TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: NEW YEAR’S EVIL (1980)

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NEW YEAR’S EVIL (1980)

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

New Year’s Evil is yet another Halloween inspired early 80s slasher that’s only points of interest…if they can be called that…are that it stars Happy Days’ ‘Pinky Tuscadero’ Roz Kelly, Killer Klowns’ Grant Cramer and Galaxy Of Terror’s Taaffe O’Connell. The uninspired story has rock personality and TV hostess Diane ‘Blaze’ Sullivan (Roz Kelly) harassed during a televised New Year’s Eve concert over the phone by a strange man with a grudge. This demented individual threatens to murder someone at each midnight in the four time zones with ‘Blaze’ being his final victim. Who is this mysterious killer and why has he targeted the popular TV personality?

This formulaic and forgettable slasher is directed by Emmett Alston (who?) and co-written by Alston and Leonard Neubauer. The film has no real suspense or tension and thanks to making it’s lead character, Blaze, a stereotypical self-centered and self-absorbed TV star, we have absolutely no sympathy for her or the killer’s generic victim’s for that matter. The killer (Kip Niven) is also completely uninspired and the fact that we see his face from the first moment, robs him of a more mysterious persona despite his penchant for unconvincing disguises. He’s just some average guy and the big reveal of his identity really doesn’t seem all that surprising since we are given few suspects to choose from. The cast are all fairly wooden, the kills are routine and dull and there is very little cinematic about the look and feel of this slow-paced flick. The only reason this might be worth watching, familiar faces in the cast aside, is the heavy 80s nostalgia especially from the music played during Blaze’s show and the classic 80s Hollywood stereotype of punk rockers, which had them wearing more make-up than showgirls.

This is another holiday set slasher that has very little to recommend and isn’t worth talking about much. It’s dull and forgettable and gives us no suspense, scares or even blood and gore to entertain the horror lover in us. A very formula slasher that has only some 80s nostalgia to lure us into tuning in. No surprise it comes from schlockmeisters Cannon Films, who made a career of unremarkable exploitation flicks.

2 champagne toasts.

new years evil rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: AS ABOVE, SO BELOW (2014)

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AS ABOVE, SO BELOW  (2014)

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

As Above, So Below is a spooky, funhouse kinda movie from John Erick Dowdle, the writer/director of The Poughkeepsie Tapes and, more recently, Devil. The found footage film tells the story of dedicated archeologist Scarlett Marlowe (Perdita Weeks) who specializes in the study of alchemy and is searching for the fabled Philosopher’s Stone, which is said to be able to turn ordinary metals into gold… and hold the secret of eternal life. Scarlett’s search leads her from the Iranian desert to the skeleton-filled catacombs beneath the city of Paris, where she believes the stone is hidden. As Scarlett and her crew descend into the caverns beneath the City of Lights, it starts to become more and more apparent that they may also be entering the very gates of hell itself.

Co-written with his brother Drew, Dowdle is showing that he is finally living up to the potential he has given us glimpses of in his previous, but, in my opinion, unsatisfactory, flicks. He crafts a very creepy and atmospheric movie that starts out slow but, like a good carnival funhouse, gradually builds momentum and gets more and more bizarre and intense as it goes along. Scarlett and her crew are clearly on a hellish ride as they climb deeper and deeper into uncharted territory and some malevolent force is more than happy to torment and divert them to even darker places than they ever imagined. They are tormented by cloaked figures, strange creatures, as well as, their own personal demons and it’s disturbing and claustrophobic fun to watch their expedition spiral out of control. Sure there are some Blair Witch-ish elements we’ve seen before but, Dowdle directs them effectively, uses the found footage format to his advantage and adds some scary and clever twists of his own. He also overcomes one of The Poughkeepsie Tapes‘  biggest flaws and gets good work out of his cast, especially Weeks, and creates some fairly realistic and likable characters. Not all of it works. Some of it gets a bit silly and the ending seems sudden and anti-climactic, but, the preceding 90 minutes is a fun and goose-bump inducing movie with a director finally his stride…or at least getting there.

