) Hammer Film’s loose adaptation of Gaston Leroux’s story focuses on revenge and doesn’t really touch upon the subversive romantic potential between the Phantom (Herbert Lom) and Christine (Heather Sears).  Since that’s kind of the whole point, the film largely misses the mark. But as usual with Hammer Films, I like the production design and general atmosphere ...
  • Film Review: The Night of the Hunter (1955) Two small children run for their lives from a murderous preacher in the only film actor Charles Laughton ever directed. The Night of the Hunter is part fable and part thriller, both pastoral and horrific, a beguiling blend of qualities that usually mark the work of an amateur… but sometimes a genius. Laughton is as precise ...
  • Film Review: The Mummy (1959) Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing are paired again for Hammer’s third reinvention of a classic Universal monster.  Christopher Lee’s take on the rag man is a pretty good one.  He gives the character menace while also inviting empathy, and he does so without saying a word.  The Mummy’s back story sequence is long and uninteresting, ...
  • Film Review: The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932) Boris Karloff is deliciously evil in this devious little adventure serial that pits the British Secret Service against Karloff’s sadistic Fu Manchu in a race for the mask and sword of Genghis Khan… I don’t remember why, but it has something to do with ruling the world. Karloff chews the scenery and Myrna Loy is ...
  • Film Review: The Last Starfighter (1984) For a movie that was no doubt jumping on the E.T. and Star Wars bandwagon, The Last Starfighter manages to carve a niche for itself. The story itself is nothing original or exciting — a teenager (Lance Guest) wins the high score on a mysterious video game, and is suddenly recruited by an alien to ...
  • Film Review: The Iron Giant (1999) “What if a gun had a soul?” That’s how director Brad Bird (Family Dog, The Incredibles) pitched The Iron Giant to Warner Bros. Animation. The gun in question is The Iron Giant himself, a robot of unknown origin that crash-lands on Earth in 1957, at the height of the atomic scare. He dents his head ...
  • Film Review: The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) This terrifying tale of emasculation is my favorite sci-fi/horror flick from the atomic age. Grant Williams stars as Scott Carey, a man who gets caught in a strange mist while boating with his wife. Afterwards, he notices his clothes don’t fit quite like they used to. His wife assures him everything is fine, that he ...
  • Film Review: The Incredible Hulk (2008) This movie version of the Hulk (coming just five years after Ang Lee’s version) moves at a brisk pace, forgoing the origin story and diving right into a cat and mouse chase.  I personally had a hard time investing in a CGI-plasticky Hulk, but Edward Norton makes up for it in his appropriately understated performance ...
  • Film Review: The Incredible Hulk (2008) In a lot of ways, The Incredible Hulk is the red-headed stepchild of the whole Marvel/Avengers franchise. It was a necessary re-invention for bringing the entire Avengers team to life, but it was also re-booting Ang Lee’s polarizing cinematic version of the Hulk that had been released only five years earlier. The film had ...
  • Film Review: The Human Centipede (2009) A demented German surgeon connects the gastro-intestinal tracts of two hapless American women and a Japanese man to create a ‘human centipede’ in this sick little horror flick from Dutch director Tom Six. The film is most horrifying before the operation, where the surgeon (played most creepily by Dieter Laser), gives his victims a slide ...
  • Film Review: The Howling (1981) Dee Wallace (E.T., The Frighteners) plays a big city TV reporter who escapes to the countryside after a traumatic experience.  Unfortunately, the hills are alive with werewolves!  The Howling is a well-made horror flick from director Joe Dante (Gremlins, Matinee), who likes to mix genuine scares with tongue-in-cheek humor. The werewolf effects, created primarily by Rob ...
  • Film Review: The Horror of Dracula (1958) Hammer Film Productions cornered the horror film market throughout the `50s, `60s, and into the `70s and The Horror of Dracula may be their most famous effort.  It’s the quintessential Hammer flick:  vibrantly colorful with high production values, featuring two of the most iconic actors in horror film history — Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.  ...
  • Film Review: The Gorgon (1964) A village murder mystery melds with Greek myth in Hammer’s The Gorgon. Our title creature this time around is a spin on old Medusa (here called Mageara), a woman with snakes for hair who likes to turn villagers to stone in her spare time. So, we have a monster, we have superlative British craftsmanship, and ...
