SATURDAY MATINEE: THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1973)

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Going to try a new column to be rotated with my Saturday Night Double Features simply called Saturday Matinee. While all theaters still have matinee showings, when I was a kid, many theaters like the Fairview Cinema in Fairview, N.J. used to play old movies as children’s matinees on Saturday afternoons in the early 70s. It was a one time early showing of a more kid friendly film and my mom or grandfather used to take us. It got us out of the house and when we were old enough to go by ourselves, afforded my mom 90 minutes of quiet shopping time in the nearby stores. So this column will look at more lighter toned genre films that would certainly have fit at such a matinee or possibly been one I actually saw such as this 1973 fantasy adventure! Enjoy!

 

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THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1973)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

15 Years after 7th Voyage, Ray Harryhausen returned to the world of the Persian sea captain with The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad. A chance encounter with a strange creature leaves Sinbad (John Philip Law) in possession of a gold amulet that is being pursued by dark prince, Koura (future Dr. Who, Tom Baker) as when joined with it’s other parts, it can give the bearer unlimited power. The pursuit of the final piece brings Sinbad to a mysterious island and in the company of a beautiful slave girl (legendary genre hottie, Caroline Munro) who may be key to the proceedings. Along the way there are the numerous Harryhausen critters to complicate the voyage and the usual magic and derring-do.

Director Gordon Hessler doesn’t bring the fun as well as Nathan Juran did in 7th Voyage and he also doesn’t give the film the lively pace that flick had either but, it is still an enjoyable fantasy adventure and the cast do take their parts serious enough to make them believable even if Law can’t really work the Middle Eastern accent that he tries to imbue the heroic captain with. The stop-motion creature effects… billed here as Dynarama… are typical Harryhausen quality, although the designs aren’t as memorable as the cyclops or dragon from the last film… the standouts being the centaur and the griffin featured at the climax and Koura’s flying spy. The rest of the FX are fine for the time period but, are a tad cheesy by today’s hi-tech standards… though I still find them very charming.

All in all, it is an entertaining adventure yarn and filled with nostalgic charm at this point, though, not quite the classic that 7th is. Obviously when I saw this film as a 9 year old it was the best thing ever…till the next movie came along. Also has an uncredited cameo by Jaws and Black Sunday actor Robert Shaw as The Oracle Of All Knowledge.

Followed by one more film, Sindbad And The Eye Of The Tiger in 1977 which was a sadly disappointing and weak installment that was unfortunately the last time Harryhausen would revisit the character. There was talk of a rumored Sinbad On Mars but, that film never materialized and Harryhausen would end his legendary career with Clash Of The Titans in 1981.

3 sexy slave girls.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: ANGUISH (1987)

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ANGUISH (1987)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Finally, after many decades, I have caught up with this cult classic and while I must admit I wasn’t overly impressed and thought the film a bit uneven and silly at times, there is certainly some cleverness here, as well as, some disturbing and spooky moments.

The film starts out warning of subliminal hypnotic messages and that if we start to feel effected while watching, we are to exit the theater. The film then opens with the story of strange medical orderly John (a creepy Michael Lerner) who lives with his even stranger mother Alice (Zelda Rubenstein). John is loosing his eyesight slowly and his mother uses hypnosis to send him out and murder people for their eyes. We soon realize that this is a movie called The Mommy being watched by a theater audience including friends Patty (Talia Paul) and Linda (Clara Pastor). But, as the film progresses, the subliminal hypnotic messages actually start to have a negative reaction on the movie’s audience. And as the on-screen maniac, John enters a theater to start a vicious killing spree, a real killer traps Patti, Linda and the rest of the audience inside the theater they are in, for a killing spree of his own. Are the hypnotic messages in The Mommy too effective and will any of them live to see the movie’s end and the light of day?

