TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: BODY BAGS (1993)

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BODY BAGS (1993)

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Body Bags is a made for TV anthology the was produced, partially directed, and hosted by the great John Carpenter for Showtime in 1993. It’s an anthology of three unrelated stories linked by a morgue set framing segment with a creepy attendant (John Carpenter) relating the stories behind his latest corpses.

The first story is directed by Carpenter and is the best. The Gas Station is set in Haddonefield and finds a pretty night shift gas station attendant (Alex Datcher) on her first night of duty with a serial killer on the loose. It’s a spooky and suspenseful segment with Robert Carradine and David Naughton also starring and fun cameo appearances by the likes of Wes Craven and Sam Raimi along with Carpenter regulars Buck Flower and Peter Jason.

Second story is also directed by Carpenter and is sadly the weakest. The satirical Hair tells the story of vain middle aged Richard (Stacy Keach), who is frantic over his thinning hair. His sexy girlfriend Megan (Sheena Easton) doesn’t mind, but Richard is desperate. He turns to a TV pitchman, Dr. Lock (David Warner) who claims he can regrow lost hair with a revolutionary new process. Richard goes for it, but to his horror finds out you must be careful what you wish for, as his new hair seems to have a life of it’s own. Segment is well done, but more humorous and silly than scary. The segment also stars legendary singer Deborah Harry as a sexy nurse.

Third and final segment rebounds a bit with Tobe Hooper’s Eye. This segment finds minor league baseball player and expectant father Brent (Mark Hamill) loosing one of his eyes in a car accident. His career potentially over, he turns to a Dr. Lang (John Agar) who claims he has a new eye transplanting procedure that he’d like to try on Brent. His sight is restored, but while on recovery he starts to have strange visions and his behavior begins to change. Soon he finds out that his eye belonged to a serial killer and that killer might still somehow be possessing his eyes new owner. It has some very effective moments, a good performance by Hamill and some decent gore. Segment also stars singer/actress Twiggy as Brent’s wife and the legendary Roger Corman as Brent’s original doctor.

The three stories and wraparound were written by Billy Brown and Dan Angel and they could have used a bit more inventiveness, especially with the story similarities within the last two tales. Nonetheless they are all entertaining and with such guidance as Hooper and Carpenter, make for an entertaining enough 90 minutes. Carpenter seems to be having a blast playing the morgue attendant and his first segment shows he still has that magic. Originally this was intended to be a series, but for whatever reasons, it never happened beyond this initial flick.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 body bags.

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: NECRONOMICON (1993)

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NECRONOMICON (1993)

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This is actually a fun anthology the uses the amusing framing story of H.P. Lovecraft (Jeffrey Combs) himself visiting the library of a mysterious sect of monks and sneaking a look at the forbidden book of the title and thus unleashing three stories based on actual works of the author. Now we know where he got his inspiration.

First story, The Drowned, is the best and most Lovecraftian of the three tales. It’s directed by Christophe Gans (Brotherhood Of The Wolf) and written by Gans and Brent V. Friedman. It tells the tragic tale of Edward De LaPoer (Bruce Payne) who has recently lost his wife in a terrible drowning accident and now has inherited a run-down, old seaside hotel from a distant uncle. He discovers the original owner of the building Jethro De La Poer (Richard Lynch) also lost his family tragically at sea and used a book called the Necronomicon to resurrect them. Not heeding how horribly Jethro’s story turned out, Edward finds where the book is hidden in the house and plots to resurrect his own lost love. This story is very well acted by Payne and has some of the best SPFX of the anthology in it’s presentation of resurrected ghouls and Cthulhu-like creatures. It has a nice atmosphere of dread and a great visual look from Gans. As far as evoking Lovecraft, this segment nails it perfectly.

Second story, The Cold, is entertaining, too as it finds nosey and obnoxious reporter Dale Porkel (Dennis Christopher) confronting a woman (Bess Meyer) in an old Boston house as to the whereabouts of the original owner, a Dr. Madden (David Warner). Madden is suspected of being over 100 years-old and Porkel claims he can tie him into a series of disappearances unless the women tells him everything. Be careful what you wish for, as Porkel gets a tale of love, murder and trying to cheat death that is chilling in more ways than one. Another entertaining story, this one directed by the 90s Gamera series’ director Shusuke Kaneko and written by Friedman and Kazunori Ito. This segment combines a tragic love story with a gruesome tale of a scientist trying to cheat death while at the cost of the lives of others. It earns it’s title from the fact that Madden’s cheating of death only works at very low temperatures. The segment is well done, has some very good FX and the cast all perform well, especially David Warner as the ill-fated Madden. Christopher lays it on a little thick, but is only in the beginning and end of the segment.

Final story, Whispers is the weakest, but still provides skin-crawling entertainment. It’s written by Brent V. Friedman and Brian Yuzna, who also directed the segment. This tells the story of a cop (Signy Coleman) who is pregnant from her partner Paul (Obba Babatundé). Her overly emotional state while in pursuit of a mysterious suspect called The Butcher, causes an accident that allows the injured Paul to be taken hostage. She pursues them into what appears to be an abandoned building, but soon finds there is an unspeakable and otherworldly horror waiting for her and her unborn child in it’s depths. Segment is OK, but marred by some over-the-top and uneven acting and a story that’s too contemporary to fit in comfortably with the previous old-fashioned tales. What we finally find in it’s lower levels is gruesome and unnerving and well portrayed by some charming prosthetic effects and Yuzna does have a cinematic style that works well with the subject matter. The story is entertaining, but not as much as what came before and it also lacks the other stories’ charm, though it does have some of the most unsettling visuals.

