MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: THE AMITYVILLE HORROR and AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION

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I watched this double feature recently and found this classic and it’s prequel to be a lot of fun together!

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THE AMITYVILLE HORROR  (1979)

The Amityville Horror is renown as a horror classic and I certainly won’t argue that. While I find it more corny than creepy…even when I saw it at the Rialto Theater in Ridgefield Park, N.J. back in 1979…it is a lot of fun and created many of the clichés that now permeate today’s haunted house flicks.

Based on a supposed true story, the film has newly married couple George (James Brolin) and Kathy (Margot Kidder) Lutz moving into a large house that was the site of a grizzly murder the year before. The Lutzes are hesitant but, they can’t beat the price. Soon after they move in, strange things begin to occur…and always at 3:15 a.m., the time of the murders. George’s behavior also seems to start to become more and more odd, as he appears sick all the time and the peaceful man has developed a bad temper almost overnight. A priest Father Delany (Rod Steiger) comes to bless their home and is made to flee as some unseen entity forces him from the house. Now under attack from some malevolent force, the family begins to realize they are in great danger from something inside that house that certainly means them harm. With a history of murder, Devil worship and Native American burial grounds, can the family escape this Hell they call home with such powerful forces aligned against them?

Whether it’s believed this actually happened or not, is still being argued today. Demonologists, the Warrens, who have been brought back to attention with The Conjuring, were the investigators on the case and their legitimacy is debated about as much as this incident. A recent investigation on the TV special Real Fear: The Truth Behind The Movies, revealed new facts that George Lutz practiced the occult and validated that the house was build on Native American burial grounds. So, is it real? Who knows. As a movie it is a lot of fun and even though I personally don’t find it very scary, director Stuart Rosenberg and writer Sandor Stern do concoct an entertaining and sometimes innovative horror that established some supernatural elements that now have become movie standards. They take their film, based on Jay Anson’s book, and make a very theatrical horror with bleeding walls, bloody hallucinations, threatening voices and a house that does seem to ooze evil. It just looks spooky, even in daylight. Rosenberg gives it a moderate pace and there are some chilling moments but, to me it’s more fun than actually scary. The film is a bit overly melodramatic, which holds it back for me. The dialogue is corny, especially from Rod Steiger’s very over-the-top holy man and while Brolin and Kidder perform their roles with stark seriousness, they do lean toward over-the-top, too, on occasion. I will admit it has lots of atmosphere, though and Rosenberg is helped in that department by a very chilling score by Lalo Schifrin and there is some moody cinematography by Fred J. Koenekamp. Maybe not very scary but, it is a good time especially with some added nostalgia from it being very 70s.

So, while I don’t think this is quite the scare-fest it was meant to be, I do enjoy it as much now as I did when seeing it in 1979. It portrayed some haunted house elements in a way that have now made them tradition in these films and treated what could have been a silly story with dignity and respect. It’s atmospheric and just plain fun. Maybe not one of my all time favorites but, a film I recognize and acknowledge as the classic it now is.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 haunted houses!

amityville horror rating

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AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION (1982)

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

Even in the 70s and 80s, if it made money, there was usually a sequel. While The Amityville Horror told the complete story of the Lutz haunting, legendary producer Dino De Laurentiis found a way to give us more. The film was a prequel and based it’s story on the real-life DeFeo family murders that occurred in the house before the Lutz family moved in. They changed the names in Tommy Lee Wallace, and an uncredited Dardano Sacchetti’s (Luci Fulci’s Zombie), script and now we get the tragic story of the Montelli family. As with the Lutz family, the Montelli’s, Anthony and Dolores (Burt Young and Rutanya Alda) move in with their kids and almost immediately strange things start to happen. As dad Anthony is an abusive jerk, there is already tension between he and older son Sonny (Jack Magner) who the entity targets as it’s vessel. Also, like with the last flick, there is a priest involved, Father Adamsky (James Olson), who detects an evil force in the house and vows to take it on. The film chronicles Sonny’s being broken down and possessed to the point where he murder’s his family and then Father Adamsky’s attempts to drive the demon from him to prove his innocence.