Written and directed by Spanish filmmaker Bigas Luna, there is definitely some clever touches here especially when the movie and the events in the theater showing it begin to synch up. The idea of a film being so effective it manipulates it’s audience is not new today but, was a bit more novel in 1987 and I’ll admit Luna uses the convention effectively here. There are some very creepy moments especially involving the actual film and to be honest, what the audience is watching is far creepier and more disturbing then what actually happens in the theater. That’s where the film falters somewhat… I’d rather be watching the gory over-the-top The Mommy, then the more routine ‘nut with a gun’ storyline that occurs in the theater. The stuff with Lerner and Rubenstein can get campy at times but, it is still very disturbing and gives you the creeps where the parallel storyline with Patti and Linda just evolves into a routine hostage situation with a madman with a gun. It’s rather ho-hum when compared to Luna’s movie playing within the movie. The scenes of Lerner creeping from patron to patron in the movie theater killing them quietly and surgically removing their eyes while the audience remains completely unaware, is far more effective then a gunman blowing people away and being surrounded by a SWAT team. Again the synching of the two films is very clever but, the film within the film is far better than the one we are actually watching. The Mommy sequences also have some nice atmosphere and an Argento-ish look as shot by Joseph M. Civit but, the movie theater sequences are, again, rather bland. It all makes the film rather uneven.

The cast go from really creepy and effective to bland with leads Lerner and Rubenstein doing a really good job at giving us goosebumps… though Rubenstein does overdo it at times.But, then the players become far more mundane when we meet Patti, Linda and the real killer (Angel Jove). It’s not all the actors’ faults, the characters are just not written as interestingly or over-the-top creepy as The Mommy’s characters. Paul and Pastor are simply playing bland teens watching a movie and Jove is just a nut with a gun. Their characters are not nearly as fleshed out as John and his mother Alice. This makes the film as uneven as the events of the movie being watched, are far more interesting then the events in the theater, with it’s patrons and the characters of that movie far more interesting then the people watching it.

So, while I found Anguish interesting, clever and sometimes very creepy, I also found that the film within the film was far more interesting and would rather have watched that, then split time with the theater patrons’ POV. The characters in The Mommy are far more effective than the characters in the theater and the disturbing horror in the movie within a movie is far more effective then what was occurring in the theater watching it. An interesting and entertaining movie but, a sadly uneven one. I can see why many would consider this a classic and it was far more original when first released but, having seen it for the first time decades later, it didn’t quite impress or grab me like it’s reputation suggested it would. I still recommend taking a look at it, if you haven’t seen it.

2 and 1/2 eyeballs.

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The trailer is in Spanish with subtitles but, the actual disc comes with English dub if you prefer.

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: AFFLICTED (2013)

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AFFLICTED (2013)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Afflicted is a Canadian found footage horror flick directed and starring Clif Prowse and Derek Lee, that cleverly documents a young man’s transformation into a monster and while the film isn’t always successful in what it sets out to do, it is still very effective and also one of the more intimate examinations of what it’s like for an average person to turn into a creature of the night.

The story has two friends, amateur filmmaker Clif (Clif Prowse) and IT man Derek (Derek Lee) planing a year long trip around the world despite Derek’s recently being diagnosed with cerebral arteriovenous malformation. Clif plans to document their travels for a web series/travel blog and thus his camera follows them every step of the way. But, an experience of a lifetime soon turns into a nightmare as Derek is attacked in Paris by a girl named Audrey (Baya Rehaz) whom he takes back to his room from a party. Bloodied and left with some nasty wounds, Derek can’t remember what happened but, insists he’s fine and he and Clif continue on with their trip only to discover that Derek is starting to change. He can’t eat and he starts to blister and burn violently when out in the sun. But, he also has increased strength and enhanced agilities, too. Clif continues to document as it becomes apparent his lifelong friend is changing into something unearthly, not realizing that it puts him in mortal danger as it appears Derek can only now feed on blood… human blood.

