MONSTERZERO NJ’S 10 REASONS IT’S NOT HALLOWEEN WITHOUT BARBARA CRAMPTON!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 10 REASONS IT’S NOT HALLOWEEN WITHOUT BARBARA CRAMPTON!

The scream heard round the world, as the horror community is introduced to Barbara Crampton in Re-Animator!

Watching horror flicks during the Halloween¬†ūüéɬ†season, there might be one face, aside from Karloff, Lee, Lugosi and Tom Atkins, that you might see more than once‚Ķand that pretty face is actress and horror icon Barbara Crampton! A cult favorite, Barbara Crampton has appeared in a number of horror classics and cult classics from the 80s to present day and shows no sign of stopping! So, in honor of this queen of horror,¬†here¬†are 10¬†horror flicks¬†that illustrate why it’s not Halloween¬†ūüéɬ†without Barbara Crampton!

Crampton chews up the scenery playing an evil politician…well, more evil than usual…in the recent¬†Dead Night.

(To get to the reviews of the titles listed that were covered here at the Movie Madhouse, just type the title in the search engine to find the corresponding critique!)

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: PUPPET MASTER-THE LITTLEST REICH (2018)

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PUPPET MASTER-THE LITTLEST REICH (2018)

After a brief opening that takes place in the 80s, the film jumps to present day where there is a convention being held to commemorate the Toulon puppet murders from three decades previous. There are going to be some replica puppets given away and a tour of Toulon’s mansion. Comic artist Edgar (Thomas Lennon) and his hot girlfriend Ashley (Jenny Pellicer) are there to attend and soon find the puppets present are the real thing and Toulon (Udo Kier) is not done with his reign of terror, even from beyond the grave.

Reboot is directed by Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund who gave us the derivative but entertaining Blood Runs Cold and Wither. They direct from a script by¬†S. Craig Zahler based on the characters created by Charles Band and Kenneth J. Hall. One would probably have to be a fan of the original series to appreciate this dull reboot. If not, it’s just a series of gruesome murders of various puppet fodder characters, that has only some well executed practical gore effects to hold one’s interest. It’s just a random series of killings with no real plot other than to see toys kill people leading up to a Sharknado-esque finale. The tone of the flick goes from silly to trying to take itself seriously and if puppets, blood and boobs are all you came for, than it does at least deliver that…though still lacks the goofy charm of the original movie. Also stars genre favorites Barbara Crampton, Michael Par√© and Matthias Hues.

-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: DEAD NIGHT (2018)

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DEAD NIGHT (2018)

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

Wife and mother Casey (Brea Grant) brings her family up to a remote cabin in the woods for the weekend, hoping the mineral deposits in the mountain with help her husband (A.J. Bowen) with his cancer. We soon find that what we are watching is a flashback as the family was brutally murdered and Casey, now referred to as “The Axe Mom” is accused. As we continue to watch the events of that horrible night unfold, though, we find that something far more supernatural may have been responsible.

Film is directed with a very impressive visual style by Brad Baruh from a script and story by he and Irving Walker. The snowy mountain setting and some of the more supernatural elements look great and add atmosphere to this cabin in the woods horror. The narrative cuts between a segment of a real crime show called Inside Crime detailing the deaths from the public’s point of view, to watching the events unfold and seeing a tale of a diabolical woman (Barbara Crampton), witches, creatures and a wife and mother fighting for her life and those of her family. It works well enough, though it might have been more suspenseful if we didn’t know who died and who would survive from the get go. The editing within the flashback footage is a bit choppy as well, thus sometimes disrupting the narrative a bit. On the plus side the film looks spooky as do our supernatural elements, there is some really good gore and old fashion prosthetic make-up effects and horror icon Crampton gives us a really dastardly villain. Despite the rural setting, the film avoids resembling Evil Dead and other cabin in the woods horrors, too much and there are simply some creepy action scenes once Casey’s family starts being transformed by Crampton’s evil Leslie Bison. Again, with the editing, not every story element is clear, but this is a gory good time with a very effective and atmospheric visual style. The film also has a bit of an 80s horror vibe which always scores points with us older horror movie fans.

