RANDOM NONSENSE: JUST BEFORE DAWN ARRIVES ON BLU-RAY!

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JUST BEFORE DAWN ARRIVES ON BLU-RAY!

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The cult classic slasher Just Before Dawn came out on a new edition blu-ray on 1/12/21 and mine arrived from Amazon today! It’s currently only $19.95 and comes with a nice selection of extras. Not only does it have the original uncut version, but an extended international cut that is about 10 minutes longer. It has interviews from 2019 with cast members Gregg Henry, Chris Lemmon and Jamie Rose, along with Producer David Sheldon. It also features a vintage featurette with actors Chris Lemmon, Jamie Rose and John Hunsaker, along with co-writer Mark Arywitz and producer David Sheldon. Last but not least, it includes the original trailer. There will be a full review for the disc once I get to check it out, but it already sounds like a bargain!
Check out MonsterZero NJ’s review for this flick here

MonsterZero NJ

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REVIEW: TERMINATOR-DARK FATE (2019)

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TERMINATOR-DARK FATE (2019)

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Ironically, in Terminator fashion, this new chapter goes back in time to erase it’s past, eliminating, Rise of the Machines, Salvation and Genisys from it’s timeline. The film opens in South America in 1998, a year after the averted Judgement Day was supposed to, but didn’t, occur. Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) is living there as a fugitive with John (Edward Furlong). They may have misjudged Skynet’s game plan, as another Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) arrives to complete it’s mission. The story then moves to 2020, with a new kind of Terminator, a Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna), appearing in Mexico to hunt factory worker Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes). Arriving to protect her is technologically enhanced super-soldier Grace (Mackenzie Davis). Intercepting Grace and Dani is Sarah Connor (Hamilton) who has been hunting and destroying Terminators since we last saw her decades earlier. The question is…if Skynet was destroyed, avoiding Judgement Day, who is sending new Terminators and why are they after Dani? Worse still, the answers may lie in the memory banks of an old enemy.

Direct sequel to T2 is directed very well by Tim Miller (Deadpool) from a script and story by six people, including producer James Cameron, who returns to the franchise. Usually that many writers is a problem, but the script works very well in explaining how new Terminators are coming from the future when Skynet does not exist. It works very well and Miller’s solid direction, especially in the action sequences, helps get past the familiarities. We are kept in suspense as to why Dani is now a target and are given glimpses of a future that is once again apocalyptic, though for a somewhat different reason. Having Grace upgraded for Terminator combat makes sense and the new Rev-9 makes the lethal machines scary again, despite the whole Terminator of the month feel at this point. The only thing that the six writers didn’t pull off so well, is the reason for Arnold’s T-800 to be an ally. He is now a drapery installer named “Carl” and has an adopted family who haven’t yet figured out he’s a machine. What? He also has developed a conscience being without any guidance from Skynet and want’s to right past wrongs by helping Sarah, Grace and Dani…again, WHAT? Despite this plot hiccup, Arnold has some solid action moments battling Luna’s Rev-9 and does provide some humor that the film needs after all the explosions and bloodletting, this is a hard R, after all. On a production level the effects are top notch, the Mexican and Southwestern US locations give the film a bit of a fresh look and feel and the finale is quite exciting and fitting. There is some crisp cinematography by Ken Seng and Tom Holkenborg provides a good score when Brad Fiedel’s original theme isn’t being used to give it that Terminator flavor.

Miller is supported by a good cast. Linda Hamilton is great as the angrier, older and even more bitter Sarah. Her arrival gives goosebumps and it should, as she is a legendary figure in modern cinematic pop culture. Pretty Natalia Reyes makes an impression as Dani. She starts out a terrified girl and transforms into a fighter over the course of the film, much like Sarah first did over three decades earlier. Mackenzie Davis is noble and strong as Grace. Sort of the “Kyle Reese” part, an enhanced soldier to protect Dani from harm. A welcome addition to the franchise. Gabriel Luna is an intimidating Terminator as the Rev-9. Each film tries to up the game with it’s new model, but here they concentrate more on his lethality than gimmicky abilities. It works. Rounding out, while the story behind Arnold’s T-800 “Carl” being present is the only thing that didn’t click here, It is a return to form in many ways and it’s fun to see him back in action. Still not sure why he’s become the source of humor in this franchise, when he was so formidable in the first flick, but Arnold pulls it off.