  • Film Review: The Fountain (2006) Fifteen minutes into The Fountain, you get a bald man sitting in a snow globe talking to a tree while drifting through space. At that point, you either go with writer/director Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream), or you shut the movie off to make the pain go away. Fortunately, that initial leap of ...
  • Film Review: The Fly II (1989) I can’t believe how much I like this movie. As unnecessary sequels go, The Fly II is far, far better than it has any right to be. I think the fact that Shawshank Redemption director and Walking Dead instigator Frank Darabont cowrote the screenplay has something to do with it. The film is more of ...
  • Film Review: The Fly (1986) David Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly is the most fowl and disgusting film I have ever seen. It just about makes me barf every time I see it, and I love that. Jeff Goldblum plays an inventor who creates teleportation pods. After he uses himself as a test subject, strange things start happening to old ...
  • Film Review: The Exorcist (1973) Director William Friedkin took a frank, realistic approach to William Peter Blatty’s tale of demonic possession and struck fear in the hearts of moviegoers worldwide. Today’s more hardened and less superstitious audience may not permit the film to get under their skin like it did the crowds of yesteryear, but The Exorcist remains a superlative ...
  • Film Review: The Entity (1982) You already knew 1982 was the best year ever for fantasy/sci-fi/horror, right?  E.T., Poltergeist, Star Trek II, Conan the Barbarian, The Dark Crystal, Tron, The Road Warrior, Blade Runner, The Thing, The Secret of NIMH… Well, get ready to add another title to the list if you haven’t already. In The Entity, Barbara Hershey plays a ...
  • Film Review: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) After deciding directing really wasn’t his favorite thing to do, Star Wars creator George Lucas enticed Irvin Kershner to helm the dark second act of the famous trilogy.  With an emotionally-packed narrative by Lucas and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, Kershner created what many consider the best chapter of the series.  I believe it’s more than that.  ...
  • Film Review: The Dracula Legacy (1931-1945) Dracula (1931) Whenever Bela Lugosi isn’t on screen, you can’t wait for him to return. His iconic portrayal is by far the best thing this movie has going for itself. I also liked some of the sets and Dwight Frye’s crazy performance as Renfeld. The rest of the cast are not particularly good, and I would ...
  • Film Review: The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941) William Dieterle’s adaptation of Stephen Vincent Benet’s The Devil and Daniel Webster is the product of a great, albeit brief, era of quality Hollywood filmmaking that has never been repeated. Released within a three-year period that yielded such classics as The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, Gunga Din, The Maltese Falcon, and Citizen ...
  • Film Review: The Curse of the Werewolf (1961) Britain-based Hammer Films built a sizable empire in the 1950′s by reinventing the classic Universal monsters. In 1961, they turned their attention to The Wolf Man and conjured up The Curse of the Werewolf, based loosely on Guy Endore’s The Werewolf of Paris. For me, this is pretty average Hammer fare — neither good nor ...
  • Film Review: The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) This was Hammer Productions’ maiden voyage into full-color gothic horror, a path that led the studio to box office success on both sides of the Atlantic for many years to come.  This was the first time many audiences ever saw human blood in technicolor, and the first time Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee appeared in ...
  • Film Review: The Black Hole (1979) It may have been Disney’s pallid attempt to cash in on the success of Star Wars, but The Black Hole is another kind of animal, a kitschy matinee sci-fi/horror movie that’s worth a look in its own right.  It’s a cross between Frankenstein and The Old Dark House that falls more in line with Forbidden ...
  • Film Review: The Black Cauldron (1985) There was definitely potential. A dark Disney movie based on Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain, about a farm boy’s brave attempt to stop a demonic king from conquering the land with his army of skeletal warriors? Sign me up! Unfortunately, Disney wasn’t willing to go the full mile with PG content (even the current DVD ...
  • Film Review: The Beguiled (1971) The Beguiled is a little-seen, surprisingly good suspense drama that spirals into claustrophobic horror. Clint Eastwood plays against type as a dying Union soldier rescued by a little girl who brings him to her finishing school in the Confederate south. This has all the makings of a sweet drama or light comedy as several of ...
