MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and THE ROAD WARRIOR

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This edition of MZNJ’s Saturday Night Double Feature has an apocalyptic theme, with two of MZNJ’s all-time favorite apocalyptic features!…

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ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981)

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

An outrageously original idea has New York City in a war torn, crime filled, future turned into a maximum-security prison, and legendary director Carpenter makes it work by taking his subject matter just seriously enough to make the audience buy it. Add to that a colorful cast of characters, including one of the greatest, and sadly underused, film anti-heros of all time, Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell), and you have the recipe for a B movie classic.

The story is simple, war hero turned outlaw, Snake Plissken has been captured and is about to be sentenced to life imprisonment in New York City Penitentiary. Fate intervenes and the President’s (Donald Pleasence) plane is hijacked on the way to a crucial peace summit and crashed inside the city. Former special forces soldier Plissken is the only man skilled enough to sneak in quietly and get him out alive, and Snake now has a chance at a full pardon for all his crimes if he takes the job. A vicious gang leader called The Duke Of New York (Isaac Hayes) has other ideas for both The President and Snake, who has less then 24 hours to complete his mission, or the world goes back to war and the micro explosives implanted in his neck to keep him compliant, will go off.

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

As for the cast… Kurt Russell does his best Clint Eastwood as Snake and it’s only natural then to pair him up with Eastwood co-star Lee Van Cleef as Police Commissioner, Bob Hauk. Rounding out the cast is Halloween vet Donald Pleasence as the President, Harry Dean Stanton as Brain, Carpenter’s then wife, Adrienne Barbeau as Maggie, Ernest Borgnine as Cabbie and legendary soul man Isaac Hayes as The Duke of New York. Not to forget, there is also genre favorite Tom Atkins as Hauk’s right-hand man, Rehme and frequent Carpenter collaborator Charles Cyphers as the Secretary of State. A simply classic B-movie sci-fi/action flick and one of my all-time favorites!

MONSTERZERO NJ EXTRA TRIVIA:  The studio wanted Charles Bronson as Snake, but Carpenter fought for his choice of former Disney child actor, Russell and the rest is history. Also, the SPFX were done in part by a then unknown James Cameron, who went on to direct Terminator and Titanic. And despite its setting, most of the film was lensed in St. Louis and L.A. with only one-night actual shooting in NYC at the Statue of Liberty.

One of the greatest B-movies of all time!

Rated a classic 4 (out of 4) Snakes

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THE ROAD WARRIOR aka MAD MAX 2 (1981)

Road Warrior is simply an action classic and one of my all-time favorite movies. It still holds up today even after over 40 years and is still better than most of the CGI filled action flicks that get churned out today. I was stunned upon leaving the theater after first seeing it at the Stanley Warner in Paramus, N.J. in 1981 and the film still has its magic when I watch it all these years later.

The film is set years after the events of 1979’s Mad Max and takes place after an apocalyptic collapse of society triggered by the drying up of fuel sources and the resulting panic. It follows ex-cop Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson), who we last saw avenging the murder of his wife and child against a savage biker gang, and now wanders the wasteland fighting to survive amidst the scavengers, a once loving family man transformed into a ruthless survivor who looks out only for himself. Max stumbles across a small desert community that is manufacturing fuel but is also battling a large gang of thugs who want to take the gas and slaughter all those inside. Max’s need for fuel leads him to align himself with the embattled village but is it something more that makes him risk his life as the villagers make a desperate attempt to escape the ‘vermin on machines’ and find a better place to start a new life.