Brea Grant makes a really good lead. She plays a women already under an emotional strain with a sick husband and now she must fight against Bison and her supernatural back-up. She watches her family one by one turn into creatures and ultimately we know she’s going to be blamed for everything she’s fighting against. Crampton steals the show here as the evil Leslie Bison, a woman with a political and supernatural agenda. The veteran actress and horror icon really chews up the scenery here and just oozes malice. She’s a lot of devious fun. Rounding out the cast of principles is horror regular A.J. Bowen as sick husband James, a good-natured fellow despite his condition, Joshua Hoffman as son Jason, Sophie Dalah as daughter Jessica and Elise Luthman as Jessica’s friend Becky who the evil elements have an interest in. Daniel Roebuck also appears in a small role as Inside Crime’s host, Jack Sterling.

In conclusion, this was a fun enough movie, though some choppy editing does hinder the story telling. Brad Baruh is an atmospheric director with a great eye for visuals and he does keep this cabin in the woods horror from getting too routine. It’s got a good cast with Brea Grant making a strong final girl and horror film icon Barbara Crampton stealing all her scenes with a sinister over-the-top performance. Flaws aside, a fun and delightfully gory horror flick.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 axes.

 

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE LEGENDARY BARBARA CRAMPTON!

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Today is legendary horror film icon Barbara Crampton’s birthday and as MonsterZero NJ shares a birthday with the fan favorite actress, I certainly wish her the happiest and healthiest of days. Still working hard and still a beauty, it’s no wonder this lady is held in such high regard by so many horror fans around the world! Happy Birthday, Barbara!

-MonsterZero NJ

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY BARBARA CRAMPTON!

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Today is not only my own¬†birthday, but that of horror film legend Barbara Crampton! Not bad sharing a birthday with a horror icon!¬†MonsterZero NJ’s Movie Madhouse wishes Barbara¬†a very happy and healthy birthday!

-MonsterZero NJ

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COOL STUFF: TALES OF HALLOWEEN SPECIAL EDITION BLU-RAY!

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TALES OF HALLOWEEN (2015) Blu-Ray

Tales Of Halloween is a spooky fun 2015 Halloween anthology flick that has grown on me quite a lot since my initial review (see full review here) and has finally arrived on blu-ray a year later. This multi-story horror has been released by Epic pictures in a four disc special edition that is available from their website store, HERE.

As for the feature film itself, there is both a blu-ray and DVD version.¬†As for¬†the technical aspects of the blu-ray feature disc…

The picture is gorgeous, the colors vibrant and really represents well¬†the visual styles of all the directors and their cinematographers on the ten¬†tales told¬†here. The disc is presented¬†in the original 2.39.1 widescreen aspect ratio, preserving the film’s¬†intended¬†dimensions. The sound is in 5.1¬†surround sound with alternate 2.0 and basic stereo tracks for those without home theater sound systems. The menus are simple and easy to navigate. A nice presentation¬†to enjoy this holiday horror!

Now on to the extensive extras which make this 4-disc set even more appealing!…

The extras start out with a¬†production diary covering the 23 days of shooting that comes complete with interviews with cast and crew and some fun behind the scenes footage. In the bonus features, we get a behind the scenes reel‚Ķwhich does repeat a lot of what we saw in the production diaries‚Ķand an examination of the filming of one of the scenes from Mike Mendez’s gruesomely comic Friday The 31st, complete with storyboards.¬†We also get a deleted scene from one of the best stories, Grim Grinning Ghost and are treated to replays of the segments Sweet Tooth, Trick, Ding Dong¬†and This Means War¬†all with additional bonus commentary, aside from the commentary track that accompanies the movie¬†on the feature film discs. We also get eight short films from¬†a few¬†of the filmmakers involved, some of which are definitely worth checking out. There are also storyboards, a photo gallery, trailers and some pop-up video commentary that can be activated on certain stories¬†on the feature blu-ray. A nice selection¬†of extras.

The fourth and final disc is a CD featuring the film’s soundtrack which includes all the music from the segments and wraparound by¬†artists like Lalo Schifrin, Christopher Drake,¬†Joseph Bishara and more.

All of the discs are region free and can be played anywhere and the set also comes with two trading cards, too!