I actually enjoy this sequel but, this time, for all the wrong reasons. Director Damiano Damiani presents everything with such a dire seriousness that it just accents how silly it all is. While the real-life crime was tragic and horrifying, the film just comes across as campy despite the solemn tone. We get some really cheesy levitation effects that are flagrantly over-used, delightfully corny dialogue and intense over-acting by most of the cast, as well as, some well-executed but, out of place make-up effects to simulate Sonny’s possession. The addition of an incestuous relationship between Sonny and pretty sister Patricia (80s film hottie Diane Franklin) also adds an uncomfortable creepiness but, not of the good kind. It is, however, supposedly a plot point based on a factual relationship between Ronald DeFeo Jr. And his sister. Lalo Schifrin returns to score and it gives the film some atmosphere, as does Franco Di Giacomo’s cinematography. Having the murders occur about two-thirds of the way through and then turning the last act into a routine possession/exorcism flick, also hurts what could have been a very intense finale. The film should have been leading up to the murders, which are very effective but, then the film goes on for another half-hour for Adamsky’s attempt to free Sonny of the demon and that just get’s silly…but, it’s fun to watch and entertainment is the point.

The cast all over-act. Burt Young is just doing another version of his “Paulie” though one that likes to smack around his wife and kids. Having one of the leads being intensely unlikable also doesn’t help the film overall. We actually don’t have much sympathy when Sonny guns him down. Rutanya Alda does some really over the top facial expressions and James Olson’s priestly dialogue seems made up as it goes along and never convinces as legitimate prayer. Magner is actually somewhat fine as Sonny. He has his over the top moments but, isn’t quite as flagrant as some other cast members despite having to act out demonic influence. Rounding out the leads, Franklin has some pretty bad dialogue to utter and the script has her way too accepting of her brother’s sexual advances…demonic influence or not. The scene doesn’t have the shock value it needs because she goes along with it way too easy…and it makes her later guilt seem a bit insincere. Maybe not the actress’ fault but, some of her dialogue does invite some generous chuckles….sorry, I don’t envision a demon ever saying “make love” it’s just laughable.

I have fun with this flick. It’s cheesy, corny and has some laughably fun bits. It tries way too hard to top it’s predecessor, so much that it goes over-the-top and neuters a lot of the effect the story should have. It takes what could have been a dramatically intense and disturbing climax and serves it up about an hour in, leaving the last act to fall into a routine and silly exorcism flick. All this does make for an entertaining movie though, but, definitely for all the wrong reasons. Also, despite taking place before the late 70s set Amityville Horror, the film has a definite 80s vibe to it. Nostalgic and entertaining in spite of itself.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 “so bad it’s good” haunted houses!

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: MOONTRAP (1989)

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MOONTRAP (1989)

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

Low budget but, ambitious 80s Sci-Fi flick opens in 1969 with the first moon landing, where we find Armstrong and co. were being watched by some sort of robotic being. Twenty years later, space shuttle pilots Colonel Jason Grant (Star Trek’s Walter Koenig) and Commander Ray Tanner (Bruce Campbell) encounter a massive space ship whose orbit is decaying and is soon to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere. Grant does a quick space walk to investigate and returns to earth with a strange pod and what appears to be a human corpse. The ship’s trajectory has it and it’s apparently ancient occupant, coming from Earth’s moon. To the horror of the NASA personal, the pod opens and the machine-like creature inside uses the surrounding mechanical devices to build an exoskeleton and go on a destructive rampage. Now the government wants Grant and Tanner to revisit the moon and find out what these creatures are and who are it’s ancient humanoid victims. The astronauts arrive on Earth’s satellite and not only discover a humanoid woman in suspended animation but, a nightmare beyond imagination that put’s them in a battle for the very Earth itself.

