HALLOWEEN FAVORITES: ED WOOD (1994)

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ED WOOD (1994)

Halloween Favorites is back and this Tim Burton classic is certainly a fun Halloween season watch when you need a break from decapitations, masked killers and lurking fiends.

Ed Wood is a twisted and funny film that delightfully tells the story of arguably the worst filmmaker in history, Edward Wood Jr. Johnny Depp plays the ambitious Wood whose passion for making amateurish sci-fi/horror movies by far eclipsed his actually talent. The film follows the wannabe director through the making of some of his most infamous flicks, like Glen Or Glenda, Bride Of The Monster and Plan 9 From Outer Space and his relationship with an oddball assortment of characters, including a drug addicted Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau), TV hostess Vampira (Lisa Marie), wrestler/actor Tor Johnson (WWE’s George “The Animal” Steele), drag queen Bunny Breckinridge (Bill Murray) and fortune teller Criswell (Jeffrey Jones). It also takes us into his equally odd personal life, including his relationships with wannabe actress Dolores Fuller (Sarah Jessica Parker) and his future wife Kathy (Patrica Arquette) along with his love for wearing women’s clothes.

This is one of Burton’s best films, as he directs Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski’s script with healthy doses of respect and heart. While Burton has a lot of fun with Wood’s story and the making of some of his most notorious films, never at any time does he make fun of Wood, or treat the man with contempt. Wood’s life makes for a movie as strange and off-beat as one of his own productions and the director knows it and films the story in black and white and in the same whimsical style as if we were watching one of Wood’s films, only about Wood. The film is loaded with atmosphere, charm and a lot of entertaining and oddball bits as Wood certainly lived in his own little world and Burton takes us into it. Burton also captures the spirit of Hollywood in the 50s and and the spirit of a man who wants to break into movies and be remembered for his films…and he is…though not the way he wanted. The movie’s atmosphere is enhanced with Danny Elfman’s boisterous score and Stephan Czapsky’s sumptuous black and white cinematography.

The cast is fantastic, with Depp really having a blast as the goofy, cross-dressing amateur filmmaker. He gives him passion, a kind heart and wonderfully naive charm. He is only outshined by Landau who is truly incredible…and sympathetic…as the aging, morphine addicted Bela Lugosi. The two have a wonderful chemistry together and make this odd pairing work. Lisa Marie and George Steele are perfectly cast as Vampira and Swedish wrestler Tor Johnson, who appeared in a few of Wood’s flicks. Jones is also perfect as the bizarre psychic Criswell and Murray steals every scene as drag queen and Wood associate, Bunny Breckinridge. As his love interests, Parker gives us a frustrated woman who gradually snaps at being drawn into the bizarre world her boyfriend lives in and Arquette is sweet and has almost an innocent quality, as the woman that would become Wood’s wife till he died in 1978.

This is a great movie about one of the worst directors of all-time. A man now idolized for his awful…yet, oddly very entertaining…flicks. The film chooses to focus on the more off-beat aspects of Wood’s life, while avoiding the subject of his depression and alcoholism, though it does not shy away from Lugosi’s. Burton chooses to make a more whimsical take on Wood’s life and that works very well considering how bizarre and surreal his films were. It’s a spoof, that never makes fun of it’s subject and never looks down upon this amusingly terrible filmmaker. A fun movie that indirectly captures the Halloween spirit far better than some films with more direct intent. Sadly, the film was a box office disappointment, but has developed a much deserved cult following and Lugosi did get an Oscar for his amazing turn as Lugosi.

-MonsterZero NJ

4 Woods!

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HALLOWEEN FAVORITES: SUSPIRIA (1977)

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SUSPIRIA (1977)

I’m going to be completely honest here and I know many will disagree with me, but I am not a big fan of Dario Argento. I find his flicks to be more silly than scary and he hasn’t made a movie worth watching since the 80s. His earlier works, however, are spooky and stylish and the guy sure knew how to frame a shot in those days. His early works, such as his most famous, Suspiria, are dripping with atmosphere and the soundtrack from this 1977 Italian classic is one of horror’s best, courtesy of Goblin. So, while Argento is not a favorite of mine and neither are his films, Suspiria is spooky, gory and atmospheric enough to be a perfect fit for the Holloween season and thus does find it’s way onto the playlist, especially on a cloudy, gloomy day like today. So…it finds itself played every year at this time and thus earns a spot on the Halloween Favorites list despite not truly being a personal favorite of mine. Ah… the magic of Halloween.