So, overall I liked this flick and had a spooky good time with it. Not everything works and it takes awhile to really start giving us some good shivers but, it succeeds more than it fails and it adds some of it’s own original elements to those that have become commonplace with found footage horror. Not a great movie but, a creepy and unsettling one with a few unique twists and a very atmospheric location. Also stars Edwin Hodge, Ben Feldman and Francois Civil as members of Scarlett’s crew. I already posted my Best Horror Flicks of 2014 but, this definitely would have gotten an honorable mention. Fun horror!

3 skulls.

as above so below rating

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CULT CLASSIC CUTIES: CATHERINE MARY STEWART as REGGIE in NIGHT OF THE COMET!

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Catherine Mary Stewart actually has had a fairly solid career in both movies and TV but, her genre work is limited to only a handful of films and, despite being seen in The Last Starfighter a few months earlier, it is the 1984 cult classic Night Of The Comet that she really got the attention of horror/sci-fi fans. It is this role that movie geeks most seem to associate her with and remember her for. Apocalyptic sci-fi/comedy finds Stewart playing Reggie, the older of the two sexy, sassy, and sometimes lethal, Belmont sisters (along with genre favorite Kelli Maroney as Sam) who find themselves fending for their lives in a world ravaged by the effects of a passing comet. Most of the world’s population are dead, and a good deal of the survivors are turning into zombies and these two valley girls are tasked with saving civilization!…bitchin’!

CATHERINE MARY STEWART as REGGIE in NIGHT OF THE COMET!

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If there’s any girl we’d like at our side at the end of the world, it’s definitely the beautiful and dangerous Reggie!
 Stewart also starred in the cult sci-fi adventure  Nightflyers in 1987 and more recently returned to genre films in the gut-wrenching 2007 horror The Girl Next Door!…but, it is her tough as nails and hot as hell Reggie Belmont that we will always have a crush on!

-MonsterZero NJ

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES DEC. 26-28

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Complete estimates are in for the weekend box office!

1. “The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies” $41.4 Million

2. “Unbroken” $31.7 Million

3. “Into The Woods” $31 Million

4. “Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb” $20.6 Million

5. “Annie” $16.6 Million

6. “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1” $10 Million

7. “The Gambler” $9.3 Million

8. The Imitation Game $7.9

9. “Exodus: Gods and Kings” $6.75 Million

10. “Wild” $ $5.45 Million

source: Box Office Mojo

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT (1980)

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TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT (1980)

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

To All A Good Night is another Christmas set horror that’s only distinction is that it was written by Alex Rebar, who starred as The Incredible Melting Man in that 1977 flick, is directed by The Last House On The Left‘s David Hess and stars Jennifer Runyon, who would gain attention a few years later as the pretty co-ed being ‘tested’ by Bill Murray in Ghostbusters.

The film opens with a Christmas party prank at a sorority going awry and a girl falls to her death. Two years later the same girls are throwing another holiday party and soon someone in a Santa Claus outfit is stalking and murdering them and their boyfriends. Who is this demented killer and why have they targeted the girls of The Calvin Finishing School?

As written by Rebar and directed by Hess, this holiday slasher is a fairly pedestrian and dull affair. It follows the early 80s slasher formula to the letter with being set on an important date and featuring a killer getting payback for a past misdeed. There is little or no suspense and the film moves at a funeral’s pace and has equally little atmosphere. The characters, including Runyon’s final girl Nancy, are all cliché, dull and evoke no sympathy when they are offed. The film is bloody but, none of the kills are all that impressive and the film looks and feels like a TV movie, if not for the bloody murders. That’s kinda it.

There’s really little to say or recommend about this flick. It’s a dull and routine slasher that really doesn’t take advantage of it’s setting and once we get our big reveal, we realize there was absolutely no reason for the killer to wear the Santa suit accept for exacting their revenge on Christmas. A forgettable 80s slasher only made a bit noteworthy because, it has been rightfully forgotten and is rarely mentioned when discussing this era and genre.