The Road Warrior is simply a great movie. One of the greatest action films ever made, the film that turned Gibson into a star and launched dozens of cheap imitations and still inspires filmmakers today (I recommend Neil Marshall’s outrageously fun homage Doomsday). George Miller creates a world that is an apocalyptic Sergio Leone western in S & M gear and features some of the most furious action/chase scenes ever committed to film. He populates this world with a cast of eccentric characters from the bizarre and whimsical Gyro Captain (Bruce Spence) to the equally surreal gang leader Lord Humungus (Kjell Nilsson) and his mohawked henchman Wes (Vernon Wells). Beneath all the leather and carnage, the film also has a heart and a soul and that’s what sets it apart. Ultimately it is about clinging to and regaining one’s humanity in the face of adversity. Not only is Max rediscovering he has a heart underneath the bodies of all those he has killed and all that he has lost but civilization as well is struggling to regain what’s been lost against those who would take advantage of its ruin. Amidst the bone-crushing action and blood-spattering violence there is a message of hope and that is really what makes this film so special and gives it so much substance. Director Miller mixes in his message perfectly with the action, offsetting the brutality with a quirky sense of humor, so the bleak nature of the film never wears you down. A perfect blend of elements if there ever was one. Miller also gives the film a look that would make Leone and Kurosawa proud and Dean Selmer’s cinematography brings it to life along with Norma Moriceau’s inventive costume design and, of course, all the amazing stunt work and action choreography. Wrap that up in Brian May’s pulse pounding score and you have a cinematic experience that is just as effective today as it was over 40 years ago. Miller co-wrote the script with Terry Hayes and Brian Hannant and the film was produced by Miller’s friend and Mad Max producer Byron Kennedy, who would tragically be killed 2 years later in a helicopter crash.

The cast really are perfect, especially for bringing such colorful and strange characters to life. Gibson is both samurai and gunslinger as the iconic Max, portraying a man who is deadly, cunning but still has a heart buried deep down that enables him to become a hero when there are those in need. His actions may seem selfish at first, but the cop and family man are still in there needing a good reason to re-emerge. Bruce Spence is a delight as the goofy Gyro Captain, a bizarre individual who flies a gyro copter over the vicious inhabitants of the wasteland and survives by his wits and the help of his pet snakes. A truly endearing and memorable character. Nilsson and Wells create formidable villains becoming the signature template for all the bad guys in practically every post-apocalyptic action rip-off that arose after this became a sensation. They are both oddballs and nut jobs but very lethal characters with Wells’ Wes practically stealing the show as the loose cannon, psychotic henchman. We also have Michael Preston who is a noble leader as the in-over-his-head Pappagallo, a man who believes civilization is not lost and plans to start again. Young Emil Minty is a hoot as the Feral Child, a stray dog of a little boy who communicates in growls and is quite resourceful and scrappy in a fight, and Virginia Hey is noble and strong as the simply named Warrior Woman, who fights just as hard as any man. There are many other supporting players and they all do well in establishing personalities for their offbeat characters. An almost perfect cast for a film masterpiece.

What else can I say. This film is a masterpiece of action and storytelling and is one of the most influential films of its time. It is one of my all-time favorites and a film that is just as effective today as it was in 1981. It is a clear example that action movies can have a story and a soul and still deliver mind blowing sequences without a lick of CGI. Often imitated but never equaled. A classic in every sense of the word.

Rated 4 (out of 4) warriors of the wasteland!

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BREAKING NEWS: FATHOM EVENTS TO FIX ASPECT RATIO FOR CARPENTER’S THE THING!

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BREAKING NEWS: FATHOM EVENTS TO FIX ASPECT RATIO FOR CARPENTER’S THE THING!

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After fan anger and disappointment was unleased online, led by filmmaker and horror expert Mick Garris, due to Fathom Events’ sub-par print of John Carpenter’s The Thing that was screened Sunday night, Fathom has responded! As stated in an article appearing on Variety’s website last night, Fathom Events will replace the shoddy print with a print in the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio for Wednesday’s scheduled screenings!
 
Fathom’s statement as per the Variety article…

 

“Your patronage and trust are of utmost importance to us. We know you come to theaters expecting the very best experience possible and we pride ourselves in being the provider of that experience,” the statement reads. “We are aware that the recent showing of ‘The Thing; wasn’t shown in its original aspect ratio and the disappointment it caused. Wednesday’s scheduled event will be shown in the proper aspect ratio, so you can see the film in theaters, as it was meant to be seen.”

Nothing was said about refunding or appeasing those, like myself, that saw it Sunday with the inferior print, but at least those seeing it at the Wednesday showings will get to see it as John Carpenter intended! Thank you, Mick Garris!

