MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: CHRISTMAS EVIL and SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT

MZNJ_SNDF

now playing

 double-feature_sndn_ce

bars

Tis the season!…

christmas evil

bars

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!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 campy and disturbing Christmas trees.

fred clause rating

plus

silent night

bars

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 five-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 ten years later where a now eighteen, 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.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Christmas trees.

fred clause rating

bars

MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: DON’T BREATHE and THE NEIGHBOR

MZNJ_SNDF

now playing

 double-feature_db_neighbor

bars

Two thrillers/horrors that I think would make a good pairing for a Saturday night on the couch with your favorite brew. One was a big hit recently and the other deserves more attention than it got and both involve sneaking into someone’s house and the unexpected things you might find there…

now playing

dont breathe

bars

DON’T BREATHE (2016)

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

Don’t Breathe is an intense and very entertaining thriller that turns the home invasion flick on it’s head and proves writer/director Fede Alvarez (Evil Dead remake) is the real deal. The story takes place in a rundown suburb of Detroit where house thieves Rocky (Evil Dead’s Jane Levy), Money (It Follows‘ Daniel Zovatto) and Alex (Goosebumps’ Dylan Minnette) hear of a big score. There is an almost deserted street with only one house still occupied, the home of a blind war veteran (Stephen Lang) who supposedly was given a large cash settlement by the family of a rich girl who ran over and killed his daughter. Thinking it easy money, the three break into the man’s home one night. But the man turns out to be far more dangerous than they realize and soon has them trapped inside his house with the intent they never leave.

Co-written with his Evil Dead co-scribe Rodo Sayagues, Alvarez crafts a very suspenseful and intense game of cat and mouse inside the Detroit house that gets started quickly and never gives up till it’s unsettling last moments. Alvarez gives us a claustrophobic and isolated setting by placing the house on a deserted block and making great use of the desolated Detroit setting to give it atmosphere. He then has his ex-soldier seal our three thieves inside, where he knows the layout and they…and we…don’t. Alvarez also uses the character’s blindness to set up nerve-wracking moments, as our thieves try to quietly elude him and then he clever turns off the power to turn the odds in his favor. There are also some moments of brutal violence that really punctuate the intensity of the proceedings, as the director plays with the home invasion formula by turning our intended victim into the monster and the invaders into the victims. This works well due to the way his characters are written. While Money is basically a street thug, Alex has a conscience and a heart, which keeps him likable and Levy’s Rocky is only stealing to get enough money to take her little sister out of Detroit and away from her alcoholic mother. This makes them sympathetic, despite their criminal activity, yet Alvarez still puts them through the ringer for them to truly earn our empathy. If the brutal pursuit through the three floors of the old house isn’t enough, Alvarez has a late reveal that adds a really disturbing angle to a simple theft gone awry story…one that will have you squirming as much as Levy’s Rocky was…and turns the blind soldier into a true fiend. And it works very well. As with Evil DeadAlvarez accents his story with a great visual eye. His settings and shots are captured stylishly by the lens of Pedro Luque and Evil Dead composer Roque Baños returns for an atmospheric score. It all adds up to a suspenseful, intense and very atmospheric thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat and squirming in it too!

Alvarez has assembled a small but very effective cast for his sophomore film for Sam Raimi’s Ghost House Pictures. Evil Dead leading lady Jane Levy is very strong as the street smart Rocky. She is convincing in that she is stealing only out of love for her little sister and she moves from thief to anti-hero to heroine very well. Her Rocky is really put through Hell, just as her Mia was in the 2013 horror remake and she really provides us again with a strong character to root for, even if she, like Mia, isn’t the sweet girl next door. Levy has a unique way of combining an intensity with a sensitivity that deserves more spotlight roles. Daniel Zovatto, who was the kindly Greg in It Follows, plays basically a street thug and does play him well. He has his charisma, but is not a good guy and the one we least feel sorry for when the poop hits the fan. Dylan Minnette’s Alex seems almost too nice to be part of this group, but it is made known he crushes on Rocky and is betraying his security company father most likely to be close to her. It succeeds in keeping him likable and he proves once again he is a charming actor with an appealing screen persona. This would not work if our blind ex-soldier, whose name is never given, wasn’t convincing as a monster and Stephen Lang once again is a strong bad guy. He is sympathetic at first, then let’s us know that this man is still lethally dangerous, even with his war injury handicap and then becomes a full blown fiend once the movie progresses. His soldier is filled with menace and threat and once we get the full picture, any feelings that this guy is just protecting what’s his, go out the window and it works thanks to an intense performance from a skilled actor.

I really liked this movie and it proves to me Fede Alvarez is a filmmaker to keep a close eye on. I really enjoyed his remake of Sam Raimi’s horror classic and certainly enjoyed the results now of a film entirely his own. This is an intense, brutally violent and sometimes twisted thriller that turns a home invasion into a house of horrors with a strong cast to back up the director’s vision and story. A solid thriller and one of the few films to live up to early word in the summer of 2016 movie season.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 turkey basters…you’ll have to see the movie!

dont breathe rating

plus

neighbor

bars

THE NEIGHBOR (2016)

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

Intense crime drama tells the story of John (Josh Stewart) and Rosie (Alex Essoe from Starry Eyes and Tales Of Halloween) who live in the rural town of Cutter, Mississippi and work for drug runners. They plan to do one more job and when they collect their money, they plan to make a run for Mexico and an early retirement. When John returns after a job and finds Rosie missing, he suspects his odd neighbor Troy (comedian Bill Engvall) who seemed to be quite taken with his pretty girlfriend. When John sneaks into Troy’s house, he discovers his neighbor has been engaging in far worse activities than he could ever have imagined…and he may not get back out alive.