  • Film Review: The Back to the Future Trilogy (1985, 1989, 1990) Back to the Future (1985)  Back to the Future is slicker than snot and beyond reproach. It’s very much a product of its time, but unlike so many other dated ’80s flicks, it’s passing the test of time with flying colors. The screenplay by Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis is a masterpiece. If you want ...
  • Film Review: The Alien Quadrilogy The Alien Quadrilogy is one of my favorite film franchises. Few other series have allowed so many talented directors an opportunity to share their differing visions of the same material. These films (not counting the silly Alien vs Predator sequels) may be stylistically disparate, but they are all of remarkably high quality. And what better ...
  • Film Review: The Abyss (1989) This unique sci-fi/thriller from James Cameron (Titanic, Avatar) is an ambitious, uneven film about a group of reluctant underwater oil drillers who are enlisted by the government to investigate a mysterious downed submarine which turns out to be carrying nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, nothing goes as planned — a hurricane strikes, they lose all communication, and ...
  • Film Review: The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas (1957) Right before they went into their famous ‘gothic’ period, Hammer Productions offered up an unusual treat — a widescreen, black & white adventure set in the Himalayas.  Peter Cushing and Forrest Tucker star as a scientist and exhibitionist (respectively) who seek the legendary abominable snowman.  I’m a big fan of the snowman, the Yeti, the ...
  • Film Review: The Abominable Dr Phibes (1971) Several years ago, Dr. Anton Phibes raced to the hospital after learning his wife had died on the operating table.  His car crashed off a cliff and he was burned alive.  Or was he?  After a series of elaborate murders rob London of its top doctors, Scotland Yard is on the case, barely able to ...
  • Film Review: The ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’ Franchise Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) Pools of water are often used as symbols of our collective subconscious. Since Creature from the Black Lagoon is about a humanoid creature who emerges from the depths to kidnap a beautiful woman, you might then say the Creature is a symbol for male sexual desire. And then you ...
  • Film Review: TERMINATOR: SALVATION (aka T4) Terminator. The word in and of itself is practically iconic in pop culture. Most people, even if they haven’t seen any of the films, know to a certain extent what the films are about, and the title character himself (or should I say “itself”?) has seeped into the public consciousness ...
  • Film Review: Tangled (2010) Disney’s 50th feature-length animated movie is their best in many years. Tangled recaptures the charm, humor, and spirit of the studio’s second renaissance, the late 80s/early 90s period that saw such hits as The Little Mermaid and Aladdin. Quite simply, I laughed and I cried, and was thoroughly engaged with the characters and the storytelling. ...
  • Film Review: Sunshine (2007) Just before winning the Oscar for directing Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle (28 Days Later, Trainspotting) gave us Sunshine, a riveting, futuristic sci-fi thriller about a crew of scientists’ desperate plight to rejuvenate the sun. Anything can and does go wrong during the mission, forcing the crew into the toughest life-and-death decision making they could have ...
  • Film Review: Street Trash (1986) “Street Trash” is grade-A schlock, precisely the kind of movie that would make your mama cry if she knew you were watching it. An unwitting liquor store owner discovers an old crate of cheap booze and starts selling it to the local homeless population. Unfortunately, the toxic brew has a nasty side effect — the ...
  • Film Review: Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith Episode III is definitely the best of the prequel trilogy.  Everything I don’t like about the previous two films remains true, namely that they’re over-produced and the characters aren’t very interesting.  But at least Lucas finally cashes in on some of the dramatic potential.  As the Emperor finally seduces Anakin, there are surprisingly dark moments ...
  • Film Review: Star Wars Episode II Attack of the Clones (2002) Part two of the prequel trilogy is cluttered and over-produced like part one, but it’s a moderate improvement overall, thanks in large part to a solid final act. Hayden Christensen takes over the role of the teenaged Anakin Skywalker while Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor reprise their roles as Padme and Obi-Wan. Attack of the ...
  • Film Review: Star Wars Episode I The Phantom Menace (1999) It’s shiny and exciting to look at, a gorgeous smorgasbord of fantastic sets, wardrobe, make-up, and visual effects.  But it’s terribly over-produced, turning these assets into something garish and distracting.  It’s a shame the considerable talents of Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, and Natalie Portman couldn’t be put to better use.  All three appear insufferably constrained ...
