CEMETERY OF TERROR aka CEMENTERIO DEL TERROR (1985)
Mexican horror takes place on Halloween night with a group of youths going to an abandoned house to party. In the house they find a book of occult rituals and spells and as a prank, decide to steal a body from the morgue and try to raise it from the dead at a local cemetery. What could go wrong? Of course, the teens pick the body of Satan worshipping serial killer, Devlon (José Gómez Parcero) and soon Devlon is back from the dead and slaughtering the partiers back at the abandoned house. The only person who stands in the way, as a group of young trick or treaters finds themselves in the undead killer’s path, too, is Dr. Cardan (Hugo Stieglitz), a professor who knows all about Devlon’s powers and might be able to stop him.
Flick is directed by Rubén Galindo Jr. from his script with Carlos Valdemar and while it is a hodge-podge of films we’ve seen before, it is spooky fun. Galindo knows the trappings of a horror flick, especially one set on Halloween, and fills the flick with creepy trees, fog, spooky old houses, tombstone filled graveyards and plenty of gore. There is a lot of blood and the FX are well rendered and Devlon is a scary enough villain along with his horde of zombies, which burst out of their graves in the last act. It’s nothing new, but is a lot of fun and is also very 80s. Part Spookies and part Halloween, this is an entertaining horror for All Hallows Eve, as long as you don’t mind subtitles and that the switch of focus from teens to kids, in the last act, makes the film more kid-centric for it’s finale.
Cemetery of Terror might evoke some flicks you’ve seen before, but is made by a filmmaker who knows how to have a good time with the familiar tropes and use the familiar story elements well. Dumb, sex crazed teenagers, reanimated killers, zombies, gore and graveyards are all put to good use in this tale of horrors on Halloween night. We have both kids and teens in peril and the Mexican version of Dr. Loomis racing to the rescue. It’s a good time Halloween horror from South of the Border that fits in nicely with any All Hallows Eve flick. Available on Blu-ray from the awesome folks at Vinegar Syndrome.
Rated 3 (out of 4) jack o lanterns!
WNUF HALLOWEEN SPECIAL (2013)
Comedy/horror is made to resemble a VHS copy of a Halloween night newscast from 1987. It features intrepid reporter Frank Stewart (Paul Fahrenkopf) entering a supposedly haunted house on live TV with a pair of paranormal investigators (Brian St. August and Helenmary Ball) and a priest (Robert Long II). Things obviously don’t go as planned. Throughout the broadcast there are numerous faux commercials.
Flick is written and directed by a host of filmmakers, too many to mention here. Despite having a beloved reputation, the WNUF Halloween Special is not funny enough to be entertaining as a comedy and doesn’t take itself seriously enough to be a spooky horror. The gimmick of being a network broadcast wears out before it’s over, as do the faux commercials which get very repetitive in both style, tone and yes, some actually repeat numerous times. It gets tiresome. As for the nostalgia element, the makers nail the look of a VHS recording of something off of TV and the style and tone of the material does match local cable TV shows and commercials of that era. Maybe they just should have gone one way or the other with the comedy or horror and kept the runtime at about an hour, rather than 83 minutes, to avoid the schtick wearing out before it concludes. The effort is appreciated, but after years of hearing about it, the WNUF Halloween Special disappointed upon finally viewing it on Amazon.
THEY LIVE INSIDE US (2020)
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Flick from the makers of the The Witching Season web anthology takes one of those tales and expands it to feature length. The story is simple. Writer Jake (James Morris) is looking for inspiration, so he and his daughter Dani (Emily Broschinsky) stay in a haunted house on Halloween. The Booth House has a past filled with witches, madmen and murder and Jake may get more inspiration than he bargained for.
They Live Inside Us is written and directed by Michael Ballif and acts as both stand alone film and an anthology film in itself, as we visualize Jake’s various story ideas as he writes them. These segments are filled with Halloween imagery and many of the popular tropes, such as masked killers, living scarecrows and killer clowns (each played by lead Morris) all chasing a pretty woman (Hailey Nebeker). In between the segments, we see writer Jake slowly feeling and seeing the effects of staying in an allegedly cursed house with a terrible past. It’s not quite as fun as the bits born of his writing ideas, but it certainly has it’s spooky moments as the house brings Jake’s tales and it’s own story to life. A Halloween horror would not be complete without some spooky reveals and Baliff provides them in a chilling last act. It’s moderately paced, but that suits the type of story it is. On a production level, the film looks good. Ballif has a really strong visual eye, especially for the All Hallow’s Eve inspired stuff and his cinematography gives this some nice atmosphere and Halloween spirit. There is also a really cool house location and a very atmospheric score by the aptly named Randin Graves.