Suspiria is really very simple in terms of plot. It’s somewhat eccentric story finds a young American women, Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) traveling to attend a dance academy in Germany, but finding herself surrounded by some strange events and occurrences almost at the moment of her arrival. As Suzy begins to look into the strange goings on, the bodies keep bloodily piling up. The pretty young woman comes to believe the school is run by a coven of witches and she may be their next victim. The film is the first in Argento’s 3 Mothers trilogy followed by Inferno in 1980 and then almost 30 years later with The Mother Of Tears in 2007… which was pretty awful, in my opinion.

Again, I find this flick more silly than scary, but even I can’t deny it’s loaded with spooky atmosphere and the cinematography by Luciano Tovoli is absolutely sumptuous and adds lots and lots of spooky atmosphere. Film is written by Argento and Daria Nicolidi and is based on a series of essays by Thomas De Quincey called Suspiria de Profundis. Argento certainly creates a beautiful canvas and he also has a disturbing talent for setting up some inventive and gruesome kills. But otherwise, the film itself is rather silly with weak dialog and no real suspense or scares until the admit-tingly spooky last act when Suzy finally meets the witches in question in their lair hidden within the school. Obviously, the score by Goblin adds a lot, too, as it is one of the best scores in horror film history and is certainly quite effective in administering goosebumps all on it’s own. So, overall the film works far better than it should due to it’s creepy packaging far exceeding the power of it’s somewhat weak story and screenplay…but something tells me the actual scripted page was not Argento’s top priority anyway here. He always seemed to be more about style than substance.

As for the acting, the cast…star Jessica Harper included…seem to wander through the film looking lost and confused. They recite the weak dialogue very woodenly and the unnatural effect a lot of the stiff acting gives the proceedings actually works in the film’s favor, somewhat, as it is a supernatural tale after all. The dubbing doesn’t help either, but the film appears to have been filmed in english with everything dubbed in later as were a lot of Italian films back then.

So, this film is considered a classic by many and I recognize that and respect it’s place in horror history despite my not being all that endeared to it. I do agree that when you combine Argento’s visual eye with his skill for creating disturbing and bloody kills along with it’s classic score by goblin, the film certainly makes for a fun Halloween season watch even if it is not a favorite. Personally I have always preferred Fulci, but understand why Argento has his fans…at least when it comes to his earlier films.

3 horrified Harpers!

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HALLOWEEN FAVORITES: SLEEPY HOLLOW (1999)

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SLEEPY HOLLOW (1999)

This Tim Burton directed classic is another of my Halloween Favorites and I like to watch it every year at this time, when I want a bit of a rest from the more intense horrors, but still want something with plenty of Halloween spirit and all the trappings… and this film has both.

Andrew Kevin Walker’s script, from a story by he and Kevin Yagher, takes a lot of liberties with the classic Washington Irving tale, but is still a lot of ghoulish fun. This version takes place in 1799 and transforms Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) from a meek local school teacher to a meek NYC detective with an interest in forensic science that annoys his superiors, who have a much simpler view of crime and punishment. His belligerent attempts at waking his peers up to the new age of police work earns him a trip up the Hudson River Valley to the small, remote village of Sleepy Hollow where a rash of decapitations has the entire town wrapped in a blanket of fear as they are rumored to be committed by a headless fiend riding an enormous black steed. Upon his arrival, the skeptical Crane not only comes face to face with a very real headless horseman, but witches, black magic and a conspiracy of death and murder. Can Crane get to the bottom of who holds the horseman’s reigns and somehow keep his own head on his shoulders where it belongs?