I really have come to appreciate and enjoy this flick beyond what my initial review reflects. It is now part of my traditional Halloween viewing, as it is loaded with Halloween spirit and imagery and I would love to see a follow-up with yet more filmmakers creating Halloween tales as in this film. If you liked this movie and have become endeared to it like I have, this 4-disc set is a must!

-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: TALES OF HALLOWEEN (2015)

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TALES OF HALLOWEEN (2015)

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

Tales Of Halloween is an amusing anthology flick that has ten stories told by ten different directors with the obvious reoccurring theme of Halloween. The stories are loosely connected by the presence of Adrienne Barbeau as a DJ, much like her Stevie Wayne character from The Fog and some shared characters.

Created by filmmaker Axelle Carolyn, this is a good idea that disappointingly has only¬†four out of the ten stories really being successful. The tone of the stories vary with some being goofy like Mike Mendez’¬†fun Friday The 31st, which has a Jason-like killer squaring off with an alien¬†who possesses the body of one of his victim’s and Carolyn’s own creepy Grim Grinning Ghost, which has a woman crossing paths with an urban legend. Those two hit their marks, though the best stories are the opening and closing tales.¬†Dave Parker’s Sweet Tooth, begins the anthology and¬†is another urban legend centric story of a boy that took his¬†love for Halloween candy to¬†a ghoulish level.¬†The closer, Neil Marshall’s Bad Seed, is a fun and gruesome story about a murderous jack-o-lantern. Darren Lynn Bousman’s self-explanatory The Night Billy Raised Hell is moderately amusing, as is Lucky McKee’s Ding Dong,¬†about a strange couple.¬†With unsettling Hansel and Gretel overtones and uncomfortable themes of spousal abuse and infertility, McKee’s tale is the most bizarre one. Ryan Schifrin’s The Ransom Of Rusty Rex is also somewhat amusing in it’s tale of a Halloween kidnapping gone very wrong. On the epic fail side, we have Adam Gierasch’s¬†tale of murderous trick-or-treaters with a twist,¬†Trick. It’s crude and violent without being¬†scary¬†or¬†funny. Paul Solet’s tale of demonic revenge with a spaghetti western slant, The Weak and the Wicked, is just dull and has the least Halloween spirit while¬†John Skipp and Andrew Kasch’s tale of neighbors battling¬†over competitive Halloween displays, This Means War, is just boring and predictable. Add that up and we have four stories that work really well, three that are pretty decent¬†and three that basically fall flat. There are some nice homages along the way, the SPFX¬†and make-up FX are pretty good¬†and the visual style varies¬†from filmmaker to filmmaker. It always has the look of Halloween, with jack-o-lanterns everywhere, even if the spirit isn’t quite captured by the tale being told. This anthology’s heart is in the ghoulish right place, though, if not completely¬†successful in accomplishing it’s overall goals.

The cast is rather large and even in the weaker episodes they seem to get the tone of the material and are having a good time. We have genre favorites¬†like Lin Shaye, Adrienne Barbeau, Barbara Crampton, Lisa Marie, Caroline Williams and Clare Kramer. There are some veteran actors like Barry Bostwick and John Savage and director cameos such as John Landis, Stuart Gordon, Adam Green and Joe Dante. Then there are also familiar faces like Some Kind Of Hate’s Grace Phipps, Cabin Fever’s Cerina Vincent, Starry Eyes’ Alex Essoe, scream queen Tiffany Shepis and Adrienne Curry as herself, to name a few. Overall a good cast that helps the stories a lot, even when they don’t make the grade.

Tales Of Halloween is far from¬†perfect and doesn’t succeed as much as we’d like. The stories that work are worth watching for and the middle ground stories are amusing¬†enough to check out, too. Even the failures aren’t a complete waste of time and are short enough to be over mercifully quick. While not totally¬†successful, it is a really good idea and hopefully next year, we get another and that one hits the ghoulish mark far more often. Not quite the Halloween classic hoped for, but¬†when it hits it’s stride it’s ghoulish Halloween fun.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 jack-o-lanterns as the stories I liked, I really liked.