Moontrap is a pretty entertaining movie despite some flaws. As directed by Robert Dyke, from Tex Ragsdale’s script, the pace may be a little slow but, there is some nice action and Dyke takes the material serious enough to give it the respect it deserves. I give a lot of credit to the filmmakers for attempting a more serious Sci-Fi adventure in the post Star Wars era and they mix the action with the more dramatic elements well. There is some intensity to the scenes of alien attacks and the film is fun, despite it’s serious approach and it helps us get past some clunky dialogue, some definite plot holes and the fact that leading man Koenig isn’t quite our idea of a hard-nosed, tough guy astronaut. The SPFX are very well done on a modest budget and the extensive and well-executed model work and matte paintings really help sell the idea of mechanized aliens and hidden moon bases. The filmmakers also don’t try to shoot for more than they can afford and this helps the film from getting cheesy as it keeps it’s scope manageable. It’s simply an entertaining little movie with some nice atmosphere and even a little old fashioned charm, as it has a bit of an old 50s Sci-Fi film vibe to it, with it’s hot-shot pilots vs. alien invaders story. Evil Dead fans may also want to take note that not only do we have Bruce Campbell but, the score is done by Evil Dead composer Joe LoDuca as well.

The cast are fine. As stated, Walter Koenig wouldn’t be the first actor we’d think of to play a tough-as-nails astronaut but, he tries really hard. He delivers some very corny and clunky dialogue with a straight face and we do accept him in the role even if we don’t totally buy him getting laid with the buxom space vixen, Mera (Leigh Lombardi). Campbell is right at home playing the wise-cracking sidekick. He is charming and fun and we like his Ray Tanner a lot but…it’s Bruce Campbell, how could we not? Leigh Lombardi is mysterious and sexy as Mera, a woman found in the ancient moon base and as her character’s English is limited, she doesn’t have too much dialog so, mysterious and sexy will have to do. The supporting cast are much weaker in the acting department but, it sort of goes along with that 1950s style movie charm.

I like this movie a lot. Sure it’s a bit corny and it’s leading man casting was done more for having a marquee genre name than a perfect fit but, the film has a lot of charm and it’s heart is in the right place. The filmmakers did a good job putting together it’s alien invasion story on a limited budget and knew their boundaries which helps us get past it’s flaws and enjoy it. We also finally get to see Chekov nail a space babe and not even Star Trek can make that claim…at least not that I remember.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 moons.

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REVIEW: OPEN WINDOWS (2014)

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OPEN WINDOWS (2014)

Open Windows is an interesting and sometimes, effective thriller written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo who also wrote and directed the clever 2007 Timecrimes. The film opens with nerdy Nick Chambers (Elijah Wood) in his hotel room watching a convention event for the film Dark Sky: The Third Wave on his laptop. Nick runs a fan website for the film’s star, the beautiful Jill Goddard (ex-porn star Sasha Grey) and is there because he entered a contest and won a date with his obsession. Nick is suddenly contacted online by a person known only as Chord (Neil Maskell) who informs him that Miss Goddard has canceled the date and that he sympathizes with Nick and would like to let him have a little fun with the actress for his troubles. He begins to hack into all her personal feeds such as phone, e-mail, surveillance cameras, home computer and, at first, Nick is stunned but amused by this voyeuristic invasion of his dream girl’s privacy. Things take a malicious turn, though, and soon Nick finds himself in the middle of some twisted game that involves harassment, torment, kidnapping and possibly murder…and Chord has let all cyber trails lead to Nick as the one responsible.