Obviously, after the final tale, we finish the framing story of H.P. Lovecraft’s search and seizure of the Necronomicon and hint at possible future installments which sadly never happened. The framing segments are fun and also directed by Brian Yuzna and co-written with Brent V. Friedman. This segment has a charming old-fashioned movie serial feel and does get to have a little fun with prosthetic make-up FX in it’s last act. Too bad the film never took off enough to continue the adventures of Coombs’ H.P. Lovecraft. That might have been fun.

This is, overall, an entertaining movie. The stories may be uneven, but they do capture the flavor of the celebrated horror author’s work and the wraparound story actually involving Lovecraft is charming and fun. The FX throughout are delightful prosthetics, gore, miniatures and rubber creatures with some slightly cheesy visual FX that are all the more fun for it. The cast are fairly solid, accept for a few overdone performances, such as in the last story, but are balanced out by the strong work of Payne, Lynch, Warner and the always welcome Jeffery Combs. A fun and nostalgic anthology that deserves a decent blu-ray release!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 necronomicons.

necronomicon rating

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: WAXWORK (1988)

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WAXWORK (1988)

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Waxwork is a fun horror flick written and directed by Anthony Hickox that imbues the lighter toned, more colorful style of horror flicks that were made in the second half of the 80s like Fright Night and some of the later Elm Street sequels.

The story has a group of college kids including Mark (Zach Galligan), his ex, China (Michelle Johnson), Sarah (Deborah Foreman) and Tony (Dana Ashbrook) being invited to a special midnight viewing at a new waxwork that has opened, oddly, in the middle of a suburban neighborhood. The invitation is extended by it’s mysterious owner Mr. Lincoln (David Warner) himself. All the fiends of fiction and fact are represented, such as Dracula (Miles O’Keeffe), The Wolfman (John Rhys-Davies) and the Marquis de Sade (J.Kenneth Campbell). But what our young visitors don’t know, is that through the darkest magic, each display must claim a living victim and once they all do, the represented horrors will take real form and enter our world to commit their evils upon mankind. Can these youths escape and save our world from it’s worst nightmares come true?

Hickox crafts a fun horror that certainly doesn’t skimp on the blood and gore. His plot enables the intended victims to enter a portal into the world of the subject it’s display represents, so his co-eds and characters can come face to face with Dracula, The Mummy and the cruel and lustful Marquis. The results can be deviously gruesome until our leads figure out what is going on and then try to stop the diabolical Lincoln and his plan, which then culminates in a fun free-for-all between the fiends of lore and a group of armed monster fighters led by our remaining students and the Van Helsing-like Sir Wilfred (Patrick Macnee), who knew Mark’s grandfather. The only thing that takes this entertaining monster movie down a few pegs…and some of Hickox’s other films…is that the writer/director can be heavy handed with the humor. For the most part there is an even mix of gruesome, scary and campy fun, but occasionally things get silly right in the middle of a scene that should be a bit more intense. There are some delightfully gory sequences and the gore and make-up is well done, but then we get something more of a slapstick nature that neuters the effect of the more intense moments, especially during the last act brawl. For the most part things are evenly mixed and this rates as Hickox best and probably most renown of his flicks. Some of the director’s later films, including the sub-par Waxwork sequel, get very heavy handed with the humor and it out weighs the horror elements quite a bit. At least here, it is only occasional. There is some nice suspense, too, especially in the first half when we are finding out the true sinister purpose of the wax museum and it is all very colorful under Gerry Lively’s lens. And the sequences inside the various worlds of the monsters that dwell in them are the best parts.

The cast are fine though I felt the younger members could have been a bit livelier, especially in the earlier scenes. Galligan plays the rich playboy Mark who finds the hero inside himself when he discovers there is a personal involvement for him in stopping Lincoln’s sinister plan. Deborah Foreman is cute and feisty as the girl next door, who secretly crushes on Mark and shows an interesting hidden side when thrust into the Marquis de Sade’s world. Johnson is sexy and snooty as China and she shows some real fire when she finds herself at a dinner party at Dracula’s castle, the film’s most gruesome segment. Dana Ashbrook is fine as the stereotypical wiseass, Tony. David Warner is top notch, as always, as the villainous Lincoln and Patrick Macnee is a pleasure, also, as always, as the paranormal expert and monster hunter Sir Wilfred. As for our legendary fiends, O’Keeffe, Rhys-Davies and Campbell and the rest all represent their monsters well in their sequences. A good enough cast who rise to the occasion when things get interesting.

I like Waxwork. It’s fun and gruesome at the same time and get’s things right more than it stumbles. Some of the humor gets a bit heavy handed and silly at times, but for the most part, the mix of humor and horror is fine. The veterans of the cast shine and while there could have been a bit more spark in our college co-eds, they do come through when their characters find themselves in situations from their worst nightmares…or desires. A fun flick and sadly a stride Hickox would never really hit again except for the entertaining Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth. There was a sadly inferior direct to DVD sequel Waxwork II: Lost In Time four years later.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 (out of 4) surprisingly pro-de Sade heroines.

waxwork rating

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