Despite wandering greatly from the original The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow, Tim Burton’s ode to Hammer horror films…with more than a few nods to the Universal classics…is, if nothing else, a stunningly spooky visual feast that oozes Halloween from almost every sumptuous shot of Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography. But Burton also brings dollops of atmosphere and a lot of spine tingling action, with a touch of fairy tale whimsy, as Crane overcomes his own fears to solve the mysteries around him and take on the supernatural head-hunting juggernaut. He also spatters the screen with a generous amount of the red stuff as we get quite a few beheadings, stabbings and slicings as the undead Hessian mercenary tracks down it’s assigned prey in Terminator-like fashion. And the gore FX are very well executed and there are only a few spots of CGI here and there to enhance the live effects occurring on screen. There is a great Danny Elfman score to add to the atmosphere and it’s all a great deal of fog-drenched, blood-spattered fun!

Burton also has a great cast to help him tell his tale. Depp is channeling his inner Peter Cushing as Ichabod Crane and he is a delight to watch as he takes his arrogant yet, cowardly police inspector wading into supernatural territory far removed from the comfort of his science. Christina Ricci is charming and pretty as both love interest and suspect, Katrina Van Tassel. She and Depp have a nice chemistry, though I do feel Ricci could have been a bit livelier at times considering how over the top the rest of the cast is. Miranda Richardson is perfectly cast as Katrina’s step-mother Mary and Michael Gambon is properly bombastic as her father and chief suspect Baltus Van Tassel. We also get Casper Van Dien as Katrina’s jealous suitor Brom, Michael Gough, Jeffery Jones, Ian McDiarmid, Marc Pickering and Christopher Walken as the Hessian mercenary whose loss of head creates a demonic legend. Add in cameos from Martin Landau and the great Christopher Lee and you have an almost perfect cast that gets the tone of the material ghoulishly well.

What can I say, I love this flick. It drips Halloween from every frame and while it may deviate from the classic tale considerably, it is a lot of bloody fun and it has a good cast that embrace the tone of the script perfectly. It’s a great flick to watch during the Halloween season, when you need a break from the more intense horror films, but still want a movie that has everything you want in a flick for this time of year. A really fun and deviously gruesome treat.

3 and 1/2 horsemen!

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HALLOWEEN FAVORITES: KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE (1988)

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KILLER CLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE (1988)

Sometimes you have to lighten things up a bit during the Halloween season and what better way than with this cult classic horror/comedy!… and one I actually saw in a 42nd Street grind house just before the big ‘clean-up’ ended an era. My only time in one of those theaters and I’m glad I had the expeience.

The story is simple and echoes one of those alien invasion flicks from the 50s with a small California college town being set-upon by a race of aliens, who resemble clowns, with plans of taking over the town and harvesting it’s citizens for food. It’s up to local guy Mike (Grant Kramer) and his girlfriend Debbie (Suzanne Snyder) to somehow convince the stubborn sheriff (John Allen Nelson)… who is also Debbie’s ex-boyfriend… that this is no college prank and the townsfolk are in the midst of a cotton candy covered nightmare. Can Mike save his town from the Bozo-like invaders or will they all find themselves taken to the aliens’ big top shaped mothership to be used as clown food!

Cult classic is a deviously fun romp written, produced and directed by the Chiodo brothers. Every clown cliche in the book is utilized in amusingly gruesome manner from people sealed in cotton candy cocoons, ferocious shadow puppets and popcorn that evolves into jack-in-the-box like creatures, to combating the invaders by shooting them in their big red noses. As shot by Alfred Taylor, the film is as candy colored as it’s villainous clowns and their lethal toys and the production design echoes the nightmare circus it’s supposed to be. Every prop and set has an appropriately circus-esque look but, with a sinister edge that really helps enhance the atmosphere of a sinister big top that director Stephen Chiodo gives this ghoulish delight. And the director does succeed in giving this flick both a sense of dread and a sense of fun as the alien clowns are quite amused by the carnage they create and so are we. We are almost ashamed at how much delight we take in watching a killer clown luring in a little girl while holding a giant mallet behind it’s back or a tiny clown bullied by a biker who gets his block knocked off by the little guy, literally. The Chiodos stuff more clown cliche’s than can fit into a clown car into their midnight movie thriller and all with a sinister edge and the creature effects portraying the villains are very well done, as the rest of the visual FX are charmingly old fashioned. The film can be both spooky and side-splittingly funny and more often than not, at the same time and it works perfectly. Add in John Massari’s spooky circus music imbued score and you’ve got yourself a cult classic midnight movie that accomplishes pretty much everything it set out to do!