I’ll start out by saying that this flick does have a few flaws that hold it back a little but, gets a lot more right than it does wrong. Prowse and Lee start out the film with a lighter tone. An almost party/road trip atmosphere then it starts to turn darker and more grim as Derek gets ravaged and starts to change. The changes are subtle at first but, gradually get worse as Derek seems to sicken and yet get stronger by the day. The found footage format works really well as we follow Derek on his path of transformation and discovers both his new strengths and weakness, such as his aversion to sunlight and food. There are some very creepy sequences as the condition worsens and Derek and Clif begin to realize Derek is becoming a creature of myth… and a dangerous one. Sure we’ve seen this before but, the film is successful in presenting the negative effects of his transformation and the emotional turmoil that comes with it. It is only when he is reveling in his new strengths that things get a bit borderline silly and it evokes scenes from Chronicle and Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones and changes the tone of the film a bit from the more smoldering intensity of the negative aspects of Lee’s change. The flick also switches gears a bit about halfway through as Derek decides to hunt Audrey down and get answers, while being pursued by Interpol… as let’s just say he’s been very bad. When it becomes more of a hunt/chase film, it is still entertaining but, changes tone a bit and is not nearly as gripping as us watching him transform and feeling his pain and experiencing the increasing danger Clif may be in. His encounter with Audrey also gets a bit over-the-top as compared with the more grounded moments earlier on but, still presents an interesting twist on a very familiar horror story as Derek must now face that he is a monster. For the most part though, the film works and Prowse and Lee have some potential as filmmakers and the horror elements of the flick work a lot better than when it veers into the superpowers elements… though those have their entertainment factor too, as it is part of a very familiar type of horror character. The film has some nice atmosphere and the cinematography by Norm Li is well shot and without loosing the found footage feel. The portrayal of some of the more fantastic elements of Derek’s transformation, such as his augmented strength and agility, are well staged and help keep them from crossing the line into silly.

As for the cast… It’s basically a two man show with Prowse and Lee playing ‘themselves’ and they are fine as they come across as real people and Derek Lee actually portrays his torment and confusion quite well and can be scary when he wants to be. Prowse comes across a caring friend and inquisitive filmmaker but, also someone who may be too close to the situation to realize how dangerous things are getting. Baya Rehaz is effective as Audrey and gives her character a presence in her brief screen time and appears quite formidable and yet not entirely inhuman when Derek tracks her down for their climactic confrontation in Paris. The scene goes over-the-top a bit but, overall works.

I liked this flick and with the found footage format at a point where it’s starting to wear out it’s welcome, it is a novel use for it that puts an interesting spin on a very familiar horror story. The horror elements of this story work far better than the more over-the-top elements and the shift in tone when the film changes story focus at halftime isn’t as involving as what came before but, isn’t a failure either. Prowse and Lee show some real promise as filmmakers and overall this was a refreshing twist on a an overly saturated horror sub-genre and manages to give this somewhat neutered horror staple back a little bit of it’s teeth. Watch through the credits for a chilling epilogue.

3 sets of fangs.

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WARNING: this trailer shows A LOT…

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COOL STUFF: GODZILLA 2014 on BLU-RAY

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GODZILLA 2014 Blu-Ray

I liked Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla reboot (see full review here) but, I didn’t love it like the Godzilla fan in me wanted to. It split audiences and fans alike but, did fairly well at the box office, especially overseas… but, is it worth owning? if you like the film, I’d say yes.

Obviously, as with most HD releases of these Hollywood blockbusters, the picture looks great… though the night scenes seemed a tad too dark… and the colors are rich and sharp. Gareth Edwards has a nice visual eye and so, the shots all look good and the King Of  The Monsters does look quite majestic when he finally is on screen… more on that later. The sound is really good, though I don’t have a top of the line sound system so, I can’t comment on the maximum effect as it may be enjoyed by someone who has the full 7.1 set-up. But, I think it should sound splendid.

