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The Joe Dante werewolf classic turns 42!!

The Howling was released 42 years ago, and its anniversary has brought back memories, as I saw it with friends at a special preview screening, weeks before it’s March 13th release, at the now long-gone Stanley Warner Theater in Paramus, NJ. Preview screenings were quite common back in the 80s before there was an internet and were used to spread advance word of mouth to promote movies before websites like Rotten Tomatoes and Bloody Disgusting did the job as they do now. As such, we didn’t know quite what to expect as the only knowledge of the movie came from Fangoria articles and brief commercials on TV. There was no Youtube to view trailers either. If you didn’t catch a trailer at your local theater with another movie, you missed it.


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Howling heroine and future horror queen Dee Wallace knows there is something lurking in the woods!

For those unfamiliar… The Howling is a true horror classic and is regarded as one of the best werewolf movies ever made. Joe Dante, fresh off of Roger Corman’s Piranha, re-teamed with writer John Sayles for a fun and spooky tale of lycanthrope loose in the California hills that was based on a book by Gary Brandner. After a traumatic close call with a strangely animalistic serial killer named Eddie Quist (Robert Picardo), young newswoman, Karen (Dee Wallace) is sent to a holistic retreat by her therapist, Dr. Waggner (Patrick Macnee) for treatment. But unknown to Karen and her husband, Bill (Christopher Stone), The Colony is actually a haven for werewolves that the therapist is trying to civilize…and that a certain, Eddie Quist was one of his ‘patients’. Some of the pack have other ideas and are looking at Karen as their next meal.


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Rob Bottin’s amazing transformation FX that beat Rick Baker’s American Werewolf work to theaters by five months!

We all loved it! It was fun, scary and Rob Bottin’s make-up, gore and werewolf transformation effects blew us away. The mix of twisted humor and horror elements was perfect! It’s been my favorite werewolf movie ever since…sorry American Werewolf in London. Personally, I am not a fan of the sequels that followed and was very disappointed at the route they took with Howling II, which has now become a cult favorite all these years later after initially being scorned. Why they didn’t do a direct sequel and bring back Marsha (Elizabeth Brooks) was beyond me and how they screwed up a sequel that starred the great Christopher Lee, I’ll never figure out.


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There is something malevolent and hungry stalking a remote retreat in the California woodlands.

Accepted by horror fandom as a horror classic and one of the best werewolf movies of all-time, The Howling has remained effective all these decades later and Rob Bottin’s prosthetic transformations effects still lauded as a far better than any CGI could hope to be. Dee Wallace is also renown as one of the queens of modern horror and it’s still counted as one of legendary filmmaker Joe Dante’s best movies!


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-MonsterZero NJ




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in search of tomorrow



In Search of Darkness and its sequel were four-hour documentaries about 80s horror films from producer/creator Robin Block and writer/director David A. Weiner. Now the duo are back with a nearly five-hour documentary about 80s science fiction films called In Search of Tomorrow! The 80s was a great time for science fiction flicks and filmmaker David A. Weiner presents a host of movie footage and interviewees for in-depth coverage of some of the all-time classics, while also focusing on some of the decade’s more obscure films.

New documentary follows the format of the others, covering each year of the decade and some of the films made during that that year. It’s Weiner’s best yet as this flick really holds one’s interest firmly, delivering a fun and informative look back, that keeps the audience engaged for almost five hours! It’s a true love letter to 80s science fiction cinema!

Weiner rolls out a multitude of guests discussing classics, cult classics and some well-intended bombs, from a decade that cranked out sci-fi at a fever pitch! We get scenes from a great number of films, including classics like The Thing, The Terminator, Robocop and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and cult films like Buckaroo Banzai, Galaxy of Terror and Earth Girls Are Easy. We also get interview subjects such as Peter Weller, Nicholas Meyer, Clancy Brown and John Carpenter, to name just a scant few, and we also get some new perspectives like those of journalist Angélique Roché and podcaster Dr. Andrea Letamendi. Actors, directors, FX legends, production designers, along with contemporary journalists and 80s experts, all provide their own point of view and share dozens of personal on-set anecdotes. It makes for a nice variety of perspectives. 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 its multitude of entertaining guests.

