TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: WARLOCK (1989)

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WARLOCK (1989)

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

Flick opens in 1691 New England with a captured Warlock (Julian Sands) awaiting his execution. Dark forces arise to free him and the evil conjurer is cast some 300 years into the future. He lands unconscious in the home of waitress Kassandra (Lori Singer) and her roommate Chas (Kevin O’Brien), who mistake him for a wayward drunk and give him shelter (Really? Who does that?). This questionable decision proves fatal for Chad and thrusts the ditzy Kassandra in the middle of an ages-old battle, as The Warlock is tasked by Satan himself to reassemble the pieces of the Grand Grimoire and witch hunter Giles Redferne (Richard E. Grant) travels across time to stop him.

While not a comedy, film is directed with a bit of a humorous touch by Steve Miner (Friday The 13th Part 2 and Part 3) from a script by David Twohy (The Arrival, Pitch Black). There certainly are a lot horror elements present, like torn out eyeballs, potions made from a human child’s body fat and cut out tongues, but it is far more similar in tone to Miner’s House than his Friday the 13th films. There is entertainment to be had, but the film probably would have been more effective if the tone remained a bit more consistent one way or the other. The more humorous elements sort of fade in and out and thus it makes it a bit uneven tonally. Most of the humor centers around Singer’s Kassandra, Her lighter, oddball character doesn’t seem quite right as The Warlock and Redferne are played very seriously. The FX haven’t aged well, though were probably not considered top notch back in it’s day, either. The make-up FX look a bit rubbery and the visual FX, such as The Warlock’s flight abilities and animated spells, are quite cheesy. There is some unintentional silliness, too and as a whole, the film hasn’t aged all that well, either, though there is enough nostalgia to make it fun, even if it’s not quite the classic one remembers it to be.

The film has a good cast though the character tones are as uneven as moments in the film. Julian Sands smartly plays The Warlock very straight and sinister and it gives the film a lot of it’s effectiveness. He oozes malice and will drink a potion made from the body fat of a murdered child with relish. He makes a strong villain. Grant also plays his witch hunter seriously and this also helps make the character effective as the “Loomis” to Sands’ magical Michael Myers. The two play off each other well. Lori Singer plays “Kassandra with a K” with a more light touch and a lot of the film’s humorous elements center around her. The character doesn’t to quite fit in with the more serious take that her co-stars’ characters have and it almost feels like her waitress is from another movie, a romantic comedy perhaps. Script and director are probably more to blame than the actress. Despite being portrayed as a bit flighty, Kassandra is not a woman without her cleverness or resolve. She is very likable. The film also features an appearance by cult movie legend Mary Woronov as a medium.

A bit of a cult classic in some circles and it can be fun, if not a bit tonally uneven. It’s not a comedy, but doesn’t feel like a straight-up horror either. It is nostalgic, though also a bit dated and it might have been more of a treat had it been played a touch more seriously. The cast perform well, though Singer’s Kassandra seems a bit out of place in the proceedings, as she is played with a bit of a humorous touch, while the male leads play it completely straight. Worth a revisit for those who saw it back in the day and worth a watch for those discovering the horror flicks of the 80s.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) time traveling warlocks.

 

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL and SUBURBIA

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This week’s double feature is a repost of one of my very first double features and it is in tribute to the sad passing of the last of the original members of The Ramones, Tommy Ramone. Farewell and R.I.P.