The movie aside… extras are a mixed bag with there being three featurettes focusing on Monarch and the M.U.T.O. cover-up conspiracy in the Monarch Declassified section. These are thankfully short as they are only moderately interesting and get repetitive when you watch them together. The extras recover with a lot of cool stuff in the Legendary Godzilla section which has 4 behind the scenes features on the making of the film with a lot of interviews and production footage that takes you deep into the creation of the movie and it’s monsters. As for Godzilla’s limited screen time… told you I’d get to that… You get to hear Gareth Edwards explain his reasoning for Godzilla’s significantly limited appearance in his own movie, as well as, the cutaways from the action that many found frustrating. I can’t guarantee you’ll agree with his methods and reasoning, but, he does explain himself. Over all, this segment more than makes up for the lackluster Monarch section though, I was still disappointed that there were no deleted scenes or gag real.

So, If you liked this movie, the disc is definitely worth owning. The movie looks and sounds great and the extras may be uneven when viewed separately but, even out as a whole. It is a fun movie and entertains well enough though, not the ultimate screen appearance of Godzilla that his many fans, like myself, were hoping for.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE DEAD 2 (2014)

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THE DEAD 2  (2014)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

The Ford Brothers 2010 The Dead is, in my opinion, one of the best zombie flicks in recent years. It offered nothing new, save the exotic location of Africa, but, did deliver the traditional zombie goods and quite well. They finally have returned for a sequel and while it doesn’t quite have the impact of the original film, it is still a solid and quite gory zombie flick on it’s own.

Film follows the first movie’s plotline by having an American… also an engineer… in a foreign land trying to make it to loved ones once the flesh eating dead start to rise. This time it’s Nicolas Burton (Joseph Millson) who must cross 300 miles of zombie infested countryside to get to his pregnant girlfriend Oshani (Meenu Mishra) and a possible flight out in Mumbai. The film appears to take place at the same time as the original The Deadas the film opens with a merchant ship returning from Somalia with news on the radio telling of sudden acts of violence and cannibalism on the African continent and, of course, one of the Indian merchant seaman was been bitten by a ‘crazy woman’, while in Africa. Soon the infection spreads through India’s overcrowded streets and thus sets our story in motion. Can Nicholas get back to Oshani and with a young boy, Javed (Anand Goyal) in tow?

While The Dead 2 is a solid zombie flick and entertaining, I do feel it didn’t quite have the intensity and impact of the original. The Fords gave the first The Dead a haunting quality that doesn’t quite emanate as well here, though it does have it’s moments. Maybe it’s because the film follows the structure of the first film so closely and with the familiarity of it’s traditional zombie film elements, that it just doesn’t grab us like the first film did. I also don’t think that writer/directors Howard and Jon Ford quite captured the desolation and hopelessness of the situation with their camera shots as they did so well in the first film, though Jon Ford’s cinematography does again make good use of the exotic setting quite well and the film does have many a chilling moment. There is more than enough zombie action and the film stretches it’s R-rating to the limit with plentiful and well-orchestrated blood and gore and make-up FX. There are some suspenseful tight spots and the Fords even add a spiritual element through the Hindu religion followed by many of the film’s characters.

The cast are all fine. Millson is a solid enough hero but, I don’t feel he was quite as strong or endearing as the first film’s Lt. Brian Murphy (Rob Freeman). The character is put through an emotional wringer though, and is give a little depth,with his drive to get to Ishani fueled by painful past experiences and, Millson does handle it well. Goyal is very likable as Javed who is wise and street-smart beyond his young years and avoids being the ‘annoying child character’ thankfully. Millson and Goyal have a nice chemistry   though, I liked the first film’s dynamic between Murphy and African soldier Dembele (Prince David Osei) better. It was more interesting. Meenu Mishra doesn’t have much to do but, look scared and worried and argue with her father (a solid Sandip Datta Gupta) but, she is fine and plays her part in the plot adequately. I did have a little problem understanding some of the thick Indian accents at times but, I won’t hold that against the flick.