Writer/director Marcus Dunstan (the Saw series, the Collector movies) crafts a lean and mean thriller about bad people going up against far worse people in a small backwoods town in rural Mississippi. It does share some similarities with the recent Don’t Breathe, but is it’s own movie and aside from criminal types, who are looking to make a better life for themselves, being trapped in a house by psychotics, that’s where the similarities end. Dunstan gets his story started quite quickly, but not too quick that we don’t get to know John and Rosie a bit, and keeps the intensity cranked till the very last frames. We find ourselves rooting for John, even though he is not a good person, because Dunstan is able to make Troy and his boys a lot creepier. Add in a corrupt cop (Jaqueline Fleming) who already has it in for John and you have solid reasons to get behind our anti-hero couple. There is some graphic violence, but unlike his torture heavy Collector and Saw films, Dunstan uses it sparingly, so it is vicious and effective when it happens. The director does have a good visual eye and stages the action fast and furious with some nice suspense in-between the bullets and beatings. The tension is thick at times and while the climax may conveniently wrap things up, it is quite satisfying. There is some crisp cinematography from Eric Leach and a really cool score by Charlie Clouser.

Dunstan also gets good work from a good cast. Despite being a criminal who works for a sleazy drug lord, Josh Stewart makes his John quite likable and embues him with a bit of a heart underneath his criminal activities. His work reminded me of Jane Levy’s Rocky from Don’t Breathe, an anti-hero to root for. I have been a fan of Alex Essoe since her stunning work in Starry Eyes and she is solid again here. She does spend part of the flick as a damsel in distress, but gets to really turn it up in the last act and show another side to a versatile actress we want to keep seeing more of. Her Rosie is a badass when provoked. Bill Engvall makes for a very creepy villain. He gives you chills without going over the top and his subtle yet unnerving Troy is all the more effective because he doesn’t overdo it. A very creepy villain that makes you forget John and Rosie are criminals of a different kind. Jaqueline Fleming is also good as a cop with her own agenda and Luke Edwards and Ronnie Gene Blevins are solid as Troy’s equally creepy sons, Cooper and Harley. Melissa Bolona is also effective as another of Troy and company’s “guests.” 

This little flick took me by surprise. I am not a big fan of the Collector films and never watched Dunstan’s Saw movies, as I was done with that series by then, but this high octane thriller took me a bit by surprise. Sure there are some familiar story elements, but Dunstan uses those elements well and really cranks up the suspense and tension in the last hour, peppering it with moments of brutal violence that don’t overstay their welcome and are very effective because of it. A good cast helps the filmmaker out and overall, cast and crew deliver a solid and engrossing thriller.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 bullets.

raid rating
bars

MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: THE CAR and RACE WITH THE DEVIL

MZNJ_SNDF

now playing

 double-feature_car_rwtd

bars

Been a while since I did one of these and thought it would be fun to pair up these two 70s thrillers featuring cars, crashes and Old Scratch himself…

car-movie-poster

bars

THE CAR (1977)

I love this 1977 B-movie action/horror, it is a textbook example of how a good director… Cat Ballou’s Elliot Silverstein… can take even a ridiculous premise and turn it into a solidly entertaining flick. And The Car is exactly that. The plot is simple, a demonic looking black sedan comes thundering out of the desert one morning and heads into the small rural desert town of Santa Ynez and begins to mow down innocents like a hitchhiker and two young bicycle riders. While the Thomas County Sheriff’s office, including Captain…soon to be sheriff thanks to The Car…Wade Parent (James Brolin and an awesome 70s mustache), think there is a psycho on the loose, we already know something supernatural is afoot from the red tinted POV shots from within the vehicle and the mysterious wind that blows through right before it’s thunderous engines and blaring horn can be heard. Despite road blocks, the vehicle appears and disappears at will and Wade and his deputies start to realize something is satanically wrong here when the vehicle tries to run down a group of school children and is stopped when they flee into the hallowed ground of a cemetery and Wade himself confirms eye witness accounts that the vehicle has no driver. But something evil is inside as indicated by the gleeful sounding horn after a kill and the fact that single dad Wade’s pretty school teacher girlfriend (Kathleen Lloyd) finds out the hard way that calling the ‘driver’ a “chicken shit” is a bad idea. Now with the body count mounting and all signs pointing to the fact that Old Scratch himself might be out for a joyride, Wade and his rapidly diminishing police force must find a way to stop Satan’s Sedan before Santa Ynez becomes a ghost town.