  • Film Review: Splice (2010) Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley play scientists who throw moral caution to the wind by creating the first animal-human hybrid, a creature they call Dren. Of course, once they open their genetic can of worms, things begin to go very badly. Dren, who has a poison stinger in her tail, forms an intimate but dangerous ...
  • Film Review: Silver Bullet (1985) A young brother and sister reconcile their differences while a werewolf preys on their quaint town in this nifty adaptation of Stephen King’s short novella, The Cycle of the Werewolf.  The combination of ‘monster movie’ and ‘coming of age movie’ is what really sets this flick apart.  The result is a film that’s as sweet ...
  • Film Review: Shock Waves (1977) Vacationing teenagers get stranded on a remote island where a reclusive Nazi (Peter Cushing) has been bringing soldiers back to life. Yes, that’s right — Nazi zombies. And not just Nazi zombies. Underwater Nazi zombies. Ding ding ding! We have a winner! It’s actually kinda hard for me to review Shock Waves because my reasons for ...
  • Film Review: RoboCop (1987) RoboCop is an odd hybrid.  On one level, it’s an action film sprinkled with generous amounts of extreme violence and horror.  On another level, the movie has unexpected depth and emotion.  The exploitive elements, ghastly as they may be, are firmly rooted in a character arc with which we identify – Alex Murphy’s quest to ...
  • Film Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) The first two-thirds of this movie are surprisingly good. I was expecting to see CGI monkeys go nuts for two hours (all of which is saved for the less interesting final act), but before then you get James Franco playing Dr Frankenstein and struggling with responsibility for his creation, a hyper-intelligent orphaned chimp named Caesar ...
  • Film Review: Repulsion (1965) Did you know Rosemary’s Baby is part of a trilogy? Okay, not exactly; there’s no Further Adventures of Rosemary and Her Antichrist Baby (though there’s an ingenious viral video somewhere in that idea.) Instead, three of director Roman Polanski’s films have long been considered something of an “Apartment Trilogy,” bonded by common themes of ...
  • Film Review: Ravenous (1999) It’d be easy to write off Ravenous as a bungled misfire, but if it is one, it sure is an interesting one. The end result is a pitch-black comedy about cannibalism set in 1847 at a remote outpost in the Sierra Nevadas. The tone of the film is hard for some to swallow (how punny), ...
  • Film Review: Poltergeist (1982) Steven Spielberg’s tale of a little girl’s supernatural abduction is a cinematic spook show that I tend to watch at least once a year.  In the film, restless spirits capture young Carol Anne Freeling (Heather O’Rourke) out of her own bedroom, leaving her distraught parents (Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams) with the task of ...
  • Film Review: Planet of the Apes (1968) It may be tempting to dismiss Planet of the Apes as high camp, but there’s some provocative science-fiction under those monkey masks.  Charlton Heston plays an American astronaut who’s on his way back to Earth when he crash lands on a strange, desolate planet where apes rule and humans are primitive beasts of burden.  Heston ...
  • Film Review: Paranoiac (1963) Hammer is famous for their gothic monster movies, but in the ’60s (perhaps spurred by the success of Psycho?) they also dabbled in moody psychological thrillers. Paranoiac is among the best, featuring great performances and a tight script that keeps the plot twists coming. Members of the Ashby estate, a family beleaguered by constant tragedy, await ...
  • Film Review: Nightmare (Here’s the Knife, Dear: Now Use It) (1963) Poor Janet.  When she was just a little girl, she watched her mommy stab her daddy to death, and she’s been haunted by nightmares ever since.  She’s also terrified of inheriting her mother’s mental disorder.  To make matters worse, someone is taking advantage of this fact for their own nefarious purpose.  Nightmare is one of ...
  • Film Review: Night Creatures (1962) In 18th century England, the Royal Crown dispatches troops to a coastal village to investigate claims of  smuggling  and find themselves caught between recalcitrant villagers and mysterious skeletons on horseback. This Hammer production is based on the Russell Thorndike novel, Doctor Syn: A Tale of the Romney Marsh, but had to be drastically altered from ...
  • Film Review: Metropolis (1927) Metropolis is a spectacular film classic that continues to gain attention and appreciation with each passing decade.  The film’s success is largely the result of a creative marriage between its passionate writer, Thea Von Harbou, and its visionary director, Fritz Lang.  In fact, the marriage was one on and off the screen, until Lang was ...