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REVIEW: THE LAST SURVIVORS (2014)

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THE LAST SURVIVORS (2014)

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

Formally titled The Well, this post-apocalyptic drama takes place in a world that hasn’t seen rain in ten years. Once lush farm lands are now barren and home to squatters who survive on remote farms with wells that are slowly drying up. If the threat of not having water isn’t great enough, there is the greedy Carson (Jon Gries), a man who seeks to control all the remaining water and will kill anyone on the surrounding lands he finds using the wells. Enter young Kendal (Haley Lu Richardson) and Dean (Booboo Stewart) who¬†live hidden on the ruins of the Wallace Farm For Wayward Youth surviving on an underground well. They have plans to escape, if they can find the right part for the old Cessna on a nearby property. Time is running out, though, as the ill Dean’s kidney’s are failing and Carson is becoming more desperate to rid the land of ‘vagrants’. Soon teen Kendal must¬†choose between leaving¬†Dean and the farm behind, or fight superior odds to save what she holds dear.

Film is well directed by Tom Hammock from his script with Jacob Forman. This isn’t an action flick, per se, and the film is moderately paced, but it is still an engrossing story of survival featuring a very endearing and strong central character in the young Kendal. Despite the looming threat of both running out of water and running into Carson, Kendal moves with a singular focus and that is to get her, Dean and a young boy, Alby (Max Charles) hiding on a neighboring farm, on that plane and out of there. It’s watching this tenacious teenager fighting to keep those around her alive and at the same time, not lose her humanity, that is what drives the film and keeps us watching despite familiar elements for¬†this type of flick. Sure, we have seen many a post-apocalyptic drama with noble survivors and greedy villains, fighting over/hoarding gas or water, but this is more character driven and gives us a strong leading lady to follow. The film does have it’s confrontations and there is some startling bloodshed in the last act, when Kendal’s fragile world starts to collapse and she is forced to go on the offensive. The movie looks good on a low budget with it’s minimal but effective desert setting and properly creates the purveying mood of desolation and gloom, but not without a glimmer of hope via the resilient¬†Kendal.

Hammock hit a home run with the casting of young Haley Lu Richardson as our strong-willed fighter, Kendal. Richardson carries a presence that comes across as natural and delivers a nice range of emotions in an untraditional story and setting. You believe she cares for Dean and Alby and fully believe in the risks she takes to see them safe. In a somewhat similar role, she¬†reminded me a bit of Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone. In the final confrontation with Carson and his thugs, we are rooting for her all the way. As Carson, the underrated Jon Gries creates a man who is so full of his own self-righteousness that he truly believes the water is his and murdering other survivors is actually an act of mercy. He makes an interesting villain and again proves himself a versatile character actor that doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Booboo Stewart is effective as the kind but ailing Dean. It’s easy to see why Kendal cares for him so much and why he is her emotional and moral anchor.¬†Girlhouse‘s Nicole Fox plays Carson’s daughter, Brooke and she is actually far more vicious than her father and outright enjoys the acts of murdering the innocent, while her father makes excuses to justify it. We also get appearances from veterans such as Barbara Crampton, Michael Massee and Rena Owen, who was so good in¬†the powerful New Zealand drama Once Were Warriors.

There are a lot of really familiar story elements that keeps this from completely¬†impacting the viewer, but it’s leading lady keeps us far more interested than we should be with it’s oft told story. Haley Lu Richardson is a star in the making and gives us a character far more worldly and wise than her age would imply. The film is well directed by Tom Hammock and despite it’s intentionally slow burn, it does deliver some action and violence that comes with such a story of survival against overwhelming odds. An impressive starring role for¬†Haley Lu Richardson and an impressive debut from director/writer Tom Hammock who was production designer on The Guest and All The Boys Love Mandy Lane.

-MonsterZero NJ

  3 samurai swords.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: WE ARE STILL HERE (2015)

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WE ARE STILL HERE (2015)

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

We Are Still Here is a supernatural indie horror that serves up some nice chills and surprisingly generous gore, though not quite living up to the internet hype that preceded it…but then again, little ever does.

