HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: IN SEARCH OF DARKNESS PART II (2020)

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IN SEARCH OF DARKNESS PART II (2020)

In Search of Darkness was a four hour documentary about 80s horror films from producer/creator Robin Block and writer/director David A. Weiner and you’d think after that lengthy runtime, they’d have said all there was to say about horror of that era…you’d be delightfully wrong. The 80s was a prolific time for horror and filmmaker David A. Weiner and his parade of interviewees are back for another four plus hours of in-depth coverage and this time, profiles some of the more obscure films, as well as, some of the classics that got left out in the last documentary.

Sequel documentary follows the format of the first one, covering each year of the decade and some of the films made during that that year. Weiner and his illustrious guests also cover sub-genres of 80s horror, such as nature run amok, Italian horror, Hong Kong horror, horror/comedy, kid centric horror and even acting techniques, while discussing another host of classics, cult classics and hilarious misfires, from the most prolific decade in horror. They even cover horror video games! Once again we get scenes from a vast number of films, including some of the more lesser known flicks like The Boogens, The Being, Alone in the Dark and even Don Dohler’s Nightbeast. A lot of the interview subjects return from the previous part, such as Robert Englund, Barbara Crampton, Kane Hodder and Fangoria Editor in Chief Phil Nobile Jr, but we also get some new perspectives like those of actors Robert Rusler, Gedde Watanabe, Clancy Brown, Nancy Allen, director Jackie Kong and rocker/wrestler Chris Jericho, for example. Actors, directors, FX legends, along with contemporary horror critics and bloggers, all provide their own point of view. As with the last installment, the mix of 80s personalities with some of the new generation horror fans, who have embraced the horror films of this decade, makes for a nice variety of perspectives. The stories from filmmakers and actors of the time are a lot of fun and informative, as are the tales of discovery and analysis from the new generation of horror lovers, such as Daily Dead’s Managing Editor Heather Wixson. The documentary even covers some more controversial subjects, such as the proliferation of gore and violence, nudity, sex and the extensive use of rape scenes as plot devices in numerous films. No tombstone goes uncovered. It’s a wonderful retrospective that really does not feel as long as it is and is delightfully uncensored in both scenes shown and commentary made by it’s multitude of guests.

As with the last In Search of Darkness, four and 1/2 hours sounds like a daunting sit to do all at once…not that you have to…but if you are a fan of these movies, or someone who is old enough to have been in a theater seat during this awesome decade of horror, then it is a great way to spend an afternoon or evening. This second chapter…and yes, we’d sit through a third!… is almost more interesting and involving, as it covers some of the more obscure titles and foreign films, so even the most hardcore horror fanatic might see footage, or hear of a title, for the first time. A must watch for horror fans of any age and a sequel that is an equal in some ways and surpasses it’s predecessor in others. As said before, bring on In Search of Darkness part III!

Both documentaries are available on Blu-ray for a brief time at https://80shorrordoc.com/ and the first documentary can be watched on Shudder.

MZNJ PERSONAL NOTE: Being old enough to have been in a theater for a lot of these flicks, not only did this documentary sequel, once again, take me back to my favorite era of movies, but actually brought to my attention a couple of flicks I missed. Bravo Robin Block and David A. Weiner!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) hockey masks.

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: SCARE PACKAGE (2019)

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SCARE PACKAGE (2019)

Horror comedy anthology tells a series of seven stories each by different writers and directors. There are six separate stories with the seventh being the wraparound that loosely holds them together. Here, it is a video store with the various tapes popped into the VCR being the horror stories that unfold.

With a combination of eight directors, who also write their stories and another four additional writers thrown in the mix, the result is very disappointing. None of the stories really feel like a complete tale that actually goes anywhere and the mix of comedy and horror isn’t all that successful either way. The tales are neither scary nor very funny. The wraparound story goes off the rails and becomes it’s own horror tale that has nothing to do with where it appeared to be going initially, even to the point of jettisoning the main character for a last minute final girl. To be honest, none of the stories really end very satisfyingly. There is plenty of well rendered gore throughout all the tales, but the stories themselves aren’t very memorable or go anywhere all that interesting. Even the cameo by horror icon Joe Bob Briggs doesn’t elicit much of a response. It also doesn’t go anywhere. All together it’s a forgettable and dull 107 minutes that sadly doesn’t inspire one to keep an eye on any of the filmmakers involved. A Shudder exclusive if you want to bother.
-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: IN SEARCH OF DARKNESS (2019)

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IN SEARCH OF DARKNESS (2019)