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-MonsterZero NJ

Source: Variety and Mick Garris’ Instagram

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S MOVIE MEMORIES: HAPPY 40th ANNIVERSARY JOHN CARPENTER’S THE THING (1982)!

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HAPPY 40th ANNIVERSARY JOHN CARPENTER’S THE THING (1982)!

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The ill-fated crew of U.S. outpost #31 from John Carpenter’s The Thing!

John Carpenter’s production of The Thing turns 40 years old on 6/25/22 and I was fortunate to see it at a preview screening a week earlier at the long-gone Totowa Cinema in Totowa, N.J. At this point I was already a John Carpenter fan and The Thing from Another World, which is the first film adaptation John W. Campbell Jr’s Who Goes There?, was one of my childhood favorites. I was very excited and as there was no internet to spoil things, I didn’t know what to expect apart from a few stills posted in Starlog and a cast and crew with some familiar faces and names. I was wowed to say the least by this groundbreaking adaptation with some of the most amazing make-up FX I’d ever seen! There was no traditional monster such as in Alien, but a creature that changed shape and form every time you saw it and right before you eyes. I loved the flick and was actually mad when it opened officially a week later to bad reviews and even worse box office. I saw it at least twice more in a theater before it’s sadly brief theatrical run came to an end. now, after four decades I can be happy that the film is finally recognized and regarded as the classic that it is!

 

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Something not of this world has been unleashed from it’s icy tomb!

Last night John Carpenter’s flick, now rightfully recognized as the masterpiece it is, returned to theaters to commemorate it’s 40th anniversary thanks to AMC and Fathom Events. It was a bittersweet return as, sadly, it was an inferior print that was not only faded and sometimes a bit blurry but cropped from the film’s original 2:35 aspect ratio to something more resembling 1:85! WTF!? This totally betrayed Carpenter’s impeccable visual style and Dean Cundey’s masterful cinematography. On that level it was very disappointing. However, the heart and soul of this science fiction/horror was still intact, and it was still a blast and a good time to see Kurt Russell and co-stars up on the big screen once more battling Rob Bottin’s shape-shifting alien monstrosity. It brought back a lot of memories from my first screening in 1982 and proved this flick has lost none of its potency four decades later. It will always remain one of my all-time favorites and if you truly want to see it as intended, pick up Scream Factory’s collector’s edition. The print is a beautifully restored high definition transfer that presents this masterpiece of alien terror in all it’s gory glory!

 

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A last stand against the alien invader!

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-MonsterZero NJ

Photos: Universal Pictures

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: HAPPY 42nd ANNIVERSARY to JOHN CARPENTER’S THE FOG (1980)

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HAPPY 42nd ANNIVERSARY to JOHN CARPENTER’S THE FOG (1980)

John Carpenter’s The Fog was released on February 8th, 1980, and my butt was there in a theater to see it! So, in honor of the 42nd anniversary of one of my all-time favorite horror flicks, I am re-posting this look back at Carpenter’s classic!

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One of my all-time favorite horrors and one of my favorite John Carpenter flicks, in fact, since I was too young to see Halloween when it came out, this was the first Carpenter film I saw in a theater and the flick that started me on my love of his movies.

The Fog tells the story of the 100-year anniversary of the small coastal California town of Antonio Bay and as the town prepares for its centennial celebration, a dark secret is revealed. Legend has it a leper colony paid the founders of Antonio Bay a lot of gold to let them settle nearby, but they were betrayed and murdered, as their ship was lured onto the rocks to crash and sink on a fog laden night. All were lost, but now a horde of vengeful spirits returns from the sea, wrapped in a surreal fog, to make the descendants of those who wronged them, pay with their lives.