Story finds older couple Paul and Anne Sacchetti (Andrew Sensenig and Barbara Crampton) moving from the city up to the small rural town of Aylesbury to escape the painful specter of their son Bobby’s recent death. They move into a secluded old house and immediately Anne starts to see and hear things and senses a presence she wants to believe is Bobby. Paul is skeptical and it only gets worse when a neighbor, Dave (Monte Markham) shows up¬†and tells them¬†that the house was a former mortuary and the owners were run out of town for selling the bodies and burying empty coffins. Paul is even slipped a note from the neighbor’s wife telling him “The house needs a family” and to “get out”. To get to the bottom of things, the couple invite their friends over, a hippie couple May and Jacob (Lisa Marie and Larry Fessenden) who have an interest in the paranormal. They come to believe¬†there is a dark presence in the house and they are surrounded by death. What they don’t know is, that the¬†dark presence was awakened long ago when the house was built and every thirty years must be appeased with the sacrifice of a family, or it’s darkness and death will spread from the house to infect the entire town. Is it too late for the Sacchettis and friends to escape‚Ķand will they be allowed to leave?

Horror flick is written and directed by Ted Geoghegan and supposedly inspired by the works of the late, great Lucio Fulci. Geoghegan certainly has the gore part down, as the film gets graphically bloody at times and does have a visual style that is atmospheric and effective. He also does provide a lot of chills and spookiness throughout and the flick is loaded with atmosphere. Geoghegan uses the familiar tropes of the small town with a dark secret, well and there are some extremely gruesome deaths, especially during the blood-spattered finale. So what holds this flick back a bit? First thing is there is a seance/possession sequence with Sensenig and Fessenden, it should be a major scene, but the sequence itself comes off a little clumsy and gets borderline silly. Part of the reason is that filmmaker Fessenden is not a seasoned performer…despite numerous small roles in his fellow filmmaker’s productions…and the scene needed someone with stronger acting chops to really pull it off. It’s not as convincing as it needs to be. The next thing is the gore-soaked final act. It certainly was fun, but it’s not as spooky as the more subtle things that come before it. Everything is out in the open and the blood and organs¬†are flying, but it’s not as atmospheric as when Geoghegan kept things in the shadows with lurking figures and only hinted at the malevolence that surrounded the family. When his vengeful specters are in plain sight ripping people apart, it becomes something¬†more outwardly visceral and less deeply bone-chilling. There is also some shaky dialogue spoken, especially during that sceance/possession scene, as well as, a few of the exposition scenes that weakens their effectiveness. That and if Dave wants the family to stay, why does he keep telling them unsettling stories about the house? Doesn’t make sense.

Technically, this low budget film looks good and the make-up effects by Oddtopsy FX are really well-rendered in presenting our dark spirits and their carnage. There is some very atmospheric cinematography of the New York State locations by Karim Hussain and a fitting score by Wojciech Golczewski (Late Phases). For a low budget flick, production value is top notch.

The cast work well here, for the most part. It’s great to see Barbara Crampton on screen again and she plays the grieving Mrs. Sacchetti very well. We like Anne and she is our emotional anchor for the story. Andrew Sensenig is adequate as her skeptical husband, but his Paul¬†seemed a little¬†bland¬†at times. The character could have used some warmth to make him more accessible. Lisa Marie is a little off as May, but since the character is a bit eccentric to begin with, that may have been intentional and seems to fit the amateur medium. Larry Fessenden is actually amusing as the stoner Jacob and it is only in the seance sequence where his limited range hindered the effectiveness. TV and film vet Monte Markham is solid¬†as neighbor Dave whose knows the truth and has his own agenda. He is our human villain of the flick and makes a good bad guy. There is some weak acting from some of the supporting actors, but it’s not enough to hurt the proceeding to any degree.

Overall, I liked this flick and give it a recommend. It has some really good atmosphere, provides some solid chills and splatters the gore and guts generously, when needed. It has some flaws that keep it from really firing on all cylinders, but it still works very well and certainly is effective enough to make it worth checking out. A solid enough indie horror that shows we may see some interesting things yet from Ted Geoghegan.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 scary specters.

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: RE-ANIMATOR and FROM BEYOND

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This week’s double feature are two films that go very well together, at least in my opinion. They are both from the 80s, both co-written and directed by Stuart Gordon, both are based loosely on the works of H.P. Lovecraft and both star the incomparable Jeffrey Combs and the lovely Barbara Crampton. Not to mention, they are probably two of the best features to come out of Charles Band’s prolific Empire Pictures… certainly the most infamous.