As with  The Devil’s Rain… The Car is another film that employed Satanist Anton LaVey as a technical advisor and even opens with a quote from him. Not sure what he advised as there really is very little religious talk in the film and even when they start to believe something evil is going on, a priest is never even mentioned much less consulted. Who cares, as Silverstein takes this laughable idea and makes a really fun and suspenseful action/horror flick that actually has some goose bump inducing moments such as when The Car has the kids trapped in the cemetery and when Wade has an encounter with it in his own garage. Silverstein accomplishes this by taking his subject totally seriously and not only instilling his villain with a good deal of menace, but delivers some really intense chase and action sequences including a very thrilling climax where all Hell literally breaks loose. Obviously the 70s nostalgia adds a lot of fun to it too, but this is actually a well directed film and we enjoy it far more then we expect from a movie about a demon driven car. Another thing that adds to the effectiveness is that The Car appears in sleepy Santa Ynez for no reason, nor do we ever get one. It’s very spooky and random and that works far better than a hokey explanation and it gives The Car added personality to what Silverstein already imbues it with.

The cast, also starring Ronny Cox, R.G. Armstrong and Kyle and Kim Richards as Wade’s precocious daughters, take their roles very seriously with Brolin making a very human and sometimes fallible hero. He and Lloyd really do come across as a cute couple, too. The film was criticized for it’s acting back in the day, but personally, I think they are just fine for being in a flick about a demon possessed car. And speaking of which… the real star is George Barris’ customized 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III and it’s an iconic movie vehicle and is very intimidating and effective. If Beezelbub had a car, I have no problem believing this is what it would look like. Leonard Rosenman’s score is appropriately spooky and incorporates bits of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique…the piece that open’s The Shining and Gerald Hirschfeld’s cinematography makes nice use of the desert locations. Despite being filmed mostly in the day, it has plenty of creepy atmosphere.

All in all, The Car is a really fun B-movie blast with a well deserved cult following and a favorite guilty pleasure of mine that I actually saw at The Park Lane theater in Palisades Park in 1977 when I was a kid…and it delightfully holds up all these years later! A fun action/ horror of the type they don’t make anymore!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 satanic sedans.

car rating

plus

race_with_devil_poster_01

RACE WITH THE DEVIL (1975)

One of my favorite 70s B-movies. Race is now loaded with nostalgic charm, as well as, being an entertaining and sometimes spooky movie in it’s own right. Story of two couples on an RV road trip vacation crossing paths with a sinister cult and witnessing a human sacrifice is campy to be sure, but there are some creepy scenes and the are a number of good chase/action scenes as well. As the couple try to get out of town while being pursued by what appears to be everybody, director/actor Jack Starrett does a good job of creating tension as everyone seems suspicious and no one appears trustworthy. True, the cult’s actual subject of worship is unclear as our antagonists’ research drags up everything from witchcraft to Mayan sacrificial ceremonies and the cult creates far more attention and far more evidence of their existence by pursuing the RV cross country, leaving a wake of death and destruction behind. But if they had just cleaned up their tracks and left no evidence to support the couples’ claims, we wouldn’t have anything to entertain us for the next 90 minutes. The acting is surprisingly good and the cast…including Peter Fonda, Warren Oates, Lara Parker and Loretta Switt…and crew wisely take the proceedings seriously and let the audience have all the fun with it. A 70s gem that is still fun today.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 fighting Fondas

race devil rating

bars

MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: KILL OR BE KILLED and KILL AND KILL AGAIN

MZNJ_SNDF

now playing

 double feature_KOBK_KAKA

bars

Two martial arts flicks I caught at my beloved Oritani Theater back in the 80s. I recently revisited them again for nostalgia’s sake.

Kill or Be Killed

KILL OR BE KILLED (1977)

Despite the poster claiming it’s the “Greatest Hollywood Martial-Arts Movie Ever Made!”, flick is a South African martial arts movie that was filmed in 1977 and didn’t see a release until 1980…which is when I saw it. Story has a former Nazi, Baron von Rudolff (Norman Coombes) inviting martial artists to his desert castle. Included in the group is Steve Hunt (James Ryan) who is getting a little suspicious as to The Baron’s motives. It’s revealed he wishes to avenge a past disgrace on the perpetrator of that disgrace, Miyagi (Raymond Ho-Tung) by defeating Miyagi’s best fighters in a tournament. Hunt still thinks things are rotten in Rudolff’s castle and leaves with his martial artist, lover Olga (Charlotte Michelle). The Baron sends one of his thugs to kidnap Olga, though, and now Hunt must find his way back into Rudolff’s castle to rescue her…and does it by joining Miyagi’s team! Now it’s kill or be killed as Rudolff’s tournament turns deadly!

Directed by South African filmmaker Ivan Hall and written by C.F. Beyers-Boshoff, this is a very routine martial arts flick in every sense of the word. The plot has been done to death in the genre and the fights, staged by Norman Robinson and Stan Schmidt who also appear as fighters, are all fairly by-the-numbers. The film is slow moving, even at 90 minutes and sometimes resembles a home movie with it’s amateurish style and laughably staged scenes. There is definitely some entertainment here, but most of it is from how bad this all is. One can’t help but giggle at the model that is used for Rudolff’s castle, snicker at Hunt’s need to summersault often, and chuckle at the odd and uninspired training sequences…and if these are all expert martial artists, then why do they need to be trained? It’s a bit of a hoot at times, though not as much as we’d like it to be and takes itself a lot more seriously than it should.