The Fog focuses not on a main character, but a group of central characters whose individual experiences during this supernatural crisis bring them slowly all together, for its tense and creepy final act set in the town church. A good cast, including Jamie Lee Curtis as hitchhiker Elizabeth, Tom Atkins as local fisherman Nick, Janet Leigh as centennial chairwoman Kathy Williams and Adrienne Barbeau as single mom and radio DJ Stevie Wayne, give life to this ensemble and make them characters we like and care about, so we fear for them when they are placed in harm’s way. Add to that Hal Holbrook as the town’s alcoholic priest and a host of Carpenter regulars—with even a cameo by Carpenter himself—and you have a film wonderfully filled with a variety of characters who are all potential victims for the marauding phantoms. As for those phantoms, let’s not forget to mention the ghostly Captain Blake (FX man Rob Bottin) and his vengeful crew who are portrayed with in-camera practical FX. This makes them quite spooky and gives them a heavy dose of menace and a lot of effectiveness when they are on the attack. There is loads of atmosphere and some very solid scares and suspense created by Carpenter, along with some great cinematography from frequent Carpenter collaborator Dean Cundey, which makes this a good, solid, old-fashioned ghost story and a fun Halloween season treat. Carpenter again delivers a score which adds chills and foreboding to his tale of ghostly revenge, much like he did for Halloween and he starts the film off perfectly, with a chillingly fun opening sequence featuring veteran John Houseman as a crusty sailor who likes to tell kids scary stories. It sets the mood for the thrills and chills yet to come. This classic was made back when there was no phony CGI, just solid make-up effects from master Rob Bottin (who went on to do The Thing’s FX for Carpenter) and some very basic down to earth smoke and mirrors style visuals, that are as beautiful as they are scary. A great flick the likes of which they rarely make anymore and one of MonsterZero NJ’s must-watch flicks during the Halloween season!

The film is thankfully available, on blu-ray from Scream Factory with all the extras from previous releases, plus a new commentary track with Barbeau, Atkins and Tommy Lee Wallace and two really fun and informative interviews with Jamie Lee Curtis and Cinematographer Dean Cundey, who also supervised the absolutely gorgeous transfer!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 4 (out of 4) spectral sailors!

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COOL STUFF: JOHN WALSH’S ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK: THE OFFICIAL STORY OF THE FILM!

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JOHN WALSH’S ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK: THE OFFICIAL STORY OF THE FILM!

Can’t wait to start reading this! Escape From New York is one of my all-time favorite movies since seeing it opening night at the Oritani Theater in Hackensack, NJ back in 1981. I have been waiting forty years for a book like this! LOL! Check out the book’s description from the product page on Amazon…

“Discover the thrilling story behind the making of Escape from New York and celebrate its legacy in this visually stunning, exclusive retrospective.

Over forty years after the release of the iconic hit, Escape from New York: The Official Story of the Film delves into the archives to showcase the creation of the movie. Directed by John Carpenter and released in 1981, Escape from New York thrilled audiences worldwide with its memorable characters, gritty premise and creative special effects.
 
This must-have book is the ultimate retrospective to the cult-classic movie, illustrating the production process of the science-fiction blockbuster, plus the impact and influence in popular culture, as well as the costuming, special effects, music, posters, and much more. Featuring brand new interviews with cast and crew, plus a foreword written by award-winning filmmaker, Corin Hardy, this extraordinary collection of never-before-seen art will give fans exclusive insight into every aspect of the movie.”

Escape from New York: The Official Story of the Film can be purchased on Amazon.com!

MonsterZero NJ

HAPPY 40th ANNIVERSARY ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK!

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HAPPY 40th ANNIVERSARY ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK!

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Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken! One of the greatest and sadly underused movie anti-heroes of all-time!

40 years ago today the film world was introduced to Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) as John Carpenter’s Escape From New York was released in theaters! A little EFNY anniversary trivia: studio Avco Embassy Pictures wanted Charles Bronson or Tommy Lee Jones for Plissken, but Carpenter held out for Kurt Russell and history was made! HAPPY 40th ANNIVERSARY ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK!