So, overall I liked The Dead 2… or The Dead 2:India depending on what it’s called in your corner of the world… it wasn’t as intense or engrossing as the first film but, it still has plenty of what fans of The Dead, or zombie films in general are looking for. The film does suffer a bit from the familiarity of it’s story and surrounding elements but, still presents them well and delivers zombie action in bloody abundance. An enjoyable sequel even if not quite an equal.

3 zombies.

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US TRAILER and POSTER FOR DEAD SNOW 2: RED vs DEAD arrives!

 

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Filmaker Tommy Wirkola’s horror/comedy sequel Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead is arriving in the  US on October 10th, 2014 and as a huge fan of Dead Snow, I can’t wait. Right now we have the official US release poster and trailer for this eagerly awaited 2nd installment to hold us over.

source: Youtube/shocktillyoudrop.com

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES SEPT 12-14

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Complete estimates are in for the  weekend and some new titles finally unseat Guardians and Turtles!

1. “No Good Deed” $24.5 Million

2. “Dolphin Tale 2” $16.55 Million

3. “Guardians Of The Galaxy” $8 Million

4. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” $4.8 Million

5. “Let’s Be Cops” $4.3 Million

6. “The Drop” $4.2 Million

7. “If I Stay” $4 Million

8. “The November Man” $2.75 Million

9. “The Giver” $2.6 Million

10. “The Hundred-Foot Journey” $2.5 Million

source: box office mojo

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and SHAKEDOWN

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This week’s double feature combines two movies I’ve covered before but, since NYC was on a lot of people’s minds this past week and the World Trade Centers figure prominently in both features, I decided to pair up two of my favorite 80s action guilty pleasures! Enjoy!

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ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981)

Escape From New York is one of my all time favorite B movies and a bonafide film classic. I instantly fell in love with this film upon seeing it opening night at the legendary Oritani Theater in Hackensack, N.J. and John Carpenter solidified himself as one of my favorite directors.

An outrageously original idea has New York City in a war torn, crime filled, future turned into a maximum security prison, and legendary director Carpenter makes it work by taking his subject matter just seriously enough to make the audience buy it. Add to that a colorful cast of characters, including one of the greatest, and sadly underused, film anti-heros of all time, Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) and you have the recipe for a B movie classic. The story is simple, war hero turned outlaw, Snake Plissken has been captured and is about to be sentenced to life imprisonment in New York City Penitentiary. But, fate intervenes and the President’s (Donald Pleasence) plane is hijacked on the way to a crucial peace summit and crashed inside the city. Former special forces soldier Plissken is the only man skilled enough to sneak in quietly and get him out alive and Snake now has a chance at a full pardon for all his crimes if he takes the job. But, a vicious gang leader called The Duke Of New York (Isaac Hayes) has other ideas for both The President and Snake, who has less then 24 hours to complete his mission or the world goes back to war.

Director and co-writer (with Nick Castle) Carpenter creates some nice tension and suspense and his visual eye is great at creating a gloomy hellhole out of the world’s greatest city. And Dean Cundey’s cinematography is absolutely beautiful as it captures the world inside New York, which is very effectively portrayed on a small budget. Carpenter moves the film along well, although not as fast paced as today’s audience are used to, and there is plenty of action and chases to keep one entertained. And despite being released in 1981, this film may be the last film to have a real 70s feel to it before the Lethal Weapons and Die Hards changed action films forever. Another film that inspired many and was imitated many times and another great Carpenter film score to add to the atmosphere.

As for the cast… Kurt Russell does his best Clint Eastwood as Snake and it’s only natural then to pair him up with Eastwood co-star Lee Van Cleef as Police Commissioner, Bob Hauk. Rounding out the cast is Halloween vet Donald Pleasence as the President, Harry Dean Stanton as Brain, Carpenter’s then wife, Adrienne Barbeau as Maggie, Ernest Borgnine as Cabbie and legendary soul man Isaac Hayes as The Duke of New York. And not to forget, there is also genre favorite Tom Atkins as Hauk’s right hand man, Rehme and frequent Carpenter collaborator Charles Cyphers as the Secretary Of State. A simply classic B-movie sci-fi/action flick and one of my all time favorites! MONSTERZERO NJ EXTRA TRIVIA:  The studio wanted Charles Bronson as Snake, but, Carpenter fought for his choice of former Disney child actor, Russell and the rest is history. Also, the SPFX were done in part by a then unknown James Cameron, who went on to direct Terminator and Titanic. And despite it’s setting, most of the film was lensed in St. Louis and L.A. with only one night actual shooting in NYC at the Statue of Liberty.