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ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL (1979)

Roger Corman produced cult classic featuring legendary punk rockers The Ramones and revolves around their biggest fan, rebellious teen Riff Randall (P.J. Soles), and her efforts to see her favorite band in concert. But, standing in her way is the new stuffed shirt principle, Miss Togar (Mary Woronov) who’s out to stop her, ban Rock ‘N’ Roll and end the fun at Vince Lombardi High School forever. Can Riff and the Ramones save the day for the students of VLHS? Musical comedy is light and fun as directed by Allan Arkush and features a lot of the Ramones music, and who can argue with that! There are a lot of funny set pieces to go along with the great music and most of the characters are played for laughs including Togar and stuffy music teacher Mr. McGee (Paul Bartel). Made in 1979, film is actually ahead of it’s time as it comes across more as an 80’s teen comedy like Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Flick made cult icons out of P.J. Soles, Mary Woronov and Paul Bartel, who himself directed the cult classics Death Race 2000 and Eating Raoul. A fun Rock ‘n’ Roll musical and a must see for Corman and Ramones fans. Also starring Clint Howard, VInce Van Patten and Dey Young as Riff’s best friend, Kate.

MonsterZero NJ trivia: Rock ‘N’ Roll High School was shot by frequent John Carpenter collaborator Dean Cundey (Escape From New York, The Thing).

Available now from the great folks at Shout Factory!

A Rockin’ 3 and 1/2 guitars

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Farewell and R.I.P. to one of the greatest bands of all time!

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SUBURBIA (1984)

Another Roger Corman produced cult classic about a group of poor urban punk rockers in L.A., who, as outcasts, come together and form the “family” unit, in an abandoned house, that was denied them in their own dysfunctional homes. Director/writer Penelope Sheeris overcomes the minimal acting talent from her cast of unknowns to create a strong, poignant and sometimes shocking portrayal of the poor urban youth during the 80’s era recession, who got caught up in the underground punk movement. Spheeris avoids the stereotypical portrayal of punks that most films, from then till now, have embraced and portrays them as human beings whom society and their own families have cast out. Unfortunately, their need to rebel and nonconformist style brings them into conflict with some of the more narrow minded members of their community, as well as, the police… and with tragic results. Suburbia has a raw and gritty realism to it that makes it a surprisingly powerful low budgeter about urban youth and how they are neglected and misunderstood. Features performances by legendary punk bands TSOL and The Vandals.

MonsterZero NJ trivia: Punker Razzle is played by a certain “Mike B. The Flea” … three guesses what Mr. “Flea” does now.

Also available  from the great folks at Shout Factory!

 A Punk Rockin’ 3 and 1/2 guitars
guitar rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL (2009)

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THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL (2009)

I am a big fan of director Ti West and of 70s and 80s horror, so that’s already two in the win column for me in regards to West’s homage to late 70s/early 80s occult themed horror flicks. This story, also written by West and set in the early 80s, has financially struggling college student Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) renting an apartment and now trying to figure out how she is going to pay for it. When a babysitting job at a remote house on the edge of town comes up, Samantha takes it despite warnings from her friend Megan (Greta Gerwig) that something isn’t right. When she arrives, Samantha finds a spooky old couple (Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov) and learns she is actually there to keep an eye on their elderly mother and not a child. She decides to decline, but an offer of significantly more money coerces her to stay. As this is a horror film, it’s no secret that this night is not going to proceed quietly for Samantha.

Ti West perfectly recreates one of the horror flicks of this bygone era in every detail from the grainy photography and the camera angles to the hairstyles and fashions. But is it a good horror movie? Yes, it most certainly is. Today’s impatient audiences may not appreciate the slow burn, but West keeps the atmosphere creepy and full of foreboding till the suspenseful and blood-soaked finale act. It’s paced much like a fright flick from that time and it worked perfectly for me. It’s set on the night of a lunar eclipse which sets off our primal fears of something supernatural being afoot and Megan’s warnings make us doubt Sam is making the right decision. All adding to the mood and uneasiness. One of the things I like about West, is that he knows how to create tension with his camera and the composition of his shots, much like vintage John Carpenter. With Samantha being alone in the creepy house by herself, there isn’t a lot of dialogue or exposition, so he keeps things tense by giving the house a constant feeling of dread with his lens. He and cinematographer Eliot Rocket film the big old house with lots of shadows where evil may lurk and there are plenty of rooms with closed doors where who-knows-what may reside. It’s like the house itself is a character and one we know is up to no good.