Cast is pretty bland across the boards, though actor James Ryan does have a bit of charisma, despite not being much of an actor. I also remember reading, back in the day, that he wasn’t an actual martial artist, but a dancer and as such, he does mimic the moves very well. Charlotte is pretty and sassy as Olga, but is a damsel in distress for the last half of the movie. Coombes is a bland villain as The Baron and Ho-Tung isn’t much better as his adversary Miyagi. Rounding out is small person Danie DuPlessis as Chico, The Baron’s dwarf assistant who takes a liking to Steve, the only person that shows the little man respect. DuPlessis is likable despite being in a very cliché role and being humiliated often by the other bully martial artists.

Overall, it’s an OK movie that can be enjoyed more for laughs and nostalgia than as an actual martial arts flick. It seems to have a bit of a reputation, though not sure why. It was successful enough to warrant a sequel…which is our second feature…

 -MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 fists! (The rating is purely for entertainment value in this case, not film quality -MZNJ)

kill or be killed rating

 

 

 

 

 

plus

kill and kill again

bars

KILL AND KILL AGAIN (1981)

Sequel is odd in that James Ryan is definitely supposed to be the same character from Kill Or Be Killed, but is called Steve ‘Chase’ in this movie. The film is a lot more fun as it takes a far lighter tone and serves up more of a James Bond-style adventure with Chase pitted against a megalomaniac. Story has martial arts champion Chase (Ryan) hired by the beautiful Kandy Kane (former Miss World Anneline Kriel) to rescue her father from the fortress of Marduk (Michael Mayer), a madman bent on world domination. Dr. Horatio Kane (John Ramsbottom) has been taken due to the fact that he has accidentally discovered a mind control formula when experimenting with making fuel from potatoes…not making this up! Ryan reassembles his old team of Hot Dog (Bill Flynn), The Fly (Stan Schmidt), Gorilla (Ken Gampu from The Wild Geese) and Gypsy Billy (Norman Robinson) and head to Marduk’s stronghold to take on his army of mind-controlled fighters…but Marduk is ready and waiting!

While it’s still not a good movie in a conventional sense, sequel is a lot more fun and even the fight scenes are a bit more energetic. Again directed, though with a much lighter hand, by Ivan Hall and this time written with a wink at the James Bond series by John Crowther. The pace is still not as brisk as an action flick like this should be and it is about ten minutes too long, but at least this entry is having some fun with itself, as opposed to the previous entry’s taking itself far too seriously. There is some outright comedy bits thrown in with the PG rated violence and Ryan’s team are almost out of a comic book themselves. The film is still low budget, but seems to have a bit more production value than it’s predecessor and Hall seems a bit more relaxed in the director’s chair, going with all the silliness, this time, instead trying to pass it off as a serious action flick as with KOBK.

Again, none of the cast are solid actors, but most get the material and seem to be having fun. Ryan once agin shows some charisma and also the ability to not take himself too seriously. Kriel is a pretty heroine who gets to kick a little butt herself. Mayer reminds one of Paul Bartel a bit and seems to be a bit of a wussy villain under all his bluster and that seems intentional. Flynn, Gampu, Schmidt and Robinson all have fun with their comic book-ish characters with Schmidt and Robinson once again choreographing the fights, as they did with the previous film, though this time to better effect.

Overall, it’s a lot more fun than KOBK, though could have used a quicker pace and a bit tighter edit. The cast and the director are having a lot more fun this time around and it makes a still bad movie a lot more entertaining to watch. When pairing both film together there is definitely some fun to be had even if most of it is unintentional. Despite the success of both movies, a Kill Or Be Killed III never materialized and it was the last we heard of martial arts champion and adventurer, Steve Chase (Hunt?).

 -MonsterZero NJ

3 fists. (The rating is purely for entertainment value in this case, not film quality -MZNJ)

kill and kill again rating

 

 

 

 

bars

MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE I & II

MZNJ_SNDF

now playing

 double feature_SHM_1-2

bars

Watched both these flicks recently and for the first time and thought they’d made a good double bill…for obvious reasons!

sorority-house-massacre-movie-poster-1986-1020468754

SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE (1986)

Writer/director Carol Frank has some serious Halloween envy in this 80s slasher. The story has a deranged killer (John C. Russell) escaping from a mental institution and going back to the house where he slaughtered his family 14 years ago. The house is now a sorority and he focuses his hunt on Beth (Angela O’Neill) who is the sister he failed to get the first time. Sorority members and their male guests drop like flies as he carves his way toward his sibling…sound familiar? (Though we didn’t find out Laurie Strode was Michael’s sister till Halloween II)

Despite director Frank trying real hard to catch the Halloween vibe with Carpenter-ish tracking shots and POV angles, it’s not nearly as successful, especially as it was shot in a TV friendly format…this was now the direct to video age. She doesn’t generate much suspense as her story is far too familiar and the heavy 80s atmosphere adds a cheese factor which only helps for the wrong reasons. The cast are all bland including lead O’Neill and killer “Bobby” generates very little threat or fear. His escape from the mental institute is also laughably too easy. The killings are routine bloody stabbings and even Jamie Lee Curtis was smart enough to run out of the house when threatened. Still there is a nostalgic entertainment factor here and the cheesiness entertains to a degree though, for all the wrong reasons…but, entertainment is entertainment and with my pint glass at my side, I can’t say I had a bad time with this.

Despite not achieving her high aspirations, Carol Frank’s film does pass the time and supply some grins and giggles. It was also groundbreaking for a woman to write and direct horror at this time and as the film comes from Roger Corman’s Concorde Pictures, it’s no surprise. Corman was hiring female filmmakers to do horror decades before trendsetters like The Soska Sisters showed up. Mildly entertaining for all the wrong reasons so, it’s worth a look especially if you’re an 80s horror completist like me.