In Search of Darkness is a four hour documentary about 80s horror films from writer/director David A. Weiner and producer/creator Robin Block. It might be one of the most comprehensive documentaries there is about one of the most prolific decades in horror film history. Weiner covers each year of the decade and some of the films that best represent that year. He also covers the main franchises that are now legendary and some other subjects such as scoring, FX and sound design. He accomplishes this, not only with scenes from a vast number of films, but with some impressive interview subjects from both the era itself, along with some contemporary talents and experts, too. We get legendary filmmakers such as John Carpenter, Joe Dante, Tom Holland and Sean S. Cunningham. Actors like Doug Bradley, Heather Langenkamp, Kane Hodder, Kelli Maroney and even Paranormal Activity’s Katie Featherston. There is also commentary from horror aficionados such as Dead Meat’s James A. Janisse, the legendary Joe Bob Briggs and Cassandra “Elvira” Peterson along with former Fangoria Editor in Chief Michael Gingold and current Fangoria Editor in Chief Phil Nobile Jr, to name a few. It creates a vast amount of knowledge and experience to share, as well as, some really interesting anecdotes and stories from the talent who where part of this great era. Perfect examples of this are Kane Hodder’s gleeful recounting of almost being killed by a fire stunt in his first outing as Jason and John Carpenter’s apparent dislike of 80s hair fashion. Who knew? It’s a lot of fun and for the uninitiated, offers a large selection of movies to catch up with and is a virtual history lesson of this great time in horror.

The documentary’s flaws are minor and few. While never boring, four hours is a long haul, but if you can sit still for such a period of time, it is well worth it. The documentary only covers the mainstream titles, so if you were there during the era or well versed in the flicks of the time, there is nothing obscure or surprising for you. There was also a little too much commentary from the host/creator of Youtube’s Dead Meat, James A. Janisse. While one can appreciate the enthusiasm for films of this era from someone who doesn’t look old enough to have even been alive during the 80s, his over-animated delivery starts to get grating after a while and by the third and fourth hour, you wish he’d take it down a notch. The amount of footage of him used also seems uneven compared to the contributions from the other interviewees. Other than that, if you have a healthy attention span and love this era of horror filmmaking, this is definitely a recommended watch.

Take it from one who was there in the 80s and saw most of the films discussed, in a theater, this was a wonderful trip back to a favorite decade for horror films. It was great to hear stories and facts from the filmmakers and personalities involved and heartwarming to see some of the new generation horror fans embracing the style and films of the time. Four hours well spent returning to a treasured time and many a favorite classic. A must for horror fans of any age.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) hockey masks.

 

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE SLEEPER (2012)

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THE SLEEPER (2012)

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

Flick bares a very close resemblance to Black Christmas by having a disturbed individual making eerie phone calls to the Alpha Gamma Theta sorority, then stalking and killing it’s members and whoever is close to them. It opens with the grisly murder of one of it’s pretty residents in 1979 and then jumps to 1981 with new pledges arriving. One by one the pretty Thetas fall, as the killer (Jason Jay Crabtree) cuts a bloody path to new pledge Amy (Brittany Belland).

Written and directed by Justin Russell there is obviously nothing very original here, even setting the flick at winter time like the 1974 classic it emulates. What Russell does succeed at is giving the film loads of atmosphere and really nailing the look and feel of a slasher flick from the era it’s set in. From the lighting, to camera shots, to the really nostalgic score by Gremlin, the film could pass for something made at that time period. It’s not all that scary or suspenseful, though it does have some spooky moments, and even the killer is very derivative…most likely on purpose. It still has a creepy late 70s early 80s vibe to it and the kills are gruesome at times. The killer’s preferred weapon is a hammer and the FX can be cheesy, which is fine since many of the films of that time period were restricted by small budgets. If anything, Russell knows his influences very well and his film is atmospheric, nostalgic and it even has a disco dance sequence, how can you hate that!?

Being set in a sorority there are some pretty faces in the cast, including scream queen Jessica (Silent Night) Cameron as Cindy. It’s girl-next-door Brittany (Clowntergeist) Belland that makes an impression, though, as new pledge and final girl Amy. Belland, who sadly passed away in November of 2018, has a down-to-earth beauty and a natural charm and is very effective in the final girl role. The rest of the Theta actresses are fine as eye candy and killer fodder, as are the gents playing their ill-fated boyfriends. As for our killer, the mask-less Jason Jay Crabtree is suitably unsettling even if he reminds one quite a lot of the killer from the original Black Christmas.

Overall, it’s not a great horror, or a very original one, but is very effective as the homage it was intended to be. It has the look and atmosphere of a horror from the late 70s and early 80s with the traditional blood, sex and electronic score. The late Brittany Belland makes a very good final girl as Amy and even if the killer is a bit too familiar, he and his kills are effective enough. A fun and nostalgic throwback to an era which obviously served as an inspiration to many of today’s filmmakers. Also features the legendary Joe Bob Briggs in a cameo.

The Sleeper is available from Scream Team Releasing who brought you The Barn, 10/31 and The Witching Seasonhttps://screamteamreleasing.com/products/the-sleeper-special-collectors-edition-blu-ray-dvd-combo-pack

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) hammers.

 

 

 

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Farewell and RIP Brittany Belland

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