As with the In Search of Darkness documentaries, this one has an extensive running time at four hours and fifty minutes.  It sounds like a long-haul but goes by very quickly and if you are a fan of 80s sci-fi flicks, or even better, old enough to have been there at the time, then watching this is a great way to spend a lazy afternoon, or a Saturday evening on the couch. In Search of Tomorrow is available for pre-order starting today and running till 3/27 at There were a lot of films not covered, so bring on In Search of Tomorrow part II!

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

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 4 (out of 4) terminators.

terminator rating




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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 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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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.












MAJOR SPOILER WARNING! In order to properly compare these two films, I have to give DETAILED SPOILERS. If you haven’t seen The Howling or An American Werewolf In London, there are MASSIVE SPOILERS BELOW for each film. You have been warned!


Previously, I’ve made such comparisons such as David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows and John Carpenter’s Halloween (link here), the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic Predator with the B-movie sci-fi/horror Without Warning (link here)and the classic Evil Dead and it’s 2013 remake (link here). Now I’d like to compare two classic 80s horror tales of lycanthropy with a look at Joe Dante’s The Howling alongside John Landis’ An American Werewolf In London. These two films were released in the same year, just six months apart and both have revolutionary transformation sequences that changed the world of SPFX make-up at the time. So, let’s take a look…

(Click on the highlighted movie titles to go to the full length reviews and on the photos to enlarge them!)


The Howling opened on March 13, 1981 and tells the tale of intrepid reporter Karen White (the legendary Dee Wallace) who is meeting notorious serial killer Eddie Quist (Robert Picardo). Karen is traumatized by their encounter, one which ends in a hail of police bullets. She is sent by psychiatrist Dr. George Waggner (Patrick Macnee) to his remote retreat in the Northern California woods for treatment, but unknown to Karen, Eddie Quist was a werewolf and that Waggner’s retreat is where he and his pack preside.

An American Werewolf in London opened on August 21st, 1981 and tells the story of David Kessler (David Naughton) and his buddy Jack Goodman (Griffin Dunne), who are backpacking across the English countryside. Despite ominous warnings, they wander onto The Moors and are savaged by a wild beast. Jack is killed, but David survives and is brought to London to recuperate. As he recovers under the tender care of pretty nurse Alex (Jenny Agutter), he soon finds out from Jack’s none-too-happy spirit that he was bitten by a werewolf and will soon become one himself when the moon is full!

Except for both films being about werewolves, the stories are vastly different.




There seem to be two different kinds of werewolves in movies. One is the traditional cursed soul who passes the curse on to another through a bite. This type has heavy origins in the supernatural with it’s appearances sometimes heralded by a pentagram appearing on a potential victim. They transform only during the period of the full moon…depending on the film that may include the night before and night after, as well. Generally they can only be killed by silver, preferably a silver bullet.

The other kind of werewolf is a shape-shifter. These werewolves generally have an origin in Native American or old world European folklore and can change their form at will. They sometimes spread the ability through a bite, are born as such, or transformed through some ceremony or ritual. Their mode of being vanquished vary from conventional weapons to the traditional silver bullet.

The Howling’s werewolves are of the shape shifting variety. They can change at will, night or day, and without the need of the full moon. While they seem to be less supernatural in origin, they still can only be killed by silver bullets and pass the curse or condition on by a bite. They are bipedal creatures with both human and wolf characteristics. They obviously feed on meat, preferably humans, despite Waggner’s attempts at getting them to co-exist alongside mankind and feed on other meat sources.

An American Werewolf in London’s beast is of the more supernatural variety as, for example, the locals were using a pentagram as protection. David is told by Jack’s spirit that he is cursed by the bite of a werewolf and will transform into a ferocious beast when the moon is full. David’s victim’s are doomed to wander in limbo and haunt him, begging him to end his life, so their spirits can be free. David’s wolf is far more animal than human and is a massive beast that travels around on all fours. Oddly, despite being far more supernatural than The Howling’s werewolves, David and his predecessor can be killed simply by conventional weapons, such as guns with normal bullets.




The Howling’s main character, Karen White is a news reporter being stalked by a pack of werewolves at a remote deep woods retreat. For a long time she is unaware of what she is up against and it is friends of hers, Chris and Terry ( Dennis Dugan and Belinda Balaski), who finally figure it out and attempt to warn/rescue her. Karen only becomes a werewolf at the film’s climax and is mercifully killed by Chris during a live news broadcast were she attempts to warn the world that these mythic predators are very real.