 -MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 knives!

sorority house rating

plus

sorority house massacre 2

bars

SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE II (1990)

Sequel isn’t connected to the first film other than taking place in a sorority house that was the scene of a mass murder years before. This time a group of five hot foxes buy the former murder site cheap and plan to turn it into a sorority house. They spend the night in the empty house and during a drunken seance, they mistakenly summon the spirit of the killer, Clive Hokstedter, who proceeds to gruesomely continue his work.

This installment has no less than three writers credited but, does have underrated B-movie director Jim Wynorski (The Return Of Swamp Thing, Chopping Mall). Wynorski knows exactly what his material is and just has fun with it, as with all his cheesy low budget delights. The film is all T & A and spilled blood as our nubile sorority sisters all look like playboy bunnies and are frequently taking their clothes off and not wearing much when their clothes are on. There is little or no suspense but, there is a lot of fun as our ladies are stalked by the possessed individual whose identity is kept a secret until the end. The film may not win any awards but, it is very entertaining due to Wynorski’s mix of comic book and exploitation styles and it does what a cheesy late 80s exploitation slasher should do, shower us in blood, boobs and giggles. It’s bad on purpose and Wynorski is one of the few directors that can do entertainingly bad on purpose and do it well…normally, that has to be a happy accident. Corman was smart to keep him in his stables…and he is still there to this day.

A fun movie in it’s cheesy badness and while it is far less serious than it predecessor, it is a lot more entertaining. Definitely worth a look, especially if you are a fan of Wynorski’s cheesy style. Stars hotties Gail Harris, Melissa Moore, Stacia Zhivago, Barbii and Dana Bentley. Also features Peter Spellos as the creepy neighbor, Orville Ketchum, who may…or may not…be host to Hokstedter’s homicidal spirit.

 -MonsterZero NJ

3 knives.

malevolence rating

bars

MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: THE TERMINATOR and ROBOCOP

MZNJ_SNDF

now playing

 double feature_TM_RC

bars

Watching this double feature tonight and thought I would share it with the rest of you!

Terminator1984movieposter

THE TERMINATOR (1984)

One of my favorite all time films. A wonderful example of how talent and imagination can accomplish a lot on a small budget. A tenacious little action film with a cool sci-fi premise. Simple and very effective. This is the film that really pushed Arnold into the spotlight and set director James Cameron on his course. Terminator tells the story of Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), a waitress trying to make ends meet, but unknown to her, she has been targeted for death by a machine sent back from the future to eliminate her. The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) has been sent by a computer network in 2029 to kill Sarah as she will be mother to John Connor, the man who will rebel against these self-aware computers, who have taken over the world of the future and end their reign before they eliminate mankind. The rebels send back a soldier, Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) to protect her and Sarah becomes a fugitive on the run as soldier and cyborg battle for the fate of the future in 1984 Los Angeles.

James Cameron’s lean mean fighting machine of a movie is as relentless as the Terminator itself. He crafts a fast paced action classic that never stops moving yet, still tells a good story and builds the characters so we are emotionally invested in them. He gets great work from his cast and brilliant work from his SPFX people who provide some really effective glimpses of an apocalyptic future and the carnage by our title villain in the present. From models to make-up, the film has top notch work on a low budget. The action is simple yet very intense with numerous chases and shoot-outs as the cybernetic assassin will stop at nothing and go through anyone to eliminate his prey.

A bonafide classic that set many careers in motion and started a film franchise that is still going decades later. If I had to make a top 10 list of favorite movies, Terminator would be on it. Also starring Lance Henrikson and Paul Winfield as two cops caught in the middle of the conflict and the first acting role for a young Bill Paxton as a punk who unfortunately crosses the Terminator’s path.

MONSTERZERO NJ EXTRA TRIVIA: Amusing to know that Arnold was originally pursued to play the hero, Kyle Reese, but convinced Cameron to let him play the title villain instead. Furthermore, OJ Simpson was being considered for the role of The Terminator, but director Cameron felt, ironically, that no one would believe a nice guy like OJ as a cold blooded killer. Co-star Lance Henrikson was also considered in early stages when Cameron wanted a Terminator who could blend into a crowd, but Arnold took over the role and the rest is cinema history.

 -MonsterZero NJ

A classic 4 Terminator’s!

terminator rating

plus

robocop_1987

bars

ROBOCOP (1987)