The first half of this movie had me. It was disturbing and creepy and made me appropriately uncomfortable as we watch a woman’s privacy and life invaded unknowingly and then having her manipulated and tormented by some unseen individual, with an innocent set up to take the blame. Vigalondo cleverly tells his story of stalking, taken to a vicious level, through the various open windows on Nick’s laptop as Chord pulls him into his twisted game. Unfortunately, the writer/director gets a bit overindulgent and the story gets far too complicated for it’s own good with the last act just getting convoluted and silly. A simple plot of a man forced to watch his female fantasy stalked and tormented by some mysterious and malicious individual was working just fine but, then we get the inclusion of a trio of French hackers, who seem only to exist as a plot device, and a fourth master criminal/hacker named Nevada who only exists to set up some last act plot twists. The film was doing just fine as a intimate thriller and suddenly it becomes a cyber James Bond/Jason Bourne flick compete with car chases and explosions and multiple…and unnecessary…plot diversions. The last act is literally out of one of the lesser James Bond flicks with secret hideouts, damsels in distress and an overconfident, pontificating villain. It becomes a comic book spy movie all told from Nick’s laptop, of which the novelty has worn off. It’s just silly. Sometimes less is more and Vigalondo should have stuck with his simple premise and found a smaller and less overloaded way to play it out. Sometimes a director having his cake and eating it too is far too filling for his audience and it certainly is the case here as a good thriller is drowned in excess.

The somewhat small cast are pretty good, at least. Elijah Wood does good work establishing his nerdy, lovelorn Jill Goddard fan, Nick, who becomes terrified as to what he let himself get dragged into. Even when the plot starts to spin out of control, he presents an unlikely hero as he tries to outwit this mysterious Chord and come to Jill’s rescue. As Jill, Grey is fine. She ‘s a bit rough around the edges but, she gives us a starlet who is a bit of a bitch but, not enough that we don’t sympathize with her when she is becoming victimized. She’s a very pretty girl, does have some screen presence and she fits the part and with more experience could be a good actress. As Chord, Neil Maskell is creepy and threatening…especially since most of his performance is vocal…and, once we meet him, a bit pathetic. Though, I didn’t quite buy that such a clever creep was so easily fooled when some of the plot twists come. It’s an effective enough cast that keeps you far more invested in the goings on…especially after the story spirals into it’s overindulgent final act…than you should be.

In conclusion, I was entertained and the film didn’t completely loose me but, really neutered it’s effective first half by getting so overly complicated in it’s second. The use of computer windows and computer simulations to tell it’s story was very well done and clever but, it’s too bad Vigalondo got too giddy with adding complex twists, unnecessary characters, car chases, crashes and explosions. It becomes a completely different film in it’s second half and one not nearly as effective, even if it still is a little fun. Worth a look but, disappointing when it’s set-up and initial sequences were working so well.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 laptops.

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RANDOM NONSENSE: HALESTORM DEBUTS FIRST MUSIC VIDEO FROM THEIR NEW ALBUM!

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Halestorm is one of my favorite bands and I am really excited that they have a third album coming out on April 7th 2015. Today the band released the first music video for the first single off the new album…Apocalyptic!…

 

 

Source: Halestorm/Youtube

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: ANNABELLE (2014)

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ANNABELLE (2014)

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

I’m not the biggest fan of The Conjuring. It was a well made film and had some spooky moments but, not nearly as good as it’s reputation suggests and it doesn’t hold up with repeat viewings. The film was a big hit, though and as money is what runs Hollywood, they couldn’t wait to pry more cash out of the pockets of The Conjuring‘s audience…and there are few better examples of a heartless, soulless, cash grab than this flick.

The unimaginative story takes place in the 70s, a year before the opening scene of The ConjuringWe have young couple John (Ward Horton) and Mia (Annabelle Wallis) expecting their first child and, of course, John celebrates this by buying the creepiest doll possible for his doll collector wife. That night their neighbors are slaughtered by their cultist daughter (Tree O’Toole) and her equally wacky boyfriend who, for some reason, decide to visit Mia and John after slaying mommy and daddy. There is an altercation in which Mia is stabbed but, the police arrive and kill the boyfriend while the daughter “Annabelle” commits suicide while holding the creepy doll…for the sole reason of setting up a horror film. Mia survives, as does their newborn daughter but, before you can say “burning Jiffy-Pop” the couple are besieged with every overused cliché in the horror movie manual as some demonic force has come to claim the baby’s soul.