In conclusion, it’s still the best Terminator sequel since T2, even if a lot of the elements are still familiar. The script explains well how the story can continue after the events of T2, even if it’s subplot of Arnold as the T-800 comes across as silly and preposterous. Some solid action scenes, a good cast and some excellent effects combined with an intense and suspenseful climax, help it overcome any story issues and also helps one overlook some of the lesser entries that preceded it. At least for this entry, this franchise is back to being a well-oiled machine.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) T-800s.

 

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW (1988)

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serpent and the rainbow

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THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW (1988)

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Flick is an entertaining supernatural thriller from director Wes Craven and supposedly based on a true story. It tells the tale of anthropologist Dennis Alan (Bill Pullman) who specializes in bringing exotic medicines and rare herbal remedies back to pharmaceutical companies for use in modern medicine. He is hired by the Biocorp to go to Haiti and investigate tales of a man named Christophe (Conrad Roberts) who allegedly died, was buried, and yet, has been seen walking around alive years later. They believe it to be the work of some kind of drug used in Voodoo ceremonies and want Dennis to get it. Alan takes the assignment and along with a pretty Haitian doctor (Cathy Tyson) delves deep into the Voodoo subculture to find this ‘magical’ powder. While on his mission he attracts the attention of the cruel and powerful captain of Haiti’s secret police (Zakes Moakae) and Dennis Alan may soon wish he never come to Haiti…if he even makes it out alive.

Craven delivers Richard Maxwell and Adam Rodman’s script as more of a straightforward supernatural thriller for the most part and it is entertaining as such. He keeps us wondering if some of the supernatural elements are products of hallucinations due to the power of belief, locally made drugs and good old smoke and mirrors. It’s not till the last act that we realize there is some kind of dark magic going on here and then Craven allows his film to end with a more theatrical and somewhat over-the-top finale. This works as it keeps the film grounded for the most part than cuts loose with some Nightmare On Elm Street-like dream sequences and theatrics for it’s final confrontation. Craven’s film’s have frequently used dreams sequences all the way back to Last House On The Left and it is something Craven is good at and his visual style really comes alive in them. With the subject of Voodoo and hallucination, Craven can indulge himself and not have it get intrusive. There are a few moments that teeter on getting silly, but, for the most part it is chilling and entertaining and Craven maintains an atmosphere of foreboding as Pullman’s Alan delves deeper into a world he should leave alone. There are definitely some tense moments of both the supernatural and all too real nature and these sequences are quite effective. The make-up FX are good in portraying the bloodletting and corpses, though, the fleetingly used visual effects are a bit cheesy by today’s standards. We have a very atmospheric score by Terminator‘s Brad Fiedel and John Lindley captures Craven’s visual style and the exotic locations quite well, adding to the overall mood of exotic horror. It’s a story that gives Craven a chance to do something a little different and yet, played to his strengths. Not as engrossing as his best work but, a fun and spooky movie nonetheless.

Bill Pullman fits the roil of Dennis Alan well. He is a bit smug, but, not to the point of unlikable and of course, his experiences here humble the confident adventurer. He portrays a man who has been everywhere and seen much but, might have finally gotten in over his head. He does have a nobility and that may be the element of his personality that keeps us rooting for him even when he is cocky. Cathy Tyson makes for a good heroine, though she does become a more routine damsel in distress in the last act, and as a romantic lead is pretty and serves her role. Zakes Mokae makes a very memorable and creepy villain. He would be disturbing enough as the cruel captain of the secret police with a taste for torture but, his Dargent Peytraud is also a powerful black magic practitioner with a hobby of collecting souls. The South African actor brings a menace and brutality to the man, sometimes with just a smirk and a glare. We also have Paul Winfield and Brent Jennings as locals with a little magic of their own.