Robocop is a bonifide classic, a movie that took me by surprise when I first saw it in 1987 as I thought it was going to be silly fun at best, but turned out to be a well crafted, satirical and delightfully blood-soaked good time with good performances across the board, especially from leading man Peter Weller. It is now one of my all time favorites. The story opens in a future Detroit where crime is rampant and corporations now run the police force, which is sadly being overwhelmed. Omni Consumer Products plans to build a new city, but needs crime put on a leash to insure new occupants. Devious executive Dick Jones (Ronny Cox) plans to use the walking tank, the ED 209 to bring law and order, but when it gruesomely malfunctions, junior executive Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer) jumps in with his Robocop project. This plan focuses on using fatally wounded police officers in a Frankenstein-ish process to turn them into cyborg cops to do the job the ED 209 is failing to. Now they only need to wait till an officer is ‘volunteered’ as a subject… which in crime ridden Detroit, shouldn’t take long. Enter good cop and family man Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) who is transferred to Old Detroit (by Morton who sees him as a high risk in the crime ridden area) and on his first day out with partner Lewis (Nancy Allen), is gunned down by ruthless crime lord Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) and his henchmen. The deceased Murphy is taken and transformed into Robocop, a cyborg law enforcement agent who is sent out to clean up the streets of Old Detroit. But despite having his memory supposedly wiped, Robocop starts to have recollections of his previous life, memories of a wife and child and of the vicious criminals who gunned him down. With the help of Lewis, Robocop tries to regain his lost humanity and take down those responsible for his murder. But there is a conspiracy of high level executive and low life criminals that stands in his way and once he turns his attention towards them, they conspire to make sure the cybernetic police officer and the man buried deep inside him are destroyed once and for all.

With the combination of a sharp and satirical script by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner and the over the top, energetic directing style of Paul Vehoeven, Robocop is a deliriously fun Sci-Fi/action flick with a twisted sense of humor and a giddy use of blood and gore. No more evident then in the film’s gleefully gruesome opening moments when a malfunctioning ED 209 uses it’s massive guns to blast a poor junior executive into mulch during an ill-fated demonstration. There is plenty of fast-paced action as Robocop takes to the streets and then pursues bad guys Boddicker and Jones to bring them down and avenge himself. There is also a healthy dose of social satire woven in between as well, especially aimed at the theatricality and superficiality of the media, as we get to see news clips and commercials of the type that are commonplace in this shallow futuristic world. One can say Murphy’s battle to regain his humanity seems to echo a society where we have lost ours. And what makes this movie so much more then just an action flick, is just how well the social commentary blends in with the story and action. It’s never heavy handed or preachy and is often served with a biting sense of humor, so it doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the film. The same could be said about the theme of regaining humanity in a superficial society where excess is the order of the day. Murphy is symbolic of humanity being buried under such excess as he is buried under all the microchips and shiny alloy of his robotic armor. Yet, none of this overshadows that this is also a fast-paced and fun movie about a hero up against insurmountable odds, despite his steel skin and firepower and good fighting to triumph over evil. This is what makes Robocop such a great film, it is on the surface a dynamite popcorn movie, but with a very smart and soulful center. Rarely has a movie with a scathing message and a popcorn flick been blended so well as done here.

And Vehoeven gets great work from a good cast. Weller is perfect in his portrayal of a good cop and a good man who they try to turn into a soulless machine, but instead fights to become an extraordinary human being within his cybernetic shell. Allen is both tough and sweet as Lewis. She makes you believe she can kick your butt and is equally believable in her quest to help the man that is Murphy triumph over his computerized programing. Her joining him in a fight with overwhelming odds also gives her a nice nobility to add to an already likable character. Cox and Smith make a great team of scumbag bad guys with Cox making his Dick Jones the perfect corporate suit dirt-bag and Smith’s Boddicker, a twisted and sick criminal whose not without his charm and an equally twisted sense of humor to go with it. Ferrer is also very effective as an overambitious corporate douche who steps on the wrong toes. Strong heroes and equally strong bad guys are essential to a story like this and the film nails it along with everything else.

The FX are a little dated, but still very effective and add to the film’s nostalgia. We get some great make-up FX, as usual, from FX master Rob (The Thing) Bottin who also designed the Robocop suit and make-up for Weller and even some very charming stop motion model animation to bring the ED 209 to life by another FX legend, Phil Tippett. The FX and production design are unique, yet appear realistic as to how a near future city like Detroit might look and there is a fantastic score by the legendary composer Basil Poledouris to accent the film’s moments and add atmosphere. It is one of his best scores.

Overall, I can’t say enough about one of my all-time favorite movies. It’s recognized as a classic and is exactly that in every sense of the world. I am hard pressed to come up with any criticism about a film which is probably my favorite type of movie alongside Horror, one that is fiercely entertaining on the outside, but has something substantial going on underneath much like Cameron’s Terminator, Miller’s Road Warrior and Carpenter’s Escape From New York. All favorites and all Sci-Fi/action flicks with a solid emotional base and/or some scathing social commentary running beneath the explosions and gunfire. And there is nothing like a little butter for the popcorn. A true classic and one of my all time favorite movies. Also stars Dan (The Last StarfighterHalloween III) O’Herlihy as OCP’s CEO who appears to be a good guy here, but became one of the villains in the really disappointing sequel, Robocop 2.

 -MonsterZero NJ

4 classic Robocops.

robocop 1987 rating

 -MonsterZero NJ

bars

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

MZNJ_SNDF

now playing

 double feature_AH-AH2

bars

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

Amityville_poster

bars

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

plus

amityville 2

bars

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!

amityville horror rating

bars

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

MZNJ_SNDF

now playing

double feature_CO1984_1999

bars

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

 

class_of_1984_poster_01

bars

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!

class of 1984 rating

 

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

plus

class-of-1999-poster2

bars

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

bars

MONSTERZERO NJ’S THANKSGIVING EVE DOUBLE FEATURE: EXPENDABLES 2 and EXPENDABLES 3

MZNJ_SNDF

now playing

double feature_EX_2-3

bars

I know I’ve covered both these movies before but, I got my copy of The Expendables 3 in the mail and decided to make an Expendables night out of it!