The cast all play it fairly straight too, just like in those old 1950’s sci-fi flicks but, you can tell they are having a good time and there are plenty of tongue-in-cheek moments. John Vernon’s mean old cop Mooney chews up the scenery a bit but, it fits his character. Other than that Grant Cramer, John Allen Nelson and Suzanne Snyder all take things serious enough to make it work with the film’s tone of a semi-straight 50s style alien invasion flick… with the invaders being scary clowns with diabolical senses of humor instead of little green men.

A deviously fun cult classic and an almost perfect flick to lighten up your Halloween movie schedule when you need a break from the more intense stuff. Watch it on a night with Night Of The Creeps and The Monster Squad and you’ll have a fun film festival that will still keep the Halloween spirit ghoulishly well.

3 and 1/2 killer klowns!

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HALLOWEEN FAVORITES: SCREAM (1996)

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SCREAM (1996)

“Some stupid killer stalking some big-breasted girl who can’t act who is always running up the stairs when she should be running out the front door. It’s insulting.”

Halloween Favorites is back and this horror classic is certainly a worthy return for this holiday centric column!

Wes Craven’s A Nightmare On Elm Street is one of the great classics of the slasher era and so, who better to re-invent the sub-genre, when it burned itself out in the late 80s with endless sequels and knock-offs. Armed with a very clever script by Kevin Williamson, Craven reignited the sagging horror genre with a film that works both as homage to the traditions of slasher flicks… while playfully poking fun at them… and as an effective slasher on it’s own.

Scream takes place in the fictional town of Woodsboro where we open with pretty blonde Casey (Drew Barrymore) about to settle in for the night with popcorn and a horror movie. But, Casey begins to get phone calls from a strange person who, at first seems to be playful but, then gets more and more aggressive and threatening as it continues. Soon it is revealed that she and her bound on the back porch boyfriend’s lives are in mortal danger and all she has to do is answer some horror movie trivia questions to save their lives… but there is a horrible price if she is wrong. Needless to say , she and her beau are ruthlessly slaughtered by a killer wearing a ghost face mask and the high school is all a-buzz about it the next day. Enter Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell), whose mother was murdered a year earlier and the suspected killer (Liev Schreiber) is now in jail… or is he? But, Sydney has become a target of this masked serial killer and everyone around her may be a suspect… or a fatality. Who is this mysterious butcher and why has he targeted Sydney and her friends as his/her next victims?

Scream, first off starts with that great sequence with Drew Barrymore that really sets the tone for the film. It is scary and violent and establishes that this is a horror film that openly acknowledges it’s predecessors. It then openly references a lot of the classic horrors of the previous decades as it’s pop culture savvy teens are well aware of these films and use them as a guide to deal with their current situation… just as our killer is using them as a template for their own heinous deeds. All this self-awareness makes this flick a lot of fun and Craven is one of the best horror directors out there in using pop culture reference to fuel his tales. The script by Kevin Williamson not only references these horrors but, is the first flick to outright state the slasher horror ‘rules’ as per film geek Randy (Jaime Kennedy) that determine who lives and who dies… Don’t have sex, never say “I’ll be right back!”… But, the best part is that this flick also works as a slasher in itself. Craven and Williamson set up a situation that is a classic slasher with a victim with a painful past being stalked by a killer with a possible grudge and everyone is a suspect. There are some very suspenseful and scary scenes along with some very brutal kills as Ghost Face works his/her way through Sydney’s friends and various other characters. The film’s hip movie savvy humor never gets in the way of the scares or carnage, either. Craven and Williamson even get to make a statement about the desensitizing of violence in the current generation and the media’s insensitive and sensationalistic coverage of horrific events in the person of Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox), a selfish, pit bull of a reporter who is determined to prove Sydney sent the wrong man to prison with her testimony and that the real killer is the one stalking Woodsboro. Is she right? … has one of these kids seen one too many horror flicks? Craven and Williamson have a blast letting us in on the answer and so does the audience as the big reveal is both surprising and a perfect example of how cleverly this film openly acknowledges that it is a horror film inspired by other horror films, just like it’s characters. If the film has any faults it’s that there are a few slow spots and one make-up effect involving a garage door and a character’s head is far too rubbery to work and ruins one of the more inventive kills. Other than that, this is a horror classic and one of Craven’s best films in a classic studded career.