  • Film Review: Masters of the Universe (1987) If you were making a movie based on a famous toy line and you had no choice but to cast Dolph Lundgren in the lead, you probably couldn’t do much better than Gary Goddard did with Masters of the Universe.  The screenplay by David Odell (The Dark Crystal) transplants the action from He-Man’s home world ...
  • Film Review: Martin (1978) Everyone associates George Romero with his zombie flicks, but if you ask the director, he’ll say the dark character study Martin is his favorite work. Martin is a young man (John Amplas) who believes he must drink blood in order to live. Early in the movie, Martin moves in with his cousin (Lincoln Maazel), a ...
  • Film Review: Man Bites Dog (1992) We see it all the time now:  cinéma vérité, faux documentaries, and mockumentaries; “shaky-cam” and the hand-held style as a portal to cinematic realism.  These methods have enjoyed great success in modern horror:  The Blair Witch Project, famous for its “ground-breaking” use of these techniques, banked a metric fuck-ton just by insinuating its basis in ...
  • Film Review: Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) The third in the series is also the weakest, a fact first signaled by the PG-13 rating, a ridiculous attempt to make the hard-edged action franchise more family-friendly. The script is uneven and disjointed. The first section, where Mel Gibson meets Tina Turner and fights in her Thunderdome arena, is all right. But when Max ...
  • Film Review: Legend of the Guardians – The Owls of Ga’Hoole (2010) Too mature for children, but too immature for adults, Legend of the Guardians may never find an audience beyond those thirteen years of age or thirteen at heart (guilty as charged.) It’s a dark, computer-animated fantasy based on a series of books by Kathryn Lasky. The story is a bit muddled, but it pulls together ...
  • Film Review: Legend (1985) Ridley Scott directs this lavishly mounted fantasy film that’s high on style but relatively low on action. The sets are jaw-dropping, whether it’s the huge, scintillating fairy forest or the fiery underground dungeons of hell. Makeup artist Rob Bottin showcases some spectacular work that was robbed of an Oscar (David Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly ...
  • Film Review: Labyrinth (1986) Labyrinth is the product of a bizarre but winning combination of creative talents. Director Jim Henson reunites with Dark Crystal conceptual deisgner Brian Froud for a comic fantasy adventure produced by George Lucas and scripted by Monty Python’s Terry Jones. The movie is further energized by David Bowie, who plays the villainous Goblin King. Bowie ...
  • Film Review: Krull (1983) Krull is an ambitious fantasy adventure that throws a slew of familiar staples into a well trodden tale. But what it lacks in originality Krull makes up in style and spirit. Ken Marshall plays Colwyn, a young prince who must rescue his bride-to-be from a galactic Beast. Marshall brings a little Errol Flynn to the ...
  • Film Review: Island of Lost Souls (1932) Charles Laughton plays H.G. Wells’ mad scientist in the first film version of The Island of Dr Moreau. It’s a reasonably faithful adaptation until the halfway point, where it gets as loose as the Demi Moore version of The Scarlet Letter. Wells’ provocative suggestions about man’s animal nature remain largely submerged in the movie’s Saturday ...
  • Film Review: Iron Man 2 (2010) If Incredible Hulk is the Avengers’ redheaded stepchild, then Iron Man 2 is the spoiled little brother that nobody likes. Iron Man 2 rode into theaters on a wave of crazy fanfare, the first movie to officially dive into the master Avengers narrative. The original was a ball of fun, Mickey Rourke’s version of ...
  • Film Review: Iron Man (2008) It’s easy for old Iron Man to get unfairly maligned or overly celebrated in people’s memory. The massive blockbuster smash that kick-started the whole Marvel film franchise, it has bright spots and dull ones, thrilling moments interrupted by some weirdly flat plotting. It’s the film that launched the resurrection of Robert Downey, Jr., but ...
  • Film Review: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) The residents of a small California town are slowly being replaced by otherworldly “pod people” and it’s up to Kevin McCarthy and Carolyn Jones to warn the rest of the world about the imminent alien invasion. This original film version of Jack Finney’s 1954 novel was a modestly budgeted flick that was critically ignored upon ...