One of the greatest B-movies of all time!

A classic 4 Snakes

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Shakedown

SHAKEDOWN (1988)

Shakedown is an 80s action guilty pleasure from Exterminator director James Glickenhaus that is not only his best film but, a darn entertaining cop thriller that is one of the last to take place in NYC before the 42nd street clean up and thus presents New York in all it’s sleazy pre-90s glory.

Shakedown is the story of public defender Roland Dalton (Peter Weller) who is moving on to a Wall Street law firm, run by his future father in-law, and as his last case, defends a drug dealer (Richard Brooks) accused of killing a cop. But, the dealer says it was self defense, he was defending himself in a robbery and the officer never identified himself. Dalton investigates along with lone wolf cop Richie Marks (Sam Elliot) and they discover a conspiracy of criminals and dirty cops who now want them both dead.
Sure some of the action is a bit overblown and the FX in the final showdown very cheesy but, Shakedown, as written and directed by Glickenhaus, is a down and dirty good time with a New York City bathed in neon lights, covered with empty crack vials and where sex, drugs and murder are a common occurrence. Add some 80s nostalgia to the mix and you have a whole six pack worth of Saturday night entertainment that is both grind-house action flick and slick crime thriller.
But, aside from it’s dirty, backstreet depiction of New York and some over the top action scenes, what really makes Shakedown work is that Elliot and Weller makes such a great team. They work very well together and it’s a shame the film never caught on enough to further the adventures of Marks and Dalton. The characters and the actor who portray them, really click and begged for a series. Supporting cast all perform well too, including Antonio “Huggy Bear” Fargas as drug lord Nicky Carr, Blanche (Sixteen Candles) Baker as Dalton’s fiance’ and hot Patricia Charbonneau as the assistant D.A. and Dalton’s former flame.
One of my favorite 80s guilty pleasure action flicks. A fun movie.
MONSTERZERO NJ EXTRA TRIVIA: The original title for the film and it’s title in other parts of the world was Blue Jean Cop which is a term used in the film for a cop on the take (dirty cops can afford designer jeans as opposed to Wranglers or Levis). Also, Director Glickenhaus made a few more flicks, including the campy Gary Busey action vehicle Bulletproof, before leaving show business to work at his father’s investment firm and became a successful investment professional and car collector.
3 and 1/2 bullets!
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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: MIDNIGHT MOVIE (2008)

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MIDNIGHT MOVIE (2008)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Midnight Movie is one of those pleasant surprises that I rented on a whim and found myself being quite entertained by. Sure we’ve seen a lot of the elements before, but it is a homage of sorts and director/co-writer Jack Messitt uses those familiar conventions very well in his movie within a movie slasher tale.

The story opens with director and star Ted Raford (Arthur Roberts) of the 40 year-old horror flick The Dark Beneath in a mental institution with his doctor about to show him his black and white slasher flick as part of his therapy. It obviously doesn’t end well and there is a resulting blood bath and Radford disappears leaving strange symbols on the floor written in his own blood. Five years later, a movie theater is screening a midnight showing of The Dark Beneath with a small audience and theater staff present in the theater. Theater manager Bridget (Rebekah Brandes) leaves her post to watch the movie with boyfriend Josh (Daniel Bonjour) while trying to keep her little brother Timmy (Justin Baric) from sneaking in. Unknown to the small audience is that among them is Dr. Wayne (Michael Swan), the only survivor of the hospital massacre and Detective Barrons (Jon Briddell) who investigated the case and feels if Radford is going to resurface, this showing may be where. And the detective couldn’t be more right… for as soon the film starts to unspool, the line between movie and reality are blurred as theater patrons and employees alike appear on the screen to become victims of Radford’s corkscrew bladed killer and the serial murderer uses some dark power to move between movie and movie theater to hunt down his victims and bring them into his movie world. Can any of them escape alive?