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The late, great Oritani Theater in Hackensack, N.J. where I saw Escape From New York opening night! (Photo from the Mitchell Dvoskin collection)

-MonsterZero NJ

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: THE THING 2011 and THE THING (1982)

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In celebration of snagging what appears to be the last Target exclusive NECA MacReady action figure on the shelves, I’ve decided to make a double feature out of Carpenter’s classic and it’s prequel…

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THE THING (2011)

John Carpenter’s The Thing is one of my all time favorite movies. It’s a classic and arguably Carpenter’s masterpiece. So, I tried to put the audacity aside that someone would attempt a prequel and went in trying to view this film on it’s own merits as much as possible. Ultimately, since it’s trying to be part of that film’s story, you kind of have to compare and my mind constantly made such comparisons all throughout. Overall, I wasn’t that impressed, but also didn’t hate it and over time, it has grown on me as a sort of amusing companion piece. Still, obviously far from a classic like it’s predecessor.

2011’s The Thing takes place in the Norwegian camp that is seen briefly in Carpenter’s film in smoldering ruins. It details their finding of the alien ship and it’s passenger in the ice and it’s subsequent escape and infiltration of the camp and assimilation of various members. The Norwegians are joined by some American’s including Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Paleontologist Kate Lloyd, Eric Christian Olsen as scientist Adam Finch and Joel Edgerton as helicopter pilot Sam. Aside from Ulrich Thompson as lead scientist Dr. Sander Halvorson, the rest are interchangeable and generic characters that serve mostly as body count. Only Winstead really tries to make Kate a more rounded character, but she isn’t given much to do but look concerned, or scared, or both, till the last act.

This is where The Thing fails to assimilate the 1982 perfectly as it’s title creature would. Director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. fails to generate much suspense or create the kind of paranoia that fueled the 82 classic. He does create a bit of a sense of dread, but for the most part, he directs this “prequel” competently, but very by-the-numbers. There’s very little of the kind of tension Carpenter built during his film, even though the situation is basically the same. Even if he was trying to craft a film that was more it’s own “thing” he still doesn’t have the directing chops to really pull it off. The film has a nice visual style, there are some well done action sequences and they did do a good job of matching sets and events to link up with the film this is a prequel to, but it still doesn’t come close to Thing ’82.

Heijningen doesn’t get that much help out of his actors either. Other than Winstead and Edgerton, most of them pretty much perform on ‘paycheck’ levels and there are none of the memorable characters like Carpenter’s eclectic bunch. Well, at least there should be some cool monster stuff, right? Not quite. All this talk of practical effects during production was nonsense, as 90% of what we see is CGI, or enhanced with CGI, and it’s only a few levels about your average SYFY channel movie. So even the monster evokes no emotion, because it looks like what it is, phony. And to be honest, the designs lack the impact of Rob Bottin’s now legendary work. Even at their weakest moments, Bottin’s creature transformations generated awe or disgust. You’d think they’d take advantage of almost 30 years of technological advancement in movie effects, yet the creatures have little impact. And, speaking of our alien star, we are never given much more information about the creature than we already know from Thing ’82. They totally blow the opportunity to add to the creature’s mythos.

I’ll admit, there were a few scenes I liked, especially toward the end where the camp is thrown into all out combat with our computer generated invader and there are some clever bits like one involving tooth fillings. I also liked Winstead’s Kate as our lead. I think Winstead is capable of strong roles and it’s too bad she’s wasn’t given stronger stuff till the last act here. She makes a credible heroine. The end credits nod to the Carpenter flick is the best stuff in the movie. At least the lead-in stuff worked very well and the film ends on a spooky note as we know what comes next…a far superior movie.

In conclusion, I didn’t hate this flick, but would only recommend it as an amusing curiosity or a mindless popcorn monster flick as long as you forget about it even trying to stack up to the Kurt Russell classic. The Thing 2011 did have almost impossible shoes to fill and while it falls far short of the mark, it’s also not the complete disaster it’s made out to be. Best “thing” about the movie is that it is a lead-in to Carpenter’s flick, so you can always watch that afterwards.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 (out of 4) flame thrower wielding cuties!

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THE THING (1982)

Arguably John Carpenter’s best film and his masterpiece, The Thing  was a remake of Howard Hawks’ 1951 classic The Thing From Another World, which was itself based on John W. Campbell’s story Who Goes There? Instead of using the 1951 film’s walking, blood sucking alien vegetable, he went back to Campbell’s story which featured an alien creature capable of imitating whatever it fed on.