  • Film Review: Interview with the Vampire (1994) The story covers a lot of ground and time, but its the characters that I find most intriguing in Neil Jordan’s adaptation of Anne Rice’s novel. Lestat, Luis, and young Claudia are vampires, but take away their fangs and coffins, and you have a surrogate family steeped in homoerotic and incestuous desire. The movie is best ...
  • Film Review: I Saw the Devil (2010) If you’ve heard much about Kim Ji-woon’s 2010 film I Saw the Devil, then you’ve probably heard the truth. It’s a brutal, disturbing, visceral thriller; a cacophony of moral issues; and a good way to spend 135 minutes if you want to see a lot of blood spewed across the screen. Sometimes you’ll thrill ...
  • Film Review: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1990) In the 1970s and 80s, the United States saw many of its most prolific serial killers come and go. Gary Ridgway was still strangling prostitutes in Seattle. Two thousand miles away, Jeffrey Dahmer stashed pieces of his young male victims in his freezer. Gacy had his clown suit on, and Bundy was on the hunt ...
  • Film Review: Hard Candy (2006) A 14-year-old goes home with a guy in his 30s. What follows is a nightmarish power struggle. Hard Candy is an intense character-driven thriller that succeeds primarily on the merits of two incredible performances from Patrick Wilson (Watchmen) and Ellen Page (Juno). The screenplay by Brian Nelson dives into murky moral waters, asking us to ...
  • Film Review: Gremlins 2 The New Batch (1990) This is more of a madcap comedy than a horror movie, with none of the fable quality or dark atmosphere of the first film.  The narrative is decidedly meager, designed to showcase large blocks of gremlin shenanigans that overwhelm the movie.  This is good if you like monster mayhem, not as good if you’re expecting ...
  • Film Review: Gremlins (1984) Does it mean anything that Gremlins is my favorite Christmas movie?  Am I bad person because I eschew the sentimentality of It’s A Wonderful Life for the malevolent rampage of little green monsters?  Actually, sentimentality plays a big part in my love for the film.  With its corny premise and comic book violence, Joe Dante’s ...
  • Film Review: Galaxy Quest (1999) I enjoyed this formulaic sci-fi parody more than I ever thought I could. The story basically pulls back the curtain to give us a glimpse of what it must be like for the cast of the original Star Trek series to live out their lives under the shadow of their alter egos. Tim Allen’s character ...
  • Film Review: Fright Night (2011) A charmless, mediocre retelling of the 1985 cult favorite. Despite being penned by Buffy the Vampire Slayer alum Marti Noxon, the script moves far too fast, passing every opportunity to build tension or suspense. Colin Farrell is better than usual, but he can’t conjure half the swagger that Chris Sarandon had in the ’85 version. ...
  • Film Review: Frailty (2002) With Powers Boothe squeezing his creepy visage into The Avengers and Matty McConaughey starring in William Friedkin’s bizarre upcoming hired-killer thriller Killer Joe, I thought it might be time to look back at one of my favorites – Bill Paxton’s directorial debut, Frailty. A low-budget horror flick released in April 2002, Frailty took a ...
  • Film Review: Flowers in the Attic (1987) With nowhere else to go, a recent widower takes her four children to live with their stern grandmother. But this isn’t the cookie-baking, hug-mongering kind of granny. Oh, huh-uh. This grandma views her daughter and grandchildren as vile sinners. The wicked old woman (played by Nurse Ratched herself, Oscar-winner Louise Fletcher) religiously brainwashes the mother ...
  • Film Review: First Men in the Moon (1964) Based on the story by HG Wells, First Men in the Moon begins with our historic landing on the moon (five years before the actual moon landing). But the international crew of astronauts are surprised to discover a tiny British flag already planted in the moon’s surface. Government officials quickly track down the last surviving ...
  • Film Review: Fight Club (1999) A profound (yes, profound) pitch black satire that has become an anthem for a “generation of men raised by women”. From a gender studies perspective, Fight Club speaks to the fragility of masculine identity and the disturbing lengths to which misguided youth will go to feel like they belong, to have identity, to be men. ...
  • Film Review: Field of Dreams (1989) This delicate fantasy about regret and second chances casts a powerful spell that brings many grown men to tears before the credits roll. To that effect, Field of Dreams is a beautiful indictment of the unspoken, unrequited nature of father-son relationships — the main ingredient in any male weepy. The story concerns a beleaguered Iowa ...