As for the cast. It’s ensemble gives us a generous amount of suspects and victims. Campbell’s Sydney is one of modern horror’s most memorable final girls. She’s sweet but, strong and has her own inner pain to fuel her survival instincts. Courtney Cox is perfect as the mega-bitch reporter who is using the killings in Woodsboro to further her career but, she also surprises us in the last act. As Sydney’s friend’s… Skeet Ulrich as boyfriend Billy has a nice air of danger about him and as a suspect, it works perfectly. Matthew Lillard as his bud Stu, is fun as a bit of an oblivious goofball … or is he? Rose McGowan as her best friend Tatum, turns the buxom blonde cliche’ on it’s ear with a young woman who is smart and sarcastic to go along with her Playboy model looks. Jaime Kennedy as Randy is the film’s movie geek and does well in creating that film obsessed nerd who provides the characters and audience with the exposition needed by way of horror film references. And David Arquette as Tatum’s deputy brother Dewey, gives us a sweet natured do-gooder who is a little too anxious to please and not as smart as he thinks. Add in a fun cameo by Henry “The Fonz” Winkler as an eccentric school principal and you have a great cast who all do a good job selling Williamson’s clever characters from his script. And they are an endearing bunch and all give their characters the proper tone for the material and sound like the media savvy teens that they are… though none look young enough to be teens but, that is also a horror movie tradition.

So, except for a few slow spots and one botched make-up effect, Scream is a horror classic that not only works as a horror but, as a homage to all the slashers that came before it. It’s teens grew up on the 80s horror flicks and openly reference them and compare them to the real-life situation that they are in. While it’s not the first horror film to include a horror movie fan character, it is the first to present it’s characters as a generation weened on the horror films that populated the previous decades and are part of their culture… and the film has a blast doing it while genuinely scaring and thrilling us. A true horror classic from a legendary horror filmmaker.

3 and 1/2 ghost faces!

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HALLOWEEN FAVORITES: HALLOWEEN (1978)

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HALLOWEEN (1978)

What better way to wrap up our month long look at some of my Halloween Favorites then by taking a look back at one of the all time great horror flicks and a bonafide classic that is appropriately named after my favorite holiday. John Carpenter’s Halloween is recognized as a masterpiece of suspense and terror and while it wasn’t the first film that fits the definition of slasher, it did start a horror trend that gave birth to quite a few other classics during the following decade and beyond. It’s also simply one of the quintessential horror flicks to watch on All Hallows Eve!

The story starts out in sleepy Haddonfield, Illinois where 6 year old Michael Myers (Will Sandin), for no apparent reason, takes a butcher knife to his teenage sister Judith (Sandy Johnson) and brutally slaughters her. Fifteen years later on the eve of Halloween, Michael (Nick Castle in costume, Tony Moran when briefly unmasked), who has been incarcerated in the Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, awakens from his trance-like state and escapes the facility with his psychiatrist Dr. Samuel Loomis (the great Donald Pleasence) in pursuit. While no one believes him, Loomis is certain he knows where the escaped Myers is going…home. And Haddonfield is exactly where the soulless killer is heading and soon teen babysitter Laurie Strode (Jaime Lee Curtis) and her friends are going to be trick or treated to the most horrifying night of their lives as evil returns to their little town and leaves a trail of bodies in his wake. And despite Loomis’ warnings, can Myers be stopped on the night HE came home?

