BARE BONES: CANDY CORN (2019)

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CANDY CORN (2019)

Boring Halloween set horror has a group of small town thugs following their cruel Halloween tradition of pranking local boy Jacob (Nate Chaney), who