Carpenter’s film opens with an isolated American research station in Antarctica being buzzed by a Norwegian helicopter that seems to be trying to gun down a lone sled dog. The incident results in the helicopter being destroyed and both raving occupants being killed, one by the station commander Gary (Donald Moffat) in defense of his crew. Now the team including helicopter pilot MacReady (Kurt Russell) are stuck with a bizarre mystery and the surviving sled dog. When MacReady and Doctor Copper (Richard Dysart) investigate the Norwegian camp, they find it destroyed, it’s occupants dead and a huge hollowed out block of ice…not to mention a burned corpse of something barely human. The investigating of the evidence indicates the Norwegians found a strange ship in the ice and brought a specimen back to their camp that apparently was not dead when thawed out. The real nightmare is yet to come as the Norwegian dog reveals itself to be something quite unworldly and that an alien creature with the ability to absorb and become it’s prey may now be among them…or worse, may be one or more of them already. The paranoia and terror grows as the team try to discover who may be a creature in disguise and the creature feeds their paranoia and seeks to eliminate any of the men with the scientific knowhow to unmask it. Can those still human stop it and if they fail, what will happen to the rest of humanity?

The Thing is both a masterpiece of suspense and tension, as well as, of visceral horror. Carpenter, along with Bill Lancaster’s script, perfectly creates the paranoia of not knowing who around you is human and who is not. The setting of isolation is made all that apparent as Carpenter seals his characters in an ice and snow surrounded maze of hallways and dark rooms where the 12 men are trapped with something very inhuman and they can’t even trust each other, as it could be anyone. The team all suspect each other, but as is human nature, turn to those they like for support and turn on those they may have not liked or not gotten along with before. We have 12 men who are social outcasts thrust into a situation where no one is coming to their rescue and they are forced to not only try to save themselves, but literally save the planet, as their failure to stop this creature will unleash it upon an unsuspecting world. Just so we fully understand the enormity of this creature’s threat, we are treated, via make-up FX master Rob Bottin (and Stan Winston who created the dog kennel creature), to some of the most gruesome creature transformation sequences ever filmed. Bottin convinced Carpenter to not go with a standard true form for the creature design, but an organism that is constantly changing and different once revealed and is made up of parts of all the beings it has absorbed during it’s journey through space. The results are visually horrifying and still hold their full impact even today. All this is brilliantly filmed by cinematographer Dean Cundey and accented by a haunting score by Ennio Morricone…who later voiced disapproval of how Carpenter used it. It is said the prominent electronic bits were actually written by Carpenter, though a lot of Morricone’s music is still used.

As for the human players, obviously this is Kurt Russell’s show, as he plays a man who is reluctantly forced to try to save a world he seems intent on hiding from and does so, honorably and selflessly. With 12 characters not everyone is given a lot of attention, but the cast all handle their roles well in presenting a bunch of eclectic social misfits who would rather be in the antarctic than with the rest of the world. The standouts aside from Russell’s MacReady are Dysart’s Dr. Copper, Moffat’s Gary, who crumbles when he really needs to take charge, forcing MacReady to lead the rest, Keith David’s Childs and Brimley’s scientist Blair. Ironic, as Brimley has voiced his complete distain for the film. Maybe he should have read the script before signing on? Rounding out a solid cast are Richard Masur as Clark, David Clennon as stoner Palmer, Charles Hallahan as the meek Norris, Joel Polis as the quiet scientist Fuchs, T.K. Carter as the smart-ass cook Nauls, Thomas G. Waites as cowardly radioman Windows and Peter Maloney as complainer Bennings. Carpenter’s wife at the time, actress Adrienne Barbeau, also has a vocal cameo as the voice of MacReady’s chess computer.

The history of this film is as legendary as the film itself. The flick was critically panned for it’s gruesome gore FX and grim tone and audiences stayed away…not me, though, I saw it at least 3 times back in the day…and it has taken decades for it to finally be recognized as the masterpiece and classic it truly is. Simply a great horror/sci-fi film that has yet to be equaled.