An American Werewolf in London’s David is an American tourist in Europe, who is bitten very early in the film and the rest of the movie follows his transformation into a lycanthrope. He is haunted by the spirits of his victims and is in denial at first, until he realizes he is responsible for a string of brutal deaths across London. The reluctant monster is finally put out of his misery by the guns of the London police after a bloody rampage through Piccadilly Circus.

Both characters are likable and sympathetic, suffer from horrific nightmares and at some point fall to the werewolf curse.




The settings for these two film’s are both urban and rural, yet totally opposite as to when those settings come into play.

The Howling opens in the urban jungle of Hollywood Blvd where Karen White is bravely going to meet serial killer Eddie Quist in a porn shop. It then switches to the coastal woodlands of Northern California, when Karen is sent to Waggner’s retreat, which is actually a sanctuary for werewolves. Here director Joe Dante is able to use shots of moonlit and fog-shrouded woods to keep the atmosphere spooky.

An American Werewolf in London opens in the rural marshlands of Yorkshire where David and Jack encounter the werewolf which curses David. It then switches to urban metropolis of London where David transforms into a beast and terrorizes the city. Ironically, at one point, he meets the spirits of Jack and some of his victims in a porno theater, echoing Karen’s meeting with Eddie. Unfortunately, 1981 London isn’t quite as spooky as The Moors of the opening, thus giving The Howling a distinct edge in the atmosphere department.




The Howling starts off with intrepid reporter Karen White meeting with serial killer Eddie Quist in a porn shop peep booth. The police are tracking her and only by chance arrive in time as he starts to transform. He is killed…or so we believe…and poor Karen is traumatized. She is then sent to a backwoods retreat run by Dr. George Waggner only to find out she’s been dropped in the wolves den, literally. The opening is creepy, disturbing and sets the tone for the rest of the movie.

American Werewolf’s opening sequences are just as effective and probably the scariest part of the film. Here we meet American backpackers Jack and David who wonder into a local pub and get a very cold reception and some very ominous warnings. Despite what they are told, they wonder onto The Moors and are attacked by some form of savage beast. Jack is killed and David barely escapes with his life thanks to the arrival of those same locals, armed with guns. Before he passes out, David sees that their now dead attacker, is a bullet-ridden human. Once back in London, the real nightmare begins for the cursed young man.

Both openings work in setting us up for what is to come, starting us off with an atmosphere of fear and foreboding. Howling does it by letting us know something is very wrong with Eddie Quist, aside from being a psychotic killer, but keeps exactly what a bit ambiguous. American Werewolf  utilizes the classic werewolf set-up with an American in a strange land getting bitten and being cursed.




The Howling’s Pretty heroine is finally bitten as she and Chris are the only ones left alive after a fiery confrontation with Waggner’s pack of lycanthrope. Karen uses this unfortunate turn of events to try to warn the rest of the world and makes a tearful plea to a live television audience. She presents the horrible truth by turning into a werewolf in front of the TV audience before being shot by Chris. The film ends with varying reactions to what happened and the frightening revelation that Eddie’s nymphomaniac, werewolf sister Marsha (Elizabeth Brooks) escaped the conflagration at the retreat and is now in L.A. The ending has some humor to it, but is still effective.

American Werewolf’s ending is a bit simpler. Transforming into a wolf in the middle of London’s, Piccadilly Circus, David goes on a bloody rampage, that causes complete chaos and bedlam. Alex arrives just at the time the London Police trap David in an alley and gun him down. The last shot is a tragic one of David’s bullet-ridden body and Alex’s tearful face as we cut to the credits. Director John Landis lightens up the somber mood by having the song Blue Moon playing on the soundtrack as the credits role. The ending is a bit abrupt and the song does neuter the power of the last shots, unfortunately.