  • Film Review: Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971) Escape from the Planet of the Apes is by far the best of the Apes sequels, and certainly the most emotional film in the franchise. The Earth blew up at the end of the previous installment, but not before Zira (Kim Hunter) and Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) escaped back in time to present-day Los Angeles.  The ...
  • Film Review: Enemy Mine (1985) After tackling fantasy in “The Neverending Story,” director Wolfgang Petersen turned to science-fiction in this intimate tale of opposing fighter pilots who crash-land on a dangerous planet together. Dennis Quaid plays the human, and Louis Gossett Jr plays the alien, unrecognizable under Chris Walas’ convincing prosthetic makeup. The screenplay wisely spends the first two-thirds of ...
  • Film Review: Ed Wood (1994) I doubt Tim Burton will ever make a finer film. Armed with a powerhouse screenplay by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, Burton turns the biography of Hollywood’s most infamously bad director into a poignant and hilarious film.  The film is admittedly white-washed, concentrating and embellishing upon Ed Wood’s relationship with Dracula star Bela Lugosi, and ...
  • Film Review: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) I’ve never made it through E.T. without crying, and for two reasons. One, and most obviously, it’s a very moving story. It couldn’t hurt that I was Elliott’s age when E.T. first came out, but I think Steven Spielberg’s tale of a boy and his alien is for all ages, not just my own… then ...
  • Film Review: Dracula Prince of Darkness (1966) Christopher Lee dons the fangs again for the second sequel to Hammer’s original Horror of Dracula (after skipping 1960′s Brides of Dracula), but he hated his dialogue so much that he refused to say any lines.  Even though he’s mute and his screen time is limited, a little Lee goes a long way.  His performance ...
  • Film Review: Doomsday (2008) After Dog Soldiers and The Descent, I was eager to see what writer/director Neil Marshall would do next. Unfortunately, his third movie is all kinds of bad. Doomsday is a frustratingly unoriginal mish-mash of Escape from New York and The Road Warrior, and I don’t mean that it pays homage to those flicks. I mean ...
  • Film Review: Disturbing Behavior (1998) Director David Nutter makes a valiant effort to sophisticate Hollywood’s offerings to teen audiences and bring dignity to the maligned teen horror genre in Disturbing Behavior, a critically panned and generally disliked offering spat out by the struggling MGM/UA in the late ’90s . Despite a screenplay written with a very different (and less ambitious) ...
  • Film Review: District 9 (2009) Neill Blomkamp’s stellar directorial debut is an unpredictable blend of intelligence, emotion, and cinematic whoop-ass that defies convention and leaves you breathless. It begins like a documentary, outlining how a race of stranded aliens (the space kind) came to be ghettoized in South Africa. We follow a character named Wikus, a bumbling government agent who ...
  • Film Review: Deadgirl (2008) Two high school buddies discover a girl chained to a table in an abandoned mental hospital. At first she appears dead, but she’s actually one of the “living” dead. And she’s all theirs… Yes, just when you thought zombies had been completely used up as cinematic metaphors, along comes Deadgirl, a provocative and deeply disturbing ...
  • Film Review: Dawn of the Dead (1978) Ten years after putting zombies in vogue with Night of the Living Dead, George Romero did it again, and with the same success. Never content to make a zombie movie that is just a zombie movie, Romero infuses Dawn with a statement on the soul-numbing effects of crass commercialism. It’s excellent fodder for college essays, ...
  • Film Review: Creepshow 2 (1987) It’s not nearly as good as its predecessor, but I like two out of the three tales featured in Creepshow 2. The first story, “Old Chief Wood’nhead”, is about a wooden Indian statue that comes alive to avenge the murder of a kindly old couple played by George Kennedy and Dorothy Lamour. Kennedy and Lamour ...
  • Film Review: Creepshow (1982) George Romero directs an anthology from Stephen King in this homage to the colorful EC horror comics of the 1950′s. In “Father’s Day”, a deceased patriarch comes back to life to torment his heirs. Then Stephen King steps in front of the camera, playing a goofy hillbilly who discovers a deadly meteor in “The Lonesome ...