With flat and by-the-numbers direction from John R. Leonetti and a completely unimaginative script by Gary Dauberman, this film can only be seen as the transparent attempt for quick cash that it is. There is literally nothing we haven’t seen before here and that would be fine if Leonetti directed these horror tropes with even the slightest bit of passion or energy. It barely follows a cohesive story as it runs through every cliché it can in it’s 99 minutes. We get flashing lights, dolls changing position, thrown out objects returning to their owners…without much concern either…and demonic creatures glimpsed in the shadows. We also get the stereotypical character who knows all about the occult and just happens to run a book shop down the block. Conveniently there to befriend and then help the embattled couple, since the stereotypical holy man only gets bitch-slapped by the evil force. This flick rips off practically every demonic evil and haunting movie that’s come before it and does so brazenly…it actually takes balls to blatantly rip-off the climax of one of the greatest horror movies ever made and not even have the respect to pay homage or give it a nod. At least James Wan freshened up the familiar material. They don’t even try here and that is the most insulting thing of all about this flick, the incredibly lazy, lack of effort to even remotely create something actually of merit. Did the director even show up on set? The wooden performances by it’s leads…and it almost takes an effort to get a boring performance out of Alfre Woodward…and the totally bland camera set-ups, makes me question if Leonetti was home watching The View and counting his money on his couch while one of his production assistants hit the “on” button on the camera. There is just no heart or effort in this film at all.

Annabelle is a completely obvious…and sadly successful…prequel/spin-off that doesn’t even have the cleverness to at least be cohesive with the film it is a prequel to. In The Conjuring it’s stated that there actually is no real Annabelle, it was a name the demon made up in the guise of a child spirit, yet, here we have a character named Annabelle whose death with the doll gives it it’s name. Did Dauberman even watch Wan’s flick? This is not only a complete waste of time but, a sad example of how little the studio beancounters care about the fans of a hit film. I can undertand wanting to keep the momentum going till Wan gets around to an actual sequel but, at least try to give the audience something worth their hard-earned cash…at least TRY! Not the worst movie I’ve seen but, lazy to the point of insulting.

-MonsterZero NJ

1 and 1/2 dolls!

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES JAN. 23-25

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Complete estimates are in for the weekend box office !

1. “American Sniper” $64.3 Million

2. “The Boy Next Door” $15 Million

3. “Paddington” $12.3 Million

4. “The Wedding Ringer” $11.6 Million

5. “Taken 3” $7.6 Million

6. “The Imitation Game” $7.1

7. “Strange Magic” $5.53

8. “Selma” $5.5 Million

9. “Mortdecai” $4.1 Million

10. “Into The Woods” $3.9 Million

source: Box Office Mojo

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: CLASS OF 1984 and CLASS OF 1999

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I haven’t done a double feature in a while and what better double feature than these two Mark Lester action/exploitation flicks!

 

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CLASS OF 1984  (1982)

Class Of 1984 is a good old fashioned exploitation flick and it knows it! Story finds idealistic music teacher Andrew Norris (Perry King) entering the crime and gang ridden Abraham Lincoln High School with the intent or doing some good. He immediately runs afoul of the most vicious gang in the school run by the charming but demented Peter Stegman (Vince Van Patton). The more Norris challenges the gang, the more they push back. Family, friends and biology lab animals are all caught in the crossfire as this feud escalates into a war and a peaceful teacher is pushed to the brink of savagery in response to Stegman and company’s increasingly cruel…and personal…attacks. Will anyone survive?