 

expendables02

THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012)

Expendables 2 is a fun follow-up to the 2010 eighties action throwback hit that isn’t quite as engaging in it’s quieter moments as the previous flick but, thankfully there aren’t too many of those. This installment finds the gang being sent by the mysterious Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) after a downed plane in Eastern Europe to recover the contents of an onboard safe. Along for the ride is Maggie (Yu Nan), a tech specialist and new sniper, Billy (Liam Hemsworth). But, they are intercepted by a gang of armed thugs headed by the cold blooded Villain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and henchman, Hector ( Scott Adkins) who take their quarry and kill one of the team. Now it’s personal, as Barney (Stallone) and Co. seek to track down Villain and put him down… for good. Along for the bullet-ridden ride are old rival Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Mr. Church and legendary ‘Lone Wolf’ mercenary, Booker (Chuck Norris). When the action is flying fast and furious, EX2 is a real blast. It’s great to see Arnold, Van Damme and Norris back on screen doing what they do best. Van Damme in particular seems to be having fun chewing up the Eastern European scenery as the lethal bad guy and he doesn’t get enough screen time, sadly, to really establish the character’s full menace. Aside from an overuse of CGI blood, director Simon West gives us some good, old-fashioned rip-roaring action scenes that fit the retro action icon cast perfectly and some good hand to hand combat as well. Although some of those, especially Stallone v.s. Van Damme, could have gone on a bit longer to give them more dramatic impact. And drama is where West stumbles. The scenes between the action, which should be engaging and strong to keep us involved until the bullets fly again, are rather ho-hum. The dramatic scenes, though few, needed some more energy, more “pop”. The camaraderie between the team members that Stallone captured so well in part 1 is weak here and because of that, we are less forgiving of the cheesy dialog and the characters are less engaging as well. Perfect example is Lundgren’s Gunner, who practically stole the flick first time around. He’s nowhere near as fun as in EX1 and the fun Statham/ Stallone relationship is also weaker. The in-between scenes also had a quicker pace under Stallone’s direction last time and thus we were able to overlook the plot holes easier. But, this is an action film and there is plenty of that and who is in action is why we sat in our seat and on that level, Expendables 2 delivers on what we came to see. I am all for Expendables 3 but, find a director that can put some energy in the drama, give the team their team spirit back and a writer who can give them some livelier banter… as well as deliver the carnage.

3 bullets!

ex2 rating

plus

expendables 3

bars

THE EXPENDABLES 3 (2014)

Having grown up in the 80s, I obviously have an appreciation and love for the styles of  movies that came out then. And the 80s action flick is no different. So,no surprise, I am a fan of this series which takes a lot of those 80s action icons and let’s them suit up and shoot it out once more. And maybe I am biased but, I had an absolute blast with the latest installment.

The newest adventure finds Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and crew (Statham, Crews, Lundgren, Couture) rescuing an old Expendable member referred to as Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes) from a moving train incarceration and taking him on a mission in Somalia. There, not only does Barney find former Expendables co-founder turned arch-enemy Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson) still alive… after Barney himself thought he killed him… but, one of his team is critically wounded. CIA operative Drummer (Harrison Ford) is not happy with the team’s failure and demands they try again. But, Barney realizes his team has been doing this a long time and the next mission may be their last so, he releases his longtime friends to gather a newer, younger team including the headstrong Smilee (Kellan Lutz) and the sexy and quite lethal Luna (Ronda Rousey). But, Conrad Stonebanks is one step ahead of them again and when he takes Barney’s rookies hostage, Barney realizes his mistake and the old team reunites to go into battle once more… maybe for the last time as Stonebanks has an army and is waiting.

I really enjoy these flicks and am certainly cutting them some slack due to the wonderful nostalgia of seeing these icons back in action and this time joined by veterans Wesley Snipes, Harrison Ford, Antonio Banderas… who practically stole the movie… and even a cameo by Robert Davi. But, to be honest, aside from some cheesy dialog, some sub-par CGI shots and a few wooden performances, the movie is a lot of fun especially in it’s roller coaster ride of a last act. Stallone’s script with Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt conveys a theme of adding new blood and this carried over to Sly’s choice of Australian director Patrick Hughes (Red Hill) to helm. Hughes directs well and and really brings it during the action scenes such as the exciting opening train assault and the final showdown, which was one of the most exciting extended action scenes I’ve seen since in a while. Hughes gives the film far more dramatic weight then Simon West’s somewhat weaker Expendables 2 but, doesn’t take his material too seriously as to not have a good time with it. The film is never boring at over 2 hrs and while the pace is fairly moderate, it makes the action all the more thrilling when Hughes and his cast crank it up to 11 for the carnage. For those worried about the lesser PG-13 rating, this might have the largest body count yet, so, it’s not a concern. Again, you have to go in knowing this is an old school style action flick and corny dialog and implausibility is to be expected. Sure I didn’t quite buy that Barney would cast away his old team so easily but, you know that’s not going to last and it doesn’t. Along the way there are some corny messages about ‘family’ but, it’s all part of the formula and for me, it works. It’s popcorn action, with a popcorn plot and Stallone and his team delivered the old school smack down once again, in my opinion. Brian Tyler also delivers another exciting score to accent the action and the film is shot well by Peter Menzies Jr.