He also gets good performances from his cast. Donahue, who was seen recently playing Barbara Hershey’s younger self in Insidious: Chapter 2, makes a strong heroine. She’s smart, but her need for cash makes her a bit desperate and thus vulnerable. When the blood hits the fan, she’s a fighter we root for. Veterans Noonan and Woronov play The Ulman’s as a bit eccentric and while they appear harmless, there is something off about them that keep us wary about the two, just as Sam is. Gerwig is a spunky and likable friend and there is a nice cameo by horror icon Dee Wallace as Sam’s landlord.

Like the films it pays homage to, it keeps things unsettling but subtle till West is ready to unleash his horrors and then we are in for a bloody and intense final act where a babysitter’s worst nightmare comes true. Even the climax is right out of a horror flick of that era, subtle and spooky. As a nostalgic trip back to a type of horror they don’t make anymore or for a spooky Halloween treat, I definitely recommend it. A really good old school horror flick.

To check out my review of West’s follow up flick The Innkeepers click here!

3 and 1/2 creepy houses that no one in their right mind would want to babysit in.

house of the devil rating

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL and SUBURBIA

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Rock__n__Roll_High_SchoolPoster

ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL (1979)

Roger Corman produced cult classic featuring legendary punk rockers The Ramones and revolves around their biggest fan, rebellious teen Riff Randall (P.J. Soles), and her efforts to see her favorite band in concert. But, standing in her way is the new stuffed shirt principle, Miss Togar (Mary Woronov) who’s out to stop her, ban Rock ‘N’ Roll and end the fun at Vince Lombardi High School forever. Can Riff and the Ramones save the day for the students of VLHS? Musical comedy is light and fun as directed by Allan Arkush and features a lot of the Ramones music, and who can argue with that! There are a lot of funny set pieces to go along with the great music and most of the characters are played for laughs including Togar and stuffy music teacher Mr. McGee (Paul Bartel). Made in 1979, film is actually ahead of it’s time as it comes across more as an 80’s teen comedy like Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Flick made cult icons out of P.J. Soles, Mary Woronov and Paul Bartel, who himself directed the cult classics Death Race 2000 and Eating Raoul. A fun Rock ‘n’ Roll musical and a must see for Corman and Ramones fans. Also starring Clint Howard, VInce Van Patten and Dey Young as Riff’s best friend, Kate.

MonsterZero NJ trivia: Rock ‘N’ Roll High School was shot by frequent John Carpenter collaborator Dean Cundey (Escape From New York, The Thing).

Available now from the great folks at Shout Factory!

A Rockin’ 3 and 1/2 guitars

guitar rating

bars

Suburbia_DVD

SUBURBIA (1984)

Another Roger Corman produced cult classic about a group of poor urban punk rockers in L.A., who, as outcasts, come together and form the “family” unit, in an abandoned house, that was denied them in their own dysfunctional homes. Director/writer Penelope Sheeris overcomes the minimal acting talent from her cast of unknowns to create a strong, poignant and sometimes shocking portrayal of the poor urban youth during the 80’s era recession, who got caught up in the underground punk movement. Spheeris avoids the stereotypical portrayal of punks that most films, from then till now, have embraced and portrays them as human beings whom society and their own families have cast out. Unfortunately, their need to rebel and non conformist style brings them into conflict with some of the more narrow minded members of their community, as well as, the police… and with tragic results. Suburbia has a raw and gritty realism to it that makes it a surprisingly powerful low budgeter about urban youth and how they are neglected and misunderstood. Features performances by legendary punk bands TSOL and The Vandals.

MonsterZero NJ trivia: Punker Razzle is played by a certain “Mike B. The Flea” … three guesses what Mr. “Flea” does now.

Also available  from the great folks at Shout Factory!

 A Punk Rockin’ 3 and 1/2 guitars
guitar rating

bars