  • Film Review: Contact (1997)   Contact is a character-driven, thematic exploration of the schism between science and theology.  Jodie Foster gives an impassioned performance as Ellie Arroway, an astronomer (and atheist) who discovers a message from deep space.  The message turns out to be schematics for a mysterious transport.  While Ellie helps the government prepare to ...
  • Film Review: Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) Dogs and cats have been wiped out in a plague and apes have replaced them as pets… more like slaves, actually.  Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is the least feasible scenario in the saga, but if you can swallow the setup, the movie turns out to be another solid sci-fi flick. Roddy McDowall returns, ...
  • Film Review: Casper (1995) Beneath the cutsey-poo veneer of this big-budget family spectacle is a surprisingly morose Ghost and Mrs. Muir subplot. The screenplay is a bit scatter-shot in its aim, but I have to give this flick major kudos for tackling the subjects of death and loneliness in a kid-friendly way. There are a few terrific little scenes between ...
  • Film Review: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) The final of the five Avengers films seemed to have a hell of a time coming together. No one could figure out who was the best to play ole’ Captain, various names of directors were kicked around just as much, and worst of all, no one knew what the hell to do about the ...
  • Film Review: Brides of Dracula (1960) This is technically the first Dracula sequel Hammer Films did, but since Christopher Lee is not in it, most people don’t count it.  For a Hammer film, the story is actually pretty decent.  David Peel plays a young vampire who’s kept under lock and key by his baroness mother.  But when a sympathetic schoolmistress unchains ...
  • Film Review: Black Swan (2010) Natalie Portman is incredible in Black Swan, the film for which she won her first Academy Award. It’s the story of a ballerina who must tap into her ‘dark side’ to play the Swan Queen in a New York City performance of Swan Lake. Portman’s performance is a variation on Ingrid Bergman’s in Gaslight, another ...
  • Film Review: Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) This first Planet of the Apes sequel is a mixed bag, but I find it more interesting than flawed.  The first half of the movie is an uninspired retread of the first film, with James Franciscus replacing Charlton Heston as the main character.  I like Franciscus.  He manages to convey bewilderment and horror without overacting ...
  • Film Review: Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) The last film in the original Planet of the Apes series is also the most disappointing.  Roddy McDowall returns as Caesar, trying to lead apes and humans in peaceful coexistence.  It’s interesting to see how the movie ties into all the previous installments, but Battle for the Planet of the Apes doesn’t bring anything new ...
  • Film Review: Batman Forever (1995) A lot of people forget that Batman Forever was an enormous hit when it was released back in 1995. But it has since fallen out of public favor. I’m convinced more than a few critics have gone back on their word, because every review I read during its theatrical release was a positive one. I ...
  • Film Review: Automaton Transfusion (2006) This ultra-low budget horror flick ($30,000) shot by first-time film school graduates in Orlando should — I repeat, SHOULD — be something to celebrate. It’s remarkable that a group of kids could throw together such an ambitious, action-filled zombie apocalypse movie. On the other hand, did it have to be so frickin’ awful? The writer/director openly ...
  • Film Review: An American Werewolf in London (1981)   This fine horror comedy from director John Landis (Animal House, The Blues Brothers) is my favorite werewolf movie ever made. Horror comedies are usually too silly to muster any genuine scares, but American Werewolf is a masterful blend, where the laughs grow directly out of the darkest moments. Take my favorite ...
  • Film Review: An American Haunting (2006) My favorite type of horror movies are ones involving ghosts and hauntings.  I think I like them because my mind easily fills in the inferred gaps. I expected my thirst for spooks to be quenched by An American Haunting, and to that end, it doesn’t disappoint.  The story is a period piece set after the American ...
  • Dracula: Prince of Darkness (BluRay Review) I’m fairly eclectic when it comes to horror films. I enjoy the whole spectrum of fright flicks, from the Universal Classics to the atomic age monsters, from Eurohorror to American slashers, I am a fan of all kinds of terror tales on the silver screen. But when I want to evoke the feeling of gothic ...
  • BluRay Review: The Phantom of the Opera at Royal Albert Hall Musicals are a love-it or hate-it affair.  I really don’t know too many folks who are just “in the middle” with musicals. I, for one, totally enjoy a good musical, and was totally pumped when I learned that Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage leviathan The Phantom of the Opera would be getting a 25th Anniversary Concert ...

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