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RE-ANIMATOR (1985)

Based on a story by¬†H.P. Lovecraft, this delightfully fun gore-fest opens in a university in Switzerland with something going frightfully wrong in one of the labs and security and faculty rushing to see what is going on. They burst in to find famed Doctor Hans Gruber (Al Berry) a bloody screaming mess with brilliant student Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) at his side with a syringe. Gruber dies and West is accused of his murder causing him to reply that it was he who gave him life. We then cut to Miskatonic University where West has appeared and seeks to continue his education. He rooms with fellow medical student Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) who is dating Megan Halsey (Barbara Crampton), who is Dean Halsey’s (Robert Sampson) daughter. But West’s true goal is to continue his experiments with defeating death using¬†a serum he’s developed and he begs Cain to assist him. After being given some gruesome proof, involving Cain’s cat, that West’s serum works, he agrees. But one of their experiments goes horribly awry and not only leads to the death…and re-animation…of Dean Halsey, but also gets the unwanted attention of rival Doctor Carl Hill, who wants West’s serum as his own. This sets a series of blood-soaked events in motion that sees corpses rise and headless foes carrying out¬†their own diabolical plot that puts the lives of West, Cain and the lovely Megan in grave danger…emphasis on grave.

Directed by Stuart Gordon, Re-Animator is a really entertaining and deliriously blood-spattered treat that perfectly straddles the line between comedy and horror. And it’s my experience that comedy/horror is one of the hardest types of flicks to make as the blend has to be just right to work‚Ķand Gordon nails it here. There are some set¬†pieces here that are both grotesque and hilarious, such as West and Cain’s first experiment gone wrong and the really over the top morgue-set finale that includes Megan as a nude and bound damsel being menaced by a perverted severed head…it’s the scene this flick is most famous for and I will always have much¬†respect for Barbara Crampton being such a good sport in performing it and with such seriousness.

And while we are on the subject of the cast, they all do a perfect job of taking the material seriously yet adding that touch of theatricality that gives¬†it a¬†much welcome¬†energy and buoyancy despite the gruesome subject matter. Few films with so many severed limbs and so much spurting blood have been this giddy. This is the flick that introduced the genre world to Jeffery Combs who is not only a horror icon, but equally iconic¬†in the world of Star Trek as well. He plays West very seriously, but takes him over the top just enough to delightfully evoke the mad scientist vibe he needs to make his part work. Abbott plays the straight man to West’s demented yet determined scientist and is a noble, if not flawed hero. Crampton’s Megan is basically required to be a feisty girlfriend¬†who¬†mistrusts West and then become a damsel to be rescued, but she’s beautiful and hot and a real sport for her work in the last act that has earned her special status among horror fans. This and her equally racy work in From Beyond make her a real trooper in my book. Rounding out the main cast is Robert Sampson as stern father and school dean Alan Hasley and he seems to play both dean and zombie henchman with equal relish and David Gale provides a truly dispicable villain in Dr. Hill whose villainy extends quite beyond decapitation and death. The performances hit the right notes and keep Gordon’s flick balanced on that horror/comedy line.

The gore FX are excellent and quite disgusting, especially during a final act that sees all manner of corpses, limbs and viscera coming to life and reeking havoc. Again if the FX didn’t work, the film wouldn’t have near the impact it does. Add a witty script by Gordon, Dennis Paoli and William J.Norris and an energetic score by Richard Band and you have a cult classic movie that hits all the right marks and doesn’t miss a beat. One of my favorite horrors and one I can proudly say I was able to catch it in a theater…the Hyway Cinema in Fairlawn, N.J. to be exact…back in the day in 1985. A fun, gory good time!

-MonsterZero NJ

4 disembodied heads.

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FROM BEYOND (1986)

Stuart Gordon followed up his cult hit Re-Animator with another H.P. Lovecraft inspired story, this one about experiments to expand the senses into other dimensions. The result is a weird, sometimes kinky and moderately¬†entertaining film, but it didn’t live up to the instant classic it followed…which¬†admittedly, were big shoes to fill…though it has developed a cult following of it’s own.