The cast is solid. James Morris is good as Jake. He could have been livelier in a few scenes, but nails it when it counts, such as his scenes with dead wife Cynthia (Stevie Dutson). He also has fun playing all the film’s Halloween creepers. Emily Broschinsky is good as Jake’s precocious, paraplegic daughter Dani. The two actors have a nice chemistry together and sell being father and daughter well. Hailey Nebeker gets to show various degrees of fear as the “Woman in White” in Jake’s stories. The actress does however, get to do a bit more once Jake’s stories and the house’s history collide.
This movie shows a lot of love for the spooky season and of horror films in general from Michael Baliff. It’s not perfect, but one can really see the labor of love put into it and Baliff’s passion for all things Halloween and horror, show through. Baliff knows the tropes well and knows how to use them effectively. It’s certainly worth a look and has enough spooky moments to make it a nice new flick for watching during The Witching Season. Available to rent on streaming networks such as Amazon Prime and on blu-ray.
Rated 3 (out of 4) pumpkins.
I know this is the Movie Madhouse, but I will review a book now and then, one that I really loved, or one that pertains to the movie world…and what pertains more than a tale of Halloween night that is as ripe for filming as the perfect pumpkin is for picking!
DARK HARVEST by NORMAN PARTRIDGE
Entertaining Halloween tale takes place in 1963 and finds a small town with a strange All Hallow’s Eve tradition. Each year on October 31st a pumpkin headed figure, grown in a cornfield, made of vines, stalks and filled with candy, descends on this rural Midwestern town. The teen males of this small municipality have till midnight to hunt the “October Boy” down and destroy it, before it can make it to the church in the middle of town. Wealth and fame are awarded to the winner, along with the freedom to leave town. Pete McCormick vows to win “The Run” this year and use his victory to get out of this small dead-end place…until he learns the truth about The Run and The October Boy.
Story by Norman Partridge is a very atmospheric Halloween tale filled with imagery of the season, such as corn stalks, jack o’ lanterns and, of course, a pumpkin headed being with a carved face and glowing light emanating from within. We have a strong hero in Pete, who wants to get away from this small town and his alcoholic father. A tough, likable heroine with Pete’s ally, Kelly Haines, a girl defiantly entering a boys only event, and a solid villain in the vicious Officer Ricks, who has more to do with The Run than at first appears. As for The October Boy, he is a more well-rounded character than one might expect from a monster…or is he? You’ll have to read this fast paced tale to find out the truth as Pete does. At only 169 pages it moves like a rocket and has plenty of action and bloody violence, as this year’s Run doesn’t go quite as planned. The reveals have impact and the only disappointment was not knowing more about the origin’s of The Run and of the mysterious Harvester’s Guild at it’s center. Otherwise, this is a fun and atmospheric tale for a breezy October night and one desperately in need of being adapted to the big screen!
Rated 3 (out of 4) jack o’ lanterns!
TAKING SHAPE: DEVELOPING HALLOWEEN FROM SCRIPT TO SCREAM
by DUSTIN McNEILL and TRAVIS MULLINS
Taking Shape: Developing Halloween From Script To Scream was a really fun and informative read that is a must for any fan of the Halloween film franchise. Dustin McNeill and Travis Mullins use a host of interviews and quotes from a variety of people involved in the productions, from John Carpenter’s original classic to Rob Zombies re-imaginings to the newest installment released in 2018. We get script and story development on all the films, accounts of the production shoots, unmade script details and sometimes tales of development hell, scarier than the films themselves, when attempted sequels fell victim to artistic differences and studio interference. It’s a fast and fun read and one that gives a detailed account of the making of one of horror’s most renown series from many of those who were involved. A recommended read for anyone who is a fan of this classic franchise, or horror movies and filmmaking in general.
In 2015 at a Halloween party in the town of Benton, N.Y., Patrick Weaver (Thom Niemann) or “Trick” goes crazy, killing five of his high school classmates and injuring several others, until stopped by pretty schoolmate Cheryl (Kristina Reyes). At the hospital, Trick makes a daring escape attempt while being questioned by Det. Mike Denver (Omar Epps) and Sheriff Lisa Jayne (Ellen Adair). He’s shot several times, falls out a second story window and wanders off collapsing into a nearby river. He’s presumed dead, but the body is never found and each Halloween after, a masked killer shows up in a nearby town on the river and kills a number of people before vanishing. As Trick starts to become famous as an internet Halloween boogeyman, Denver vows to hunt him down and stop him. With evidence leading to Trick’s return to Benton for Halloween 2019, Denver, Sheriff Jayne and Cheryl prepare to meet the killer head on.