Sure, one could argue that Norris is a fool for putting, students, friends and his pregnant wife (Merrie Lynn Ross) in harm’s way by taking this gang of creeps on, but this is a sleazy exploitation film and co-writer/director Mark Lester knows it and delivers the goods. We let it slide that Norris continues to antagonize these vicious punks even though they let him know early on that they know where he lives and they are not going to relent. His crusade to rid the school of these deviants gets a lot of people…and cuddly lab animals…hurt, including a vicious attack on his pregnant wife, but Norris continues till they drive him over the edge and then, the real fun begins. Even back in 1982 this flick, that Lester co-wrote with Tom Holland (Fright Night, Child’s Play) and John Saxton, created controversy with it’s portrayal of violence, prostitution and drug dealing all perpetrated by high schoolers…and then the violent and bloody revenge exacted on them by one of their own teachers. It’s over-the-top portrayal of a school run by delinquents may actually seem more appropriate now with what is happening in today’s school and far less likely such a film would have gotten made today, even on an exploitation level. It’s violent and while over-the-top, it takes itself seriously and is an effective and brutal action flick that isn’t afraid to go places that are considered taboo, maybe even more-so today. Great movie…no. Damn effective exploitation flick…hell, yes!

I wouldn’t say the acting is great, but the cast all take their roles seriously. King is convincing as the idealistic and somewhat naive teacher who thinks he is going to just walk into a troubled school and clean house. He also is convincing…and a little scary…once that good man is turned into a vengeful savage whose vengeance may almost be crueler than the actions of those he’s seeking revenge upon. Van Patten is very effective as Stegman. Charming and crazy and totally living in a moral vacuum due to a rich mother who has blinders on to his heinous actions. Not her baby, absolutely not. He is vicious and cruel and will stoop to the lowest levels to maintain his iron grip on “his” school. Van Patten nails it. We have veteran Roddy McDowell, who is a teacher who prefers to look the other way, but snaps when drawn into Norris’ crusade. McDowell always gave his all, even in a sleazy film like this. We also have a pre-“Alex P. Keaton” Michael J. Fox as one of the few good students left and another person Norris’ obsession gets hurt.  Rounding out the main characters, Ross is fine as the sweet, loving loyal wife who we know from the start is there to be victimized and those scenes are brutal and added to the film’s controversy.

This is an exploitation flick through and through. It steamrolls right into controversial topics and does so with a bloodthirsty gusto at times. It never pretends to be anything else but what it is. It’s effective and relentless and even has some legitimate suspense and chills in it’s portrayal of a good man drawn into a personal confrontation with complete trash. An effective B-Movie that still resonates in today’s world of violence in schools. Title song “I am The Future” is performed by Alice Cooper.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 saw blades…ouch!

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SPOLIER WARNING: This trailer does show some scenes which reveal key moments!

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CLASS OF 1999 (1990)

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

Eight years after his controversial but profitable exploitation flick, Class Of 1984, Mark Lester co-wrote and directed this follow-up which shares similar themes, but goes further over-the-top by adding elements of Terminator and Escape From New York. The film takes place in the future…or what was the future when it was made… where youth gangs have gotten so out of control that the police establish “Free Fire Zones” around schools where they will not enter and it’s up to the Department Of Educational Defense to use their own private security force to establish order. They also have collaborated with a robotics company called Megatech to create cybernetic teachers to educate and discipline these unruly students. Unknown to Principal Langford (Malcolm McDowell) the devious Dr. Forrest (a spooky Stacy Keach) has used combat robots as prototypes for these new teachers. Now it is the teachers whose methods of discipline are out of control and it’s up to former gang member Cody (Bradley Gregg) and the principle’s spirited daughter (hottie Traci Lind) to stop these automatons before more of their classmates are slaughtered.

Sequel is more of a straight-up B-Movie action flick than an exploitation flick, like 1984 was. But like that flick, the film knows it and dives straight into it’s over the top story and just runs with it…like a good B-movie should. First off, Lester earns B-Movie high marks by casting exploitation icon Pam Grier, 80s movie bad guy Patrick Kilpatrick and B-Movie veteran John P. Ryan as the three cybernetic teachers who turn killing machines. They add a lot of personality to their villains. The action in the film is decent but unremarkable, but Lester saves the best for last for the finale when the surviving gang members take on the three combat robots in the halls of Kennedy High. It’s this last act where the movie really comes alive and is at it’s most fun, as the teacher’s reveal their true T-800 nature and the high school hallways become a bloody war zone. This film, obviously, has a bit more of a sense of humor than Class Of 1984 and doesn’t get anywhere near as cruel or vicious, though it has a few violent moments. Lester moves things along quickly and while it lacks it’s predecessor’s intensity, it has fun with it’s premise by flipping things around and having us rooting for the delinquent students this time. It’s not a great movie and underperformed at the box office, but overall, it’s a fun little B-Movie though, not quite up to Lester’s work on Commando.