-MonsterZero NJ

A classic 4 (out of 4) Things!

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FAREWELL AND RIP TO THE GREAT HAL HOLBROOK!

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FAREWELL AND RIP TO THE GREAT HAL HOLBROOK!

HAL HOLBROOK February 17, 1925 – January 23, 2021

Sad news has been announced that legendary actor Hal Holbrook passed away about a week ago. He was 95 years-old and has left behind a legacy of versatile film roles in a career spanning almost seven decades. Good guy, bad guy, historical figures, he could play any part and did so on TV, stage and the big screen. He has appeared in countless film classics. Horror fans know him best for portraying Father Malone in John Carpenter’s The Fog and as Henry, the long suffering husband of Adrienne Barbeau’s “Billie” in George Romero’s Creepshow. He shall greatly be missed, but never forgotten.

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-MonsterZero NJ

 

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HALLOWEEN HOTTIES: ROOKIE OF THE YEAR 2018!

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HALLOWEEN HOTTIES: ROOKIE OF THE YEAR 2018!

This newest installment of Halloween Hotties features a new final girl on the block who appeared in her first horror flick in 2018 and made quite an impression! With the release of Stevan Mena’s long awaited Malevolence 3: Killer, we were introduced to this fresh face in the role of the film’s heroine, Ellie!…And this actress got our attention! Without further ado…MonsterZero NJ’s Halloween Hotties rookie of the year 2018 is…

KATIE GIBSON!

Katie Gibson is new to the horror movie scene, making her final girl debut in Stevan Mena’s Malevolence 3: Killer. While she had a vocal part in Mena’s Bereavement, this is her first starring role and she made a strong impression. Her Ellie was a very likable character, resilient, smart, compassionate and when serial killer Martin Bristol comes knocking, she responds with some knocks of her own. We can only hope that if Mena continues the franchise, Katie is along for the next installment…or Malevolence 3: Killer gets her enough attention for future roles in other projects. Attention she deserves! We can’t wait to see more of this talented and beautiful young actress!

KATIE GIBSON as ELLIE in MALEVOLENCE 3: KILLER!

Malevolence 3: Killer‘s brave and strong-willed Ellie, unaware evil lurks close by!

Katie Gibson gets to try on a classic slasher trope as she watches her young neighbor!

Ellie finds out something is very wrong as Martin Bristol returns to his former home.

Ellie risking her own life to protect her young neighbor, Victoria (Victoria Mena).

Can Ellie turn the tables on a killer?

Katie’s got talent and a girl-next-door presence that made her a natural for this type of role. Mena has a gift for picking good final girls, as Alexandra Daddario served final girl duties in Bereavement and hot mom type Samantha Dark was a strong heroine in the original Malevolence. Hopefully actress Katie Gibson and director Stevan Mena will both be working on new projects soon!

-MonsterZero NJ

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And don’t forget to check out our previous Halloween Hotties!

Head over to the Halloween Hotties listings! to read them all!)

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: MALEVOLENCE 3: KILLER (2018)

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MALEVOLENCE 3: KILLER (2018)

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

After Bereavement, writer/director/editor Stevan Mena decided to go back to basics with the third installment of his Malevolence franchise by not only returning to a more classic slasher format, but by independently financing the film. Tragedy struck his production, though, with only 75% of the movie finished, when actor Scott Decker sadly took his own life. With little money for re-shoots, the film went on hiatus for two years until Mena’s passion and perseverance found a way to finally finish it. Malevolence 3 now sees it’s release on home media and video streaming right in time for Halloween! 🎃

Malevolence 3: Killer opens with the final scenes of the first film…remember, Bereavement was a prequel…with serial killer Martin Bristol (Jay Cohen) escaping into the woods. Martin, in true Michael Myers fashion, returns to his childhood home town and begins a killing spree. He leaves a trail of bodies as he returns to the house he was born in, which is now home to pretty student and musician Ellie (Katie Gibson) and her roommates Tara (Kelsey Deanne) and the vivacious Lynn (Alli Caudle). Drawn to the three girls, Martin begins stalking them, killing anyone who crosses his path. All the while Agent Perkins (Kevin McKelvey) is hot on his trail in hopes to stop Martin before he kills again.