Both of these flicks are considered classics for many reasons. Both are gory and have a sense of humor and feature their own twists on the classic werewolf tale. The Howling was based loosely on a book by Gary Brandner, while American Werewolf seems to be more of a modern spin on the classic The Wolfman with Lon Chaney Jr. The soundtracks are both written by acclaimed composers, with The Howling’s by Pino Donaggio and American Werewolf’s by Elmer Bernstein. Robert Paynter did the impressive cinematography on Werewolf, while The Howling’s lush visuals were filmed by John Hora. As for the amazing transformations scenes, The Howling’s scenes was done by legendary FX man Rob Bottin and Werewolf’s by equally legendary Rick Baker. Both are impressive with Baker’s having the advantage of a larger budget, but is far shorter, where Rob Bottin’s is lengthy, a little more rubbery and goes over the top in many ways. They are both fun and were groundbreaking at the time and are still effective even today.




In this case it’s up to the individual to choose a favorite. Both films have gained equal status as classic horrors and despite each having their own identity, they both feature sly senses of humor and great make-up FX work to enhance their classic werewolf tales. Personally, The Howling has always been my favorite and it’s only by personal taste that it is. I find it more atmospheric and I prefer the satirical sense of humor over the dryer humor of AWIL. I like Bottin’s over-the-top transformation better, prefer the bipedal werewolf to the four legged wolf beast and Dee Wallace made for a sexy girl-next-door heroine to howl over. The Howling is more in the Roger Corman style of film-making, including a cameo from the master producer, whereas American Werewolf is more of a mainstream studio flick. I also find The Howling simply to be spookier and more fun. Either way these are two classics that have earned their reputations equally.

-MonsterZero NJ

Check out more editions of A Comparison In Horror here!




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 book by one of the greatest producers that ever lived… Roger Corman!


In the pages of this autobiography from legendary film producer/director Roger Corman, he tells firsthand of his journey to becoming one of the most successful filmmakers of all time. He details his humble beginnings in Detroit to his family’s move to Beverly Hills then on to college and his first job at a major studio where the film-making bug first bit. He shares with us how he cleverly financed his first film The Monster From The Ocean Floor and thus began his prolific…and sometimes tumultuous…career as a director and producer. Corman takes us on a fun ride of clever financing, seat-of-your-pants film-making, world travel, giving first opportunities to many future stars and legends and even some of the lovely ladies he met making movies, including his wife Julie. It’s a vastly entertaining book from the man himself detailing how he was able to beat the Hollywood system and become the film geek, household name that he is. The book traces his life and career up to the point where he returned to directing after a long hiatus to helm Frankenstein Unbound, which, as of now, stands as his last full length feature as a director.

As a huge fan of Corman, I had a blast with this book. The master producer details how he produced films his way and rarely had a box office disappointment in his illustrious career. He gives generous details on the making of such early classics as It Conquered The World and Not of This Earth to some of the New World classics such as Death Race 2000 and Piranha. We get anecdotes from some of the talents who got their start with Corman and went on to be legends themselves like Joe Dante, Francis Ford Coppola and Sylvester Stallone and also from Corman regulars like Dick Miller, Chuck Griffith and Beverly Garland. It’s a humble telling of a fascinating life from the man who lived it and a host of people who had the honor of working for/with him. If you are a fan of Roger Corman and his films, it is a must read. If you are simply a fan of movies and the film-making process, I still highly recommend you hear these great tales about one of Hollywood’s greatest maverick film-makers from the man himself and some of those who joined him on his ongoing journey.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 Corman creatures!

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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…which does repeat a lot of what we saw in the production diaries…and 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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gremlins 2



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

Sequel takes place a few years later in NYC where Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) and now fiancé, Kate (Pheobe Cates) have gone to work at the high-tech Clamp Tower owned by billionaire entrepreneur Daniel Clamp (John Glover). At the same time, Gizmo’s keeper Wing (Keye Luke) dies and Clamp seizes the Chinatown property for a development project. The Mogwai is brought to Clamp Tower’s genetics lab where they are quite unaware of the rules…which are again broken, unleashing an army of gremlins inside the skyscraper who are awaiting nightfall to spread out into the Big Apple.

Written this time by Charles S. Haas and Looney Tunes creator Chuck Jones, Gremlins 2 takes on a lighter and more cartoonish tone with the previous film’s darker and more violent elements all but gone. Director Joe Dante still gives us a good time and the new setting and expanded budget freshen things up a bit and give us creatures with far more individual personality, especially when they hit the Splice Of Life genetics lab and start experimenting on themselves. Flying gremlins, spider-gremlins and even a gremlin with a genius IQ (voiced by NYC acting legend Tony Randall). It may be a lot goofier in tone, but Dante and his writers find new ways for the gremlins to cause havoc and amuse us. There are still a lot of clever bits, even if it has lost a good deal of it’s edge  and while I prefer the darker tone of the first, there is still enough of a devious sense of humor to keep it fun. Obviously, there are a ton of movie references and in-jokes for movie fans to giggle and veteran composer Jerry Goldsmith returns to score, as does frequent Dante cinematographer John Hora return to lens.