2 Christmas trees.

to all a good night rating

Proof of how obscure this flick is, I couldn’t find a decent trailer. But, I did find the whole movie…

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: CHRISTMAS EVIL (1980)

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CHRISTMAS EVIL (1980)

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

Few movies can make the distinction of being both laughably bad yet, remain very disturbing but, Lewis Jackson’s yuletide horror is bizarre and creepy enough to be both. Story opens with young Harry (Gus Salud) seeing Santa coming down the chimney and delivering presents for he and his brother (Wally Moran). His love of Christmas is shattered though, when he catches that same Santa… actually his dad in a costume…going at it with his mother. Many years later the adult Harry (Brandon Maggart) is a lonely introvert who works at the bargain basement Jolly Dreams toy factory and is obsessed with becoming Santa Claus…an obsession that drives him over the edge and turns Harry into a Santa-suited homicidal maniac.

Written and directed by Lewis Jackson, this is both a hysterically bad flick and one that, somehow, remains really disturbing. Harry is just a very creepy person with his spying on neighborhood children, to see if they are good or bad and his deeply unnerving obsession with Santa Claus and Christmas. The fact that he is so determined to be seen and loved as the real Santa Claus drives him to kill anyone who laughs or makes fun of him, leading to his being hunted by neighborhood citizens actually baring torches. It’s like Transylvania though, the film takes place in New Jersey. It’s all very funny to watch Harry snap and slaughter three obnoxious yuppies in front of a church and it’s parishioners and his Santa themed apartment brings the appropriate chuckles and chills. But, the film is also very creepy in it’s portrayal of a man who psychotically wants to be loved by all as the most famous holiday icon of all-time, enough that he will kill anyone who doesn’t buy into his delusion. Jackson may not be a skilled filmmaker but, there’s no denying this flick entertains in both it’s badness and ability to present you with a truly unnerving main character. Credit has to also be given to Brandon Maggart for giving his Harry some strong creep factor while the rest of the cast are adequate at best. There is a very off-putting quality to this film that works with the camp factor far better than it should and I’ll wager quite by accident. A happy and horrifying accident, as the film does have a ‘made up as it goes along’ quality to it.

So, if this type of flick is your bloody cup of egg nog, enjoy this movie for what it is. It’s a strange and sometimes laughably bad movie that still has the ability to creep you out with it’s disturbed main character and some gory kills all within it’s yuletide setting. There is something unnervingly real about Harry that makes you believe that there might be someone like him out there, yet, the film itself can be almost surreal with it’s torch bearing New Jersey residents and the fact that kids really seem to like Harry’s Santa despite their parents knowing something is really off about this guy. This film has developed a bit of a cult following and I can see why as it is definitely midnight movie material, especially if it’s midnight on December 24th. Recommended for those looking for something weird, unsettling but, very amusing!

3 campy and disturbing Christmas trees.

fred clause rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS (1964)

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SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS (1964)

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

If there ever is a holiday movie that warranted a “What the heck were they thinking?” it’s this one. Ridiculous story finds Martian ruler Kimar (Leonard Hicks), lamenting that the joy-less and robotic Martian society is negatively effecting their children, who are obsessed with watching TV programs from Earth. He comes to the conclusion that the children should experience fun and happiness and the only person who can bring that to the kids of Mars is Santa Claus (John Call). So, Kimar kidnaps Santa, along with two Earth kids, Billy (Victor Stiles) and his sister Betty (Donna Conforti) and brings them to Mars. Once there, the jolly Santa starts to win over the Martians, but the evil Voldar (Vincent Beck) plots to put an end to all this holiday cheer and return Mars to it’s old ways.