Trick is written by My Bloody Valentine 2009 and Drive Angry duo Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier and directed by Lussier. The two were once involved with an official Halloween sequel that never got made and maybe this is the result of that disappointment. And Trick is a bit of a disappointment, as it is kind of a mixed bag of Halloween candy. The script has a number of plot holes and while most horror flicks do, these are a bit jarring, such as why no one in school remembers what Patrick Weaver looked like. It’s a weak contrivance so no one recognizes him when he’s among them and to try to add an air of mystery to him. Lussier directs this flick very by-the-numbers, too and the first hour of the flick seems rushed and devoid of any atmosphere as the story tries to quickly establish Trick as the new boogeyman of All Hallow’s Eve. In fact, it tries way too hard and that forced approach doesn’t make Trick click. It follows the formula a bit too closely and thus seems more like a copy of Carpenter’s classic, early on, than a sincere effort. Things do settle down and Lussier does start to generate some tension and atmosphere once Halloween and Trick arrive in Benton, especially in a scene set in a haunted maze attraction. The last act goes a bit off the rails as the writers try to add a few twists during it’s hospital set conclusion and it takes the flick in a bit of a different direction, which may divide viewers as to whether it works or not. There is some really good gore along the way, though the film looses some points for some awful CGI blood for gunshot hits. The upstate New York settings were a refreshing change from the usual small Midwestern town and it’s too bad they couldn’t have infused the film with more of the Halloween spirit that the upstate New York area has this time of year. It’s a little flat in that department. Again, it tries too hard. Trick’s initial double-sided pumpkin mask and freaky knife are kinda cool, but the new Michael Myers, he sadly is not.
Cast is Good. Omar Epps actually does very well in the Dr. Loomis by way of Fox Mulder role. A veteran detective who is forced into retirement due to his obsession with Trick. Ellen Adair is Scully to Epps’ Mulder as the town sheriff that refuses, at first, to believe Trick is still alive and that this is anything more than a copycat killer. Kristina Reyes makes for a really solid heroine/final girl and it’s too bad it takes the film so long to focus on her. She’s strong, resilient and the actress has an endearing screen charm. Rounding out are supporting roles from Scream’s Jamie Kennedy as a doctor at the town hospital and the legendary Tom Atkins (Halloween III) as a diner owner.
Overall, Not sure what happened, as My Bloody Valentine 2009 is gory, intense and fun, while Drive Angry is simply an all-out hoot. This flick could have used more of those movies’ intensity and over-the-top fun. Trick is not the new Halloween classic one hoped for, though is not a completely smashed pumpkin. It’s attempts to create a new horror icon are rushed and forced, though once Halloween night hits, Trick is an effective killer and there is some really gruesome carnage. The film follows the formula possibly too closely to start, then veers off in a different direction in it’s climactic scenes that may, or may not, work depending on the viewer. There are some bigger than usual plot holes, though does have it’s moments. A bit of a disappointment from a duo who have made some bloody fun flicks, but certainly not the worst Halloween set horror out there. Might be the type of flick that grows on one with repeat viewings during the spooky season.
Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) Trick masks.
MONSTERZERO NJ’S HORROR FLICKS THAT ACTUALLY TAKE PLACE ON HALLOWEEN 2019!
During the spooky season it might be fun to watch flicks that actually take place on All Hallow’s Eve… so here is a revised list of some horror flicks that actually occur on, or near, our favorite Holiday! 🎃
(To get to the reviews of the titles below that were covered here at the Movie Madhouse, just type the title in the search engine to find the corresponding critique!)
GET INTO THE HALLOWEEN SPIRIT AT AMBIANCE!
This past weekend there was a seafood festival at Point Pleasant Beach, NJ and while there, I stopped into one of my favorite haunts in the area, Ambiance! It’s a great little boutique that has a little bit of Halloween 🎃 all year round, but during the spooky season, owner Donna Provenzano turns it into a haunted Halloween wonderland! The store has been going strong for over two decades and has some of the most unique and delightfully ghostly Halloween…and Día de Muertos…items and decorations to get your crypt ready for October!
Check out the gallery below to see some of the spook-tacular stuff to make your Halloween decorating a monster smash! 🎃👻💀
10/13/19 UPDATE!: All Halloween 🎃 items are now 15% off! Perfect time to get your Halloween swag for the 31st!
Ambiance is located at 707 Arnold Ave, Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey and you can check out their Facebook page here, or call the store at 732-295-9202!
…and, of course, I didn’t leave without a little something for me!…