Dante again has assembled a good cast. The returning Galligan and Cates reprise their roles complete with plenty of charm. John Glover is very funny as the goofball, eccentric billionaire Clamp. His almost oblivious reaction to everything is constantly amusing. Haviland Morris is fun, sexy and seductive as Billy’s boss who has plans for him that extend beyond the office. There are a lot of fun cameos from some Dante regulars with Dick Miller returning as Mr. Futterman and Dante regular Robert Picardo as a jerk of a security chief. There are also small parts from character actor Robert Prosky as a horror show host, a hilarious Christopher Lee as the head of the genetics lab, Dr. Catheter and wrestler/actor Hulk Hogan cameoing as himself.

Gremlins 2 may not be quite as good or unique as the first flick, but is still a lot of fun and Dante brings the chaos and anarchy with a devious smile…though with far less dark a tone. The cast are all having a blast and the FX people really take advantage of a much larger budget to deliver a horde of various versions of the title creatures. Not quite an equal, but a fun sequel that sadly underperformed at the box office and ended the series till talk of a Gremlins 3 started up again recently.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Gremlins

gremlins rating 2







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


Gremlins is a fun Christmas set comedy/horror about a small town that comes under siege by a group of nasty little creatures. The story finds a down on his luck inventor (Hoyt Axton) buying a strange little furry creature called a Mogwai in a back-alley Chinatown shop for his son Billy (Zach Galligan). There are three rules given to insure safe care of the critter named Gizmo…keep him away from bright light, don’t get him wet and don’t feed him after midnight. Of course all the rules are broken along the way and Gizmo reluctantly spawns a group of horrid little creatures with a diabolical…and lethal…sense of humor. Now the sleepy little town of Kingston Falls is under attack and Billy and his sweetheart Kate (Phoebe Cates) must find a way to stop the little devils.

Created by the triple threat of producer Steven Spielberg, writer Chris Columbus and director Joe Dante, this is a really entertaining movie that has become an outright classic. While it appears to be a kid friendly family film on the outside, there is a devious sense of humor bestowed upon the flick, which has always been Dante’s trademark…and it works exceptionally well here. The film has some fun moments and some cartoonish characters, like the Scrooge-like Mrs. Deagle (Polly Holliday), but it also has a definite mean streak as the title creatures ‘humor’ can be quite painful or deadly against it’s recipient. This keeps Gremlins from sliding into the sappy, sentimental level of Spielberg’s own E.T. and gives it a much needed and appreciated edge…though it grew criticism for some of it’s violence back in the day. The creatures themselves are well rendered with practical FX and one scene of model animation and this makes the story work all the better. Dante adds his usual movie nods…such as a doctor named “Moreau” and there are appearances from his regulars like Dick Miller and Belinda Balaski. There is also a fun score by legendary composer Jerry Goldsmith and some crisp cinematography, highlighting the holiday time of year, by John Hora.

Dante has a good cast here, too. Galligan is solid as the nerdy bank teller turned hero and he has a naive and down-to-earth charm that makes his character very likable. Cates does well playing the girl-next-door with a dark Christmas past. Cates had been know for sexier roles, but pulls off the all American girl very well. Folk singer Axton is surprisingly fun as the Billy’s inventor/dreamer father Randall Peltzer. Dante regular Dick Miller has an amusing part as one of Billy’s neighbors and Polly Holliday is perfectly Cruella Deville-like as Mrs. Deagle. A good cast that get the tone of the material perfectly.

Gremlins is a lot of fun and with the added nostalgic charm is even more endearing. It has a good cast, a director who adds just the right amount of dark humor and some very well rendered special FX to make our creatures believable. A fun movie recognized as a classic. Also stars comedian Howie Mandel as the voice of Gizmo.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 Gremlins

gremlins rating








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tales of halloween



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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.

tales of halloween rating