The cast are fine, it’s obviously veterans like Grier, Ryan, Kilpatrick, Keach and McDowell who stand out with their over-the-top performances as robots, mad scientist and the principal caught in the middle, respectively. Bradley Gregg does make a sufficient anti-hero with an Edward Furlong-ish quality. He could have had a bit more of a presence as a supposed former gang leader, but he does well with portraying a young man who wants out, but is pulled back in. Lind is an adorable and very fiesty leading lady. She sadly is demoted to damsel in distress for the finale, but she gives her Christy a lot of spunk and fire for the rest of the flick. I had a huge crush on her back in the day and while I like her here, I still like her Alex in Fright Night Part II better. Alex had a bit more fight.

I like this flick. Not as strong as Class Of 1984, but it is still a fun B-Movie action flick that just goes with it’s silly story. I did see it in a theater…I think it was the Hyway Theater in Fair Lawn, N.J., another cool place to see B flicks like this…and had fun with it. I still enjoy it now even though 1999 has long past and we don’t have cybernetic teachers…that we know of. It’s an entertaining little movie from a director who made a career of fun flicks like this and was never afraid to take his stories and run with them. A fun time and a worthy second feature to the first flick. As said, it performed poorly at the box office, but must have done well enough on home media as there was a second sequel, without Lester, that went direct to VHS in 1994. Also stars Near Dark’s Joshua John Miller as Cody’s brother.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 cybernetic disciplinarians.

class of 1999 rating

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REVIEW: WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD (2014)

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WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD (2014)

Written and directed by Gregg Araki and based on a book by Laura Kasischke, this fascinating and involving film tells the story of Katrina (Shailene Woodley), a teen who is dealing with the sudden and unexplained disappearance of her mother, Eve (Eva Green). On the outside, Kat is trying to move on with her life, as years pass, but, not knowing her mother ‘s fate and not having closure, is eating her up on the inside. Her father, Brock (Christopher Meloni) seems oblivious, as does her stoner boyfriend, Phil (Shiloh Fernandez) and even finding herself in the arms of the older cop (Tom Jane) who investigated her mother’s case, isn’t enough to bring her peace. While trying to keep an outwardly composed appearance, she reminisces back on her mother’s odd behavior before she disappeared and is haunted by strange dreams that won’t let her rest till she gets some answers…but, will she?

Gregg Araki creates a film that is both quiet and yet very powerful as he tells the story of Katrina who is trying to go on with her life while dealing with the internal struggle of having no answers to her questions… and not much help getting those answers from those around her. Her mother appeared to be a troubled woman in their final moments together and the marriage between she and Kat’s father never seemed to really work but, this only creates more questions than it provides clues or answers. Did her mother just up and leave, or was it something darker that befell her? Araki paints a beautiful and haunting portrait of a young woman seeking closure both with a striking visual style and a subtle emotional power. He presents you with clues in flashbacks and dreams seen through Kat’s eyes but, like Kat, we still get no solid answers or inner peace. As seen from the young girl’s perspective, Araki gives us a colorful portrayal of a picture-perfect housewife who is slowly coming apart as the imperfection and boredom of her real life sets in. Despite their dysfunctional relationship toward the end, there’s a hole in Kat’s life and it can only be filled by answers she may not get…or closure she may never have. Araki takes us on a journey with Kat, who can’t truly be at peace, though she tries, till she finds the truth and the journey here is more important than the actual destination…and the destination may not be one that Kat expected or will want to accept. And Araki does it all with a touch of fairy tale whimsy that somehow works perfectly. On a technical level the film is gorgeous with cinematography by Sandra Valde-Hansen and a fitting 80s style score… the film takes place from 1988 to 1991…by composer Harold Budd and Robin Guthrie, who co-founded the Cocteau Twins. A film that equals the sum of it’s parts.