Co-written with Mark Garbett… from a story by Sean Hood… Jack Messitt crafts a really fun slasher homage that makes good use of the movie within a movie format and provides some fun chills and graphic gore of it’s own. We get a killer who can enter our world from the movie and bring his victim’s back in, right before our and the movie audience’s eyes. The characters band together to try to escape the killer, who seals the theater and, in true stalker fashion, hunts them down one by one with his corkscrew shaped blade. We get some likable characters, especially Brandes’ plucky heroine Bridget, and a very effective killer with quite a vicious lust for blood. Messitt also gives us a third act that takes place inside the movie with our survivors trying to find their way out and it works very well as both horror and homage. The film has a very 70s/80s horror feel, which I obviously enjoyed. There are some flaws. Radford’s film is 40 years old which would place it being made in the late 60s, years before the modern slasher era started and so, it’s Chainsaw Massacre– ish vibe doesn’t make sense for the time period… although if you don’t see the film taking place when it was made in 2008, but now in the present, it brings Radford’s film to the late 70s which is a better time frame. There is a lack of explanation as to Radford’s apparent dark magic, but it is obvious there is more to this director/actor than just his film work, so we go along with it. Messitt does gives us some chills and suspense and so we suspend our disbelief as we are having a good time. The gore is well done and plentiful and despite being a lengthy shutdown in the film’s production as per the extras, the sequences filmed by two different DOPs blend seamlessly. I also loved the movie theater setting, as such small local theaters are rapidly becoming a thing of the past and Messitt seems to share my affection for them.

The cast are fine and we get some likable and not so likable characters to root for. Rebekah Brandes makes a feisty heroine whose past pain fuels her will to survive and keep her friends and little brother alive. I liked that her character had a little depth. Daniel Bonjour is solid as Josh, Rebekah’s boyfriend. Young Justin Baric avoids being annoying as the little brother who sneaks in to see the show and Stan Ellsworth stands out as a big jerk of a biker who has a heroic side hidden behind the Sons Of Anarchy swagger. Lee Main does a good job behind the skull mask as the killer and creates an imposing figure, as well. The rest play fairly typical horror movie roles and do a fine job and their characters avoid being total clichés, but are familiar enough to work with the homage theme.

Overall, this turned out to be a pleasant surprise. It was a fun movie within a movie slasher/homage and worked as a slasher itself beyond being a tribute to those types of horror. The production looks good and the gore is plentiful and well orchestrated and director Jack Messitt delivers some legitimate thrills and chills while showing some love to the 70s and 80s slasher genre. He doesn’t have a bad visual style either. Fun horror that works as both horror and homage. While Messitt currently does a lot of camerawork for TV, would love to see him tackle another horror flick. A bloody good time!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 creepy killers.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985)

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RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985)

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I have to admit, I am not the biggest fan of this flick. True, I was first disappointed because, I was expecting something far more serious from the co-creators of Night Of The Living Dead and Alien and instead got a silly horror/comedy trying a little too hard to be hip. But, over the years I’ve come to realize that simply not all of the bits work and it wears out it’s welcome and gimmick long before it’s 90 minutes are over. Sure it has some fun scenes and a few quotable lines and I understand that many consider this a cult classic and I respect that, but, to me the flick is mediocre at best.