Malevolence was a solid slasher homage giving us elements that evoked both Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Bereavement was something all it’s own with a portrait of a deranged killer (Brett Rickaby) teaching his grim trade to kidnapped little boy, Martin (Spencer List). With the third installment, Stevan Mena returns to a more traditional slasher film with the adult Martin paying his home town a bloody visit and a trio of young girls picking the wrong house to preside in. As such, Mena crafts another solid slasher flick much on par with his original. The film doesn’t quite have the emotional resonance of his creation of a serial killer prequel, though there are some scenes with Martin’s grieving mother (Ashley Wolfe) and grandmother (the legendary Adrienne Barbeau), which work nicely on that level. In most slashers if the killer’s mother is still alive, she’s usually portrayed as equally deranged, so this was a nice change and added some depth. Most importantly, the film does do what it’s supposed to do and does it well. It’s paced much like the slashers of the early 80s with a moderate burn till the last act. There is some traditional skin shown by it’s lovely cast and the kills are bloody and brutal, yet grounded, so they keep their impact and avoid the outlandishness of many other slasher franchises. Mena’s killer is effective and needs no mask to elicit chills and his prey are a likable group of girls and neighbors, so we feel for them. When that last act comes and Martin and Ellie throw down, it’s intense and bloody as Agent Perkins closes in…but will it be in time? On a technical level Mena’s shots are excellently framed, that and his cinematography evokes Carpenter and Dean Cundey in the very best way. The film looks very good for a low budget flick and except for a few shots of Katie Gibson’s hair changing length a bit, there is really no evidence the film had such a troubled production. Again, a filmmaker’s passion and perseverance found a way to complete his vision.

Cast-wise Mena hits a home run with the casting of Katie Gibson as Ellie. Her Ellie is sweet, strong and a very likable young lady. She is also tough and resilient when Martin finally moves in for the kill. She’s a great final girl in every sense of the word and even gets to play a variation of the traditional babysitter, when, thanks to Martin, her young neighbor Victoria (Victoria Mena) finds herself all alone. If Stevan Mena continues this franchise or makes another horror film, I hope he brings Gibson along. As Martin, Jay Cohen is an imposing figure. He doesn’t speak, but isn’t hidden behind a mask, so the actor has to display his cold blooded-ness with only his eyes and facial expression and he does so very well…and remember, Martin also has congenital analgesia, so he can’t feel pain. Kevin McKelvey returns for his third go as Perkins and fits the mold of the “Dr. Loomis” of the film. He’s tough and strong, yet there is also compassion, as he recognizes that in some ways Martin is just as much a victim as he is a killer. This touch helps Perkins avoid being a stereotype. Barbeau is effective in her few scenes as Martin’s grandmother, as is Ashley Wolfe returning as Martin long-suffering mom. In support, Alli Caudle and Kelsey Deanne are likable as the saucy Lynn and studious Tara, respectively and it is sad Scott Decker was not able to complete his role, as Agent Roland is a likable character with, unavoidably, too little screen time. RIP.

Overall, this was a solid slasher and another example of Stevan Mena’s love of the genre. IMO Bereavement is one of the best horror films in the last ten years and Mena wisely doesn’t try to replicate it. Sequel instead returns to basics to display the results of Graham Sutter’s (Rickaby) work in Martin. It has a moderate pace echoing it’s influences and delivers the goods from some bloody kills to a resilient and very endearing final girl. Mena overcame some heavy obstacles to complete his trilogy and one hopes the trilogy becomes a series and Malevolence 4 will be a smoother production and come sooner than the eight years between these films. Mena is yet another filmmaker people need to be talking more about and another example that you can get your film made!

F.Y.I. Malevolence 3: Killer is available for streaming on Amazon and iTunes, or you can order the complete trilogy on Blu-Ray from Amazon.com and Walmart.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 knives!

 

 

 

 

 

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