John Carpenter takes this simple concept…from a script he co-wrote with Debra Hill based on a story idea presented by producers Irwin Yablans and Moustapha Akkad…of a killer stalking a small town and turns it into a masterpiece of suspense and terror as he establishes not only that our killer has, overtime, become a soulless vessel of evil, but gives him a likable batch of typical teens such as Laurie and her friends Annie (Nancy Kyes) and Lynda (P.J. Soles) for us to fear and cheer for, as this fiend targets them for the slaughter. He then uses his camera lens and the cinematography of Dean Cundey to create tension setting shots of Laurie and her friends innocently going about their lives while Michael, or the car he stole, lurks in the background letting us know evil has found them while they remain blissfully oblivious. When Myers begins his carnage that night, we get shots that are filled with shadows from within which evil may lurk and more shots of Michael and his haunting white mask peering in windows or from behind trees watching his unaware prey. And once the audience is drawn in, we get to watch Michael start to eliminate this likable cast in brutal fashion leading to an intense last act that is literally one long stalking chase as Laurie tries to fight back and escape the mysterious killer who has targeted her as his next victim. The legendary director cranks up the pace after a deliberately slow burn and really gets our hearts pumping as the film heads toward it’s haunting conclusion. Carpenter stages all these scenes perfectly and we are with Laurie through one close call after another as the seemingly unstoppable boogeyman is relentless in his pursuit of the babysitter and her young charges (Brian Andrews and Kyle Richards). If his keen direction isn’t enough, Carpenter himself wrote and performed the haunting and now legendary score which really intensifies the atmosphere and accents every scare.

The cast are all good from Pleasence as the frustrated and desperate Dr. Loomis, Curtis gives us simply one of the greatest horror movie heroines of all time, Kyes and cult favorite P.J. Soles are endearing as Laurie’s horny gal pals and Charles Cyphers is convincing as a small town sheriff who is more doubtful then concerned…until it’s too late. There is actually little gore in the film, but what bloodshed we do get is well executed, though it is sound FX that really make these kills effective as Michael’s knife makes impact with his unsuspecting victims. The sound is chilling as is his victim’s struggles when the killer simply uses his bare hands to finish them off. Which in my opinion is even more horrifying. Whatever flaws this film has, they are minor and it is a text book example of how to make a low budget horror, achieving a lot with very little.

Whether the film is an allegory on the dangers of teen promiscuity or simply a damn good horror flick, it all comes down to Carpenter’s camera and how he uses it that creates a lot of the tension and suspense. While today’s generation brought up on more blunt and visceral horror may find this too tame, I think it is truly the masterpiece of horror that it’s reputation suggests and quite possible changed horror films forever. A classic and one of the greatest Halloween season flicks of all time.

“Was it the Boogeyman?… As a matter of fact it was…”

A classic 4 carved pumpkins!

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HALLOWEEN FAVORITES: DEADLY BLESSING (1981)

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DEADLY BLESSING (1981)

While I wouldn’t say Wes Craven’s Deadly Blessing is one of my all time Halloween Favorites, I would say it’s a film that holds sentimental value being one of the films seen at my beloved Oritani Theater in Hackensack, N.J. and if you’ve been coming to this site for a while you know that was a special place for the movie geek in me and holds a lot of equally special memories. But, having recently revisited this creepy thriller thanks to Scream Factory’s gorgeous blu-ray, I found that not only was it still very enjoyable but, has some really nice 80s nostalgia attached to it now, too!