Written by Paul L. Jacobson and Glenville Mareth and directed by Nicholas Webster, this is a terrible movie on most levels. The story is ludicrous, the sets and FX are horribly cheap, the acting is terrible and it moves at a snail’s pace for an 80 minute movie. That’s also exactly what makes this flick a twisted yuletide treat, it’s just bad enough to be delightfully entertaining…especially with a healthy helping of holiday spirits while you watch. You sit there just wondering what drugs were passed around during the script writing process and marvel at how seriously the cast and director are taking this nonsense. The actors playing the Martians play it with complete urgency, save Bill McCutcheon as the oafish Dropo and John Call’s Santa comes across as more oblivious and deranged than jolly, as Santa. He seems barely bothered at all that he has been kidnaped to another planet and that certain factions are out to get him there. The dialog is atrocious and a sub-plot of an Earth ship in pursuit to rescue Santa is completely dropped after a scene or two. Where did they wind up?…and why expect any logic from a movie as scatterbrained as this!

At this point this flick is regarded as a camp, “so bad it’s good” classic. And It certainly is a lot of fun for all the wrong reasons. So if you are going to add this to your holiday watch list, make sure there is plenty of egg nog or whatever your favorite holiday beverage is and have a good time with the audacity of it all. Also renown as the first role for singer and actress Pia Zadora as one of Kimar’s children.

3 campy Christmas trees.

fred clause rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984)

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SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984)

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

This Christmas set 80s slasher isn’t very scary but, it is a lot of fun. It has a very devious sense of humor and certainly isn’t afraid to involve little children in it’s holiday horrors and blood soaked Christmas clichés.

The story opens in 1971 with 5-year-old Billy (Jonathan Best) not only being frightened out of his wits by Santa horror stories from his demented grandfather on Christmas Eve, but, witnesses the brutal murder of his parents by a thief dressed in a Santa suit. Three years later we find Billy (Danny Wagner) in an orphanage where a cruel nun is trying to force his fears of Christmas out of him by forcing Christmas on him. We finally cut to 10 years later where a now 18, Billy (Robert Brian Wilson) gets his first job… at a toy store… at Christmas! And to make matters worse he is chosen by his boss to play Santa and when he catches a co-worker forcing himself on his store crush Pamela (Toni Nero), Billy snaps and a yuletide murder spree gruesomely begins. Will anyone survive the holidays now that a Santa suited Billy is killing anyone he deems naughty… which is pretty much everyone he encounters!

As a horror film, this flick has very little scares or suspense but, as directed by Grizzly Adams creator Charles Sellier… from Michael Hickey’s sadistically clever script… the film is a lot of gruesome fun that definitely isn’t afraid to cross some boundaries, especially when it gleefully involves little kids in it’s horrible holiday hi-jinx. If the things little Billy experiences aren’t enough, the deliriously horrific scene of an orphanage full of little kids witnessing the gunning down of a priest in a Santa suit, by an overzealous cop, will have you giggling out loud. Sure we know who our killer is without question and his victims are fairly random Santa fodder but, the fact that Sellier so happily makes a bloody mess of one of the most beloved holidays, makes up for the fact that their really isn’t much to chill us other than watching the plentiful and well orchestrated blood and gore spatter all over the screen like spilled egg nog. It’s good, gory, campy fun and makes no excuses that it is breaking some taboos and is proud of it.

The cast, including 80s scream queen legend Linnea Quigley as a victim, are all delightfully bad. They are all mostly unknowns, except for TV actress Tara Buckman who has a brief role as Billy’s hot but, ill-fated mom. Wilson just basically carries out his villainy with a blank and evil stare but, it’s enough to work even if he is not an overly strong psycho. Actress Lilyan Chauvin is actually a lot scarier as Mother Superior who tries to torment the love of Christmas back into the young, mentally scarred Billy and Gilmer McCormick is sweet and likable as Sister Margret a young nun who takes pity on Billy even when he turns stone cold killer.

This is a deviously fun slasher though, admit-tingly, as a horror, it is kind of weak. It makes up for a lot of that weakness by delighting in breaking some movie taboos and pouring blood over as many Christmas traditions as possible in gleeful fashion. It’s an entertaining enough slasher though, it is far more campy than creepy and that’s just fine. Obviously recommended during the holidays when endless showings of A Christmas Story drive you to want to kill. Billy will be happy to oblige for you.

3 Christmas trees.

fred clause rating

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