The film uses the original Night Of The Living Dead as a springboard, as medical supply warehouse worker Frank (Poltergeist’s James Karen) tells newbie Freddy (Jason Lives’ Thom Mathews) that the film Night Of The Living Dead actually happened and and George Romero changed the details to keep the army off his back. The zombie outbreak was caused by a military chemical weapon called Trioxin that accidentally raised the dead and an army screw-up brought some of the containers here to Louisville, Kentucky. He shows him some drums that he claims contain the imprisoned zombies and… of course… one gets punctured and Frank and Freddy become infected and the zombie inside escapes. With Freddy’s friends on the way to pick him up and party in a nearby graveyard and warehouse owner Burt’s (Clu Gulager) misguided idea to cremate a re-animated corpse during a rainstorm, it all adds up to a night of terror for all involved as the dead rise with one thing on their hungry dead minds… BRAINS!

There is some witty stuff in director Dan (Alien) O’Bannon’s script from a story by Rudi Ricci and NOTLD co-creators John A. Russo and Russell Streiner but, a lot of it is fairly by-the-numbers, too and adding a lot of punk rock songs to the soundtrack doesn’t really cover up the fact that this should have been a lot more clever. It uses another classic movie as a springboard and while there is the initial clever notion that NOTLD actually happened and there was a cover-up, the film doesn’t really use it for anything other then another routine zombie siege flick. I do like the notion that they eat brains to ease the pain of death. That was a clever touch, but, aside from that, it’s just another board the windows and doors zombie movie with some only half-successful comedy and slapstick thrown in. O’Bannon directs the proceedings with a fairly pedestrian hand, translating the script to screen with very little style or finesse. The film could have used a director who was willing to really go for broke with the premise and doesn’t play it safe like O’Bannon. Even Scream Queen Linnea Quigley’s nude cemetery striptease is done quickly and over before you can blink without ever even trying to exploit the whole nude minx in a sacred cemetery angle. The gore and creature FX are well done but, stay well within the R-rated limits and the last act simply gets annoying as characters shout, curse and cry continuously about their dilemma but, accomplish very little. The slapstick reaches a fever pitch but, O’Bannon is not skilled or experienced enough a director to keep it down to a tolerable level and let’s his cast over-act and it just gets grating. The film basically showed us all it had in the first half and now just barrels along to it’s predictable conclusion. There are some fun zombie bits but, they are few and far between as the action remains focused on those trapped in the mortuary and warehouse… and splitting the characters up and thus our focus, doesn’t help things either. It’s no surprise when the film is discussed that the conversation and quotes are all about the zombies as the human characters never really register.

The cast all over-act a lot, especially Karen who you just want to shut up sometimes. Don Calfa as the mortician is in constant bug-eyes mode even before the zombie show up and Clu Gulager is shamelessly unrestrained the whole flick. Quigley is certainly fetching as nude punk rocker/zombie Trash but, her line readings are flat and her dialog, not much better. And the film sadly makes little use of it’s naked, curvaceous brain-eating sex kitten… again, O’Bannon playing it safe. Mathews spends most of his time shivering and whimpering as he takes over an hour to turn into a zombie and the rest of the cast play stereotypical Hollywood cliche’ punk rockers and hipsters… two groups that would never have hung out together in real life. Even heroine Beverly Randolph is reduced to a crying, shrieking mess and it gives us no strong characters to endear ourselves too or identify with.

So, in conclusion my original opinion remains. The film has some fun bits but, overall plays it far too safe and doesn’t really make good use of it’s premise. Anything clever the film has to offer is basically in the set-up and aside from a legitimately creepy dialog scene with a dead corpse, the film really doesn’t do anything new with the whole zombie formula except to make a joke out of it in an attempt to be hip. There is some fun nostalgia at this point and the flick is very 80, but, overall it’s an overrated attempt to get more gas out of a classic movie’s legendary status and needed a far more deft and clever hand behind the camera to succeed in what it set out to do. Watchable but, very overrated. Made enough money to warrant a number of sequels with only Part 3 being a recommendable watch…and one that might be actually better than the film that inspired it.

2 and 1/2 tar men.

return of the living dead rating

 

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