The film opens with scientists Dr. Crawford Tillinghast (Jeffrey Combs) and Dr. Edward Pretorius (Ted Sorel) initiating The Resonator, a machine that uses sound waves to stimulate the pineal gland in the human brain which would allow one to see into other dimensions. The experiment works until something from another dimension sees them back. The result is Pretorius left without a head and Tillinghast driven out of his. The young scientist is institutionalized and the authorities want answers. Enter beautiful Dr. Katherine McMichaels (Barbara Crampton), a psychologist who volunteers to take Crawford back to the Pretorius house to determine if he¬†is truly crazy or if they really did unleash something through their experiments. Accompanied by Det. Bubba Brownlee (Ken Foree), the three try to restart The Resonator and piece together what happened that fateful night. But the more Dr. McMichaels sees of the accomplishments the two men made, the more she is seduced by needing to push the experiment further. And despite Crawford’s dire warnings, Katherine unleashes a horror upon the three that none of them may escape.

From Beyond is a far more serious and ambitious flick then Re-Animator and could have used a bit more of that film’s theatrical¬†tone. Gordon directs with a far more somber and dark feel¬†then his last flick, despite the borderline goofiness of some of what goes on. While there is a smattering of humor, the comic aspects of his re-animated corpse epic are gone and replaced with a bit of a surreal atmosphere with a touch of S&M, as he once again portrays science gone too far. This time his story focuses on heightening the senses of the living and not raising the dead…and it’s not as much fun and not always successful as the film sometimes seems to bite off more then it can chew for it’s small budget. The FX this time are not limited to gore, but various creatures including the constantly evolving monstrosity that Pretorius has become, now that his twisted mind is taking physical form on the other side. The production tries to accomplish The Thing-like creatures with a fraction of the budget and the FX are mixed, with some being quite effective and others being rubbery or just plain unconvincing. Another thing is that the film is shot entirely on sound stages and it shows. The film never quite looks real. More like a filmed play than a movie.

A big plus though, is that the cast are all good. Combs plays more of a victim here, a man mentally wounded by what he has seen and experienced and he is fine, though, except for a few really bizarre and over the top moments, he seems a bit¬†wasted somewhat as it’s becomes Crampton’s show. And Barbara Crampton does shine as she gets a far meatier part from Gordon and co-scripters Brian Yuzna and Dennis Paoli. She starts out as a young doctor resented for her accomplishments at her youthful age and then slowly turns mad scientist as the experiment’s allure pulls her in. Once again she is a trooper for Gordon as the pineal gland stimulation also controls sexual urges and Dr. McMichaels gets her dominatrix on in the film’s most notorious scene and gets her pretty flesh again ravaged by prosthetic horrors. Next we have¬†the always delightful Ken Foree as the big teddy bear cop who has some of the best moments and lines. Not sure why Foree never became a bigger star. He can play a tough guy and has charm and charisma to spare and it’s on full display here. Rounding out is Ted Sorel who is dripping with malice and madness as Pretorius, but we see little of him not covered in pounds of latex monster make-up¬†and not getting to know him well limits him to being a fairly generic villain, though well played.

But the biggest flaw with From Beyond is it’s weak script. The dialog is hokey, the science is obviously more science fiction…which is¬†fine…and¬†it really needed to flesh out the characters and situations a bit more, and at least Gordon is lucky his cast helped out on the character front, adding some dimension to their portrayals.¬†We could have used a clearer idea¬†of what lurked in this other dimension to establish a deeper threat and a more gradual portrayal of the effects it has on the house occupants. They transform way to fast¬†and the film’s¬†over too quickly before we really feel the story’s¬†accomplished anything other then the time-honored ‘leave well enough alone’ moral. What really was the point other then to shower the screen with goo and gore and get the shapely Ms. Crampton into a leather corset…not that I mind. The film is almost a series of set-pieces more then a complete movie with a smooth narrative flow. Sure we were entertained somewhat,the film has it’s degree of fun, but we’re never swept off our feet like with Re-Animator and sadly, Gordon has never again hit his stride or equalled his accomplishment with that classic.

Overall, I do like From Beyond. It’s got a midnight movie feel, some unintentionally¬†goofy goings on and definitely benefits from the 80s nostalgia now, too. But it is a bit of a disappointment after Re-Animator and once it’s over you just get the feeling there was potential there to achieve a lot more even with what they had to work with. An amusing diversion that is fun¬†enough when viewed from a guilty pleasure perspective, but could have been something more, or at least had a little more fun with what it was.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 saucy psychologists.

from beyond rating

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