Deadly Blessing tells the story of young couple Martha (Battlestar Galactica hottie Maren Jensen) and Jim (Douglas Barr) who live on a farm near the rustic and religious Hittites of whom Jim is family but, was exiled for marrying a woman not of their clan. Tragedy strikes as a horrible accident…or was it…leaves Martha a widow and soon she is joined by loyal friends Lana (Sharon Stone) and Vicky (Susan Buckner) who come to console her. But, someone or something is watching the young women and soon Jim isn’t the only body turning up on Martha’s land. The Hittites, lead by the strict Isaiah (Ernest Borgnine), say that it is the work of the Incubus, a seductive demon come to temp all to sin and damnation, while Martha and her friends believe it is the work of someone far more down to earth…but, who and why?

While Craven…who co-wrote the screenplay with story writers Glenn M. Benest and Matthew Barr…would really hit his stride with A Nightmare On Elm Street three years later, he still delivers a solid little horror thriller here that is actually an entertaining and well made film. It has some spooky sequences and keeps you guessing while presenting us with some likable characters to fear for and some other characters to be suspicious of. Craven gives the film some nice atmosphere accented by some beautiful cinematography by Robert Jessup and a nice score from James Horner.

The cast are fine, Jensen is a bit wooden but not enough to sink things, Stone is good as the emotionally troubled Lana and Buckner makes a crush-worthy and perky Vicky…and a big crush on her Vicky I had upon seeing this flick in 1981. Borgnine is perfectly menacing and just over the top enough as clan leader Isaiah and genre favorite Michael Berryman is equally effective as a Hittite man with an eye for his pretty neighbor. Also good are Lisa Hartman as Faith and Lois Nettleton as her mother Louisa, who live near Martha and who appear nice enough, if not a little odd.

There is a body count but, not a large one as this is more a mystery thriller then a slasher. The bloodshed is moderate as is the violence and Craven has his usual fun with dream sequences…one involving Sharon Stone and a spider is still goose-bump inducing even today. There are also a few scenes and lines that almost seem to foreshadow Mr. Krueger’s appearance a few years later, now that we are familiar with that classic and it’s legendary boogeyman.

The film isn’t perfect. As said, Jensen is a bit wooden and there are some weak bits of dialogue throughout. And while it is enjoyable, the last act, including the film’s big reveal, does skirt very close to going over the top and becoming silly. And the final scene is an unnecessary shock ending that does come across as more silly then scary. It almost appears like it’s tacked on from another movie.

Overall though, Deadly Blessing is a nostalgic and fun early 80s horror that may seem tame by today’s standards and even the standards of Craven’s later work but, it shows the director of the brutal and shocking Last House On The Left, the vicious The Hills Have Eyes and the comic book-ish Swamp Thing (which came after Blessing) was continuing to show his versatility and could handle something on a more subtle level that didn’t require the heavy violence or over the top theatrics of his previous films. A very entertaining and delightfully 80s horror from one of the genre’s greats.

As said, this cult classic is now available from Scream Factory including a beautifully restored print along with some nice extra’s including fun interviews with genre favorite Michael Berryman and sassy lead Susan Buckner who both have amusingly different versions of how well…or not…the three leading ladies got along. Fun stuff!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Borgnines!

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HALLOWEEN FAVORITES: TRICK ‘R TREAT (2007)

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TRICK ‘R TREAT (2007)

Trick ‘r Treat has already become an instant cult classic and it makes it’s rather odd release by Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures all the more a mystery. The film was originally supposed to come out in October 2007 for Halloween, but a major release never happened and it was only shown at a few film festivals and then was finally dumped direct to DVD two years later in October 2009, despite favorable reviews and good word of mouth. But the movie has been discovered by horror fans and has quickly become a Halloween favorite for many… it’s definitely one of mine. So, not sure what the studios problem was with this great little Halloween flick, but at least it is finally getting the attention it deserves and has earned a well respected status in the genre.

Trick ‘r Treat is a ghoulishly entertaining anthology that tells a group of stories that are unleashed upon it’s audience in a Pulp Fiction-like narrative structure that goes back and forth in time linking them all together and they are all presided over by spooky new horror icon Sam, who watches from a distance or becomes directly involved as in the first and final tales. We get the story of a young husband and wife (Tahmoh Penikett and Leslie Bibb) who find out certain Halloween traditions are there for a reason, the tale of a school principal (Dylan Baker) with a gruesome Halloween hobby that may come back to bite him, a group of kids investigating an urban legend about the murder of a busload of Special Ed. students with horrifying results, Anna Paquin playing a young woman about to lose her virginity in blood curdling fashion and the final tale about a grumpy and mean old man (Brian Cox) who is tricked and treated on Halloween night by Sam himself.