In conclusion, this may not be one of Craven’s best but, it is a fun movie and has plenty of creepy moments, as well as, some bloody ones too. Things may skirt the line between over-the-top and silly in the last act in a few spots, but, they stay on the correct side and it gives us a more theatrical finale after a  grounded build-up. The cast are all suitable with Pullman a likable hero and Mokae a very disturbing villain. A solid and entertaining enough supernatural thriller that ranks along with The People Under The Stairs and Deadly Blessing as one of Craven’s more moderate but enjoyable films.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 skulls.

as above so below rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: JUST BEFORE DAWN (1981)

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just before dawn

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JUST BEFORE DAWN (1981)

“Keep breeding in the same family and something’s bound to snap.”

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

 After revisiting Jeff Lieberman’s Squirm I decided to check out his 1981 slasher Just Before Dawn. I honestly don’t remember if I have ever seen it before and as I watched it, nothing rang a bell, so this may be the first time watching this flick for me. The film follows the late 70s’ early 80s slasher formula and adds a hint of Chainsaw Massacre, as it tells the story of five youths who travel up to some recently inherited property deep in the remote Oregon mountains. Despite the ominous warnings of old park ranger, Mr. McLean (George Kennedy) and the appearance of a drunk and quite frightened hunter (Mike Kellin), they enter the woods to enjoy the great outdoors. Obviously there are some local inhabitants who are not exactly thrilled at the intrusion and have a violent way of showing it…of course had the warnings these kids received been less vague…

Co-written… with Mark Arywitz and Jonas Middleton…and directed by Lieberman, this backwoods slasher is moderately paced much like his Squirm and generally most of the horrors of this era. The body count is fairly small and despite a gruesome opening scene kill, a lot of the carnage occurs off-screen. But the film does have a nice atmosphere and there is something just a little off about the flick to make it interesting, despite being fairly routine on the surface. I wouldn’t say it’s a strange movie outright, but there is something a bit odd about it that I can’t quite put my finger on and this slightly unsettling aspect did give it some extra points. The film is well shot by Dean and Joel King and the music by Brad Fiedel is creepy and adds some atmosphere to it as well. Throw in some 80s nostalgia and this was a decent enough 80s horror flick to pass the time.

The cast are a bit livelier than Lieberman’s Squirm. George Kennedy is solid as always. Gregg (Slither) Henry is our lead male and he is fine as the cocky Warren who actually surprises us a bit by losing some of that swagger when things start to go wrong. Cutie Deborah Benson is Warren’s girlfriend Connie, who also surprises us when this fish out of water rises to the occasion against the serrated machete wielding mountain folk. Rounding out our young vacationers are Jaime Rose as the promiscuous Megan, Chris Lemmon as Jonathan and Ralph (Pee Wee’s Big Adventure) Seymour as Jonathan’s photographer brother, Daniel. They are all suitable in their roles as potential mountain folk fodder and are an attractive cast, as is the custom with these flicks. The rest of the supporting cast are appropriately creepy playing various mountain locals including pretty Katie Powell as Merry and big John Hunsaker as the deranged blade carrying killer. Hunsacker also gives his loony a bit of an off-putting sense of humor to add to his imposing size and inbred looks.

I liked this flick. On the outside it is a routine backwoods slasher, but there was enough atmosphere and odd touches throughout to keep me entertained despite the low body count and lengthy stretches between kills. There wasn’t much suspense, but the film had enough of the traditional elements to keep my attention and a few off-kilter moments, too. Not a bad flick to throw in with the more renown classics, especially when watching some 80s slashers during the Halloween season, or with a summer slasher marathon!

Rated 3 (out of 4) serrated machetes.

before the dawn rating

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