Araki’s skilled and visually stunning direction is further enhanced with knock-out performances from all his cast. Woodley is a powerhouse in her portrayal of a woman trying to come to terms with the mysterious disappearance of her mother and wanting desperately to just go on with her life and despite her facade, she is slowly fragmenting inside. She is wonderful. Eva Green is also amazing as a woman who starts out as June Cleaver and slowly crumples into Joan Crawford as she realizes that this is as good as her life is going to get… and it’s not what she wants. Christopher Meloni gives us a man who seems oblivious and unable to stand up to his wife’s increasingly belligerent behavior. Once she’s gone, he seems to operate in a perpetual fog as he can’t seem to function emotionally without a woman who increasingly let it be known she didn’t love him. It’s a performance that is subtle but, has it’s layers as the story goes on. Fernandez is also strong playing the stoner Phil. He may appear to be lost in a purple haze but, there is more going on than it appears and Fernandez conveys that well, especially in the film’s revelatory final act. Jane is also good as Detective Scieziesciez, the older man and police officer from Eve’s case. He actually seems to care for Kat and Jane does nice work keeping him from coming across as a two dimensional jerk. Kat and he at first seem to use each other but, it appears to be more as the story progresses and the actors convey this in subtle but, effective ways. A great cast doing great work.

I loved this movie. I really have nothing negative to say about it. Nothing is perfect but, it’s imperfections are minor and really inconsequential when you view all that Araki get’s right. It’s an emotional journey that is exceptionally acted and one that is also subtly a mystery. A mystery where, despite all the clues and possibilities, you won’t quite see where it’s heading…and yet, it still all makes sense. Great direction, good writing and strong acting from all the cast. A great little indie movie. Also features Ava Acres (At The Devil’s Door) as 8 year old Kat and Angela Bassett as Kat’s therapist.

-MonsterZero NJ

4 stars… not going to get smarmy on this one, a great little movie.

four stars rating

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CULT CLASSIC CUTIES: TRACI LIN as ALEX in FRIGHT NIGHT PART 2!

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Cult Classic Cuties are characters from some of our favorite cult classics and midnight movies who captured our hearts and/or actresses who got our attention but, sadly, never returned to these type of flicks or whose sexy stars shined only briefly, not quite achieving scream queen status. And this installment’s cutie is…

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TRACI LIN

Whether billed as Tracy Lin or Tracy Lind, this former model and major cutie made her mark on the hearts of horror and Sci-Fi fans, first with her spunky and feisty heroine, Alex in Fright Night Part 2 in 1988 and then her fiery Christy in Class Of 1999 in 1990! It was first in Tommy Lee Wallace’s vampire sequel, though, that she really made an impression as the smart, sexy and loyal girlfriend of Charlie Brewster…that’s definitely where my crush on her began!
Vampire slaying aside, Traci had a busy film and TV career between 1984 and 1997 before retiring from acting, or so it would appear. She also had genre roles in Don Coscarelli’s 1989 thriller Survival Quest, the zombie comedy My Boyfriend’s Back and the futuristic The Handmaid’s Tale.

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 as ALEX in FRIGHT NIGHT PART 2!

(click on the poster for a full review)

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With her fiery spirit and mane of babe hair, Alex is definitely the perfect girl for cuddling and killing vampires!
Traci appeared in her last film in 1997 and my research seems to imply that she has been happily married for over two decades and is the mother of two children. Whatever her reasons for leaving acting, we wish her well and will never forget her vampire killing college co-ed, Alex!

Be sure to check out our Cult Classic Cuties (click right here on the link) section to see more crush worthy ladies from cult films and midnight movies!

-MonsterZero NJ

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