Written and directed by Michael Dougherty we get a movie that understands that Halloween should be spooky, scary and ghoulish fun…and Trick R Treat is all those things, a movie that embodies the spirit of Halloween as few others apart from John Carpenter’s classic have. The film is thick with atmosphere, stunning cinematography by Glen MacPherson, top notch gore and make-up FX and plenty of frights and delights. The cast all take their parts seriously and play them with exactly the right tone needed in the context of their story, making it all work perefectly in the Halloween spirit it is intended and evil little imp Sam is the spooky icing on the ghoulish cake.

A real Halloween treat if ever there was one. Trick ‘r Treat is now part of my Halloween watching tradition alongside Carpenter’s legendary fright fest and one of my all time favorite Halloween season films!

4 spooky Sams!

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HALLOWEEN FAVORITES: THE FOG, THE EVIL DEAD and THE HOWLING!

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For Halloween Favorites today we have not one but three must watch favorites of mine for the Halloween season. I’ve covered these three classics before as part of Tomb Of Nostalgia so, instead of reposting all the reviews, all you have to do is click on the film’s title and the link will take you back to our original post! So enjoy a look back at The Fog, The Evil Dead and The Howling for this edition of Halloween Favorites!

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THE FOG (1980)

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THE EVIL DEAD (1981)

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THE HOWLING (1981)

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HALLOWEEN FAVORITES: THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974)

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THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974)

Partially inspired by true life serial killer Ed Gein, this is the original teens v.s. redneck cannibals flick and still the best and most effective. 5 friends travel to checkout stories that the gravesite of bother and sister Franklin (Paul A. Partain) and Sally’s (Marilyn Burns) family has been vandalized and on the way to their family’s abandoned property, they encounter a bizarre hitchhiker (Edwin Neal) who seems to mark them for something by leaving a bloody smear on their van. That something turns out to be an encounter with his fiendish family of backwoods cannibals including the hulking, chainsaw wielding Leatherface (Gunner Hansen) and the disturbed family matriarch (Jim Siedow) who runs the twisted clan. Now one by one the young victims are murdered by this deranged family who have found a horrifying way to keep their kitchen and BBQ business filled with meat now that the local slaughter house is closed. Will any of them escape or will they all become lambs for the slaughter? Director and co-writer Tobe Hooper makes every frame of this classic fright flick give you the willies and saturates this tale of teens and cannibalistic rednecks with dread and tension from the first frame to the last. From the opening scene at the cemetery, to the fateful picking up of the bizarre hitchhiker, to arriving at “the house” this film has us on edge for the full duration. Hooper takes his teens on a nightmare roller-coaster ride that will not end well for most and his disturbing visuals and frantic explosions of deadly action, take the audience along with them. Added to his visual assault is a very disturbing soundtrack of strange sounds and music that give the film a really unsettling feel even in it’s quieter moments and truly unique production design complete with furniture made from bones. The film oozes dread and Hooper adds just enough of a twisted sense of humor to keep us from being numbed to his horror show and make us even more uncomfortable for giggling at his demented family while they horrify and torment their prey. The film is obviously bloody, though not nearly as gory as it’s reputation suggests or any of it’s sequels would become. Hooper ultimately creates one of the greatest horror flicks of all time and one of the most iconic horror characters in Leatherface. He also gets good work from all his cast from the likable young victims to the crazed cannibal clan, it all combines to make a terrifying and unforgettable horror flick. A text book example of how to make a low budget horror film. Also stars Allen Danziger as Jerry, Teri McMinn as Pam and William Vail as Kirk, who are among the 5 intended victims of Leatherface and company’s wrath. A great horror and a true classic.

4 classic chainsaws!

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