There is quite a big cast so I will start by saying that Stallone and Expendables regulars Statham, Crews, Lundgren, Couture, Li and Schwarzenegger all give us what we expect from them and seem to be having a really fun time especially, Arnold who hams it up a little more then usual. As for newcomers… Snipes hasn’t lost a beat and it’s great to see him back in action on the big screen. Gibson is simply a great villain and really chews up the scenery in grand style. Antonio Banderas is hilarious and practically steals the show as the screwball Galgo and his scene laying the Latin charm on Ronda Rousey mid-battle was a showstopper. As for Rousey her line delivery is a bit wooden but, it’s her first flick and when she is in action, the girl is poetry in lethal motion. Harrison Ford also seems to really be enjoying himself too and he and Sly seem to actually have a nice camaraderie together. Too bad it took this long to appear in a flick together. Kelsey Grammar gets some nice laughs as Barney’s grizzled recruiter Bonaparte and the also work well together. And rounding out Kellan Lutz, Victor Ortiz and Glen Powell are fine in their parts with Lutz’s Smilee possibly being groomed to take a larger role in future installments. And if there is an Expendables 4… I’m in.

Overall, I really enjoyed this flick. It is definitely better then Expendables 2 and comes close to being an equal to part 1It did take a little time to tell it’s story but, there is no shortage of action and when it comes, it’s fast and furious, especially the all out war of a last act. There were some really enjoyable appearances by action icons absent too long from the screen and the new additions seem like they make a good fit if this series continues. The audience I was with wasn’t full but, cheered louder then any audience I have heard in some time. Everyone seemed to have had a blast with this second sequel and I am definitely one of them. A really fun, action-packed popcorn flick that proves Sly and company still got it. It isn’t Shakespeare… it’s The Expendables!

3 and 1/2 bullets.

raid rating

bars

MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: THE HILLS RUN RED and MIDNIGHT MOVIE

MZNJ_SNDF

now playing

double feature_THRR_MM

bars

I know I’ve covered both these movies before, but they are two really good slasher flicks whose plots both involve a movie within a movie, where a celluloid horror becomes all too real for it’s characters. A fun double feature for a Halloween season Saturday night and two cool horror movies about horror movies!

 

HillsRunRed

bars

THE HILLS RUN RED  (2009)

A good, solid horror flick, Hills is the story of young filmmaker, Tyler (Tad Hilgenbrink) who is obsessed with looking for a lost 80’s slasher flick, “The Hills Run Red”, by seeking out it’s equally lost director, Wilson Wyler Concannon. The film is notorious for having been banned for being too violent and it is rumored that all the prints were destroyed except for the director’s own original copy and he disappeared after all the controversy. Tyler locates the director’s drug addict daughter, Alexa (Sophie Monk) and convinces her to lead him to the backwoods town where the notorious flick was filmed and Concannon was last known to be. Needless to say, he and his friends, Serina (Janet Montgomery) and Lalo (Alex Wyndham) wind up not liking what they find when they get there and start investigating into something that maybe should remain lost.

A good cast including a creepy William Sadler as Concannon and the hot Sophie Monk as his daughter, helps bring this wicked little movie to life and director Parker does nicely combining atmosphere, tension and gore into a deviantly fun little horror flick. He also creates a memorable and quite vicious villain in Babyface, the Jason-like serial killer from Concannon’s film that is a bit too based on real events for our  young leads’ liking. Sick, twisted and very gory tale not only pays homage to these types of 80s slasher movies, but is one, and a very nasty one, at that. Small but very effective horror deserves far more attention then it got when released straight to DVD. Make sure you watch into the credits for an extra chilling scene.

3 babyface killers

hills run red rating

plus

midnight-movie-2008-poster

bars

MIDNIGHT MOVIE (2008)

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

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

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

Co-written with Mark Garbett…from a story by Sean Hood…Jack Messitt crafts a really fun slasher homage that makes good use of the movie within a movie format and provides some fun chills and graphic gore of it’s own. We get a killer who can enter our world from the movie and bring his victim’s back in, right before our and the movie audience’s eyes. The characters band together to try to escape the killer, who seals the theater and in true stalker fashion, hunts them down one by one with his corkscrew shaped blade. We get some likable characters, especially Brandes’ plucky heroine Bridget, and a very effective killer with quite a vicious lust for blood. Messitt also gives us a third act that takes place inside the movie with our survivors trying to find their way out and it works very well as both horror and homage. The film has a very 70s/80s horror feel, which I obviously enjoyed. There are some flaws. Radford’s film is 40 years old which would place it being made in the late 60s, years before the modern slasher era started and so it’s Chainsaw Massacre– ish vibe doesn’t make sense for the time period…although if you don’t see the film taking place when it was made in 2008, but now in 2014, it brings Radford’s film to 1974 which is a better timeframe. There is a lack of explanation as to Radford’s apparent dark magic, but it is obvious there is more to this director/actor than just his film work, so we go along with it. Messitt does gives us some chills and suspense and so, we suspend our disbelief as we are having a good time. The gore is well done and plentiful and despite being a lengthy shutdown in the film’s production as per the extras, the sequences filmed by two different DOPs blend seamlessly. I also loved the movie theater setting, as such small local theaters are rapidly becoming a thing of the past and Messitt seems to share my affection for them.

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

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

3 creepy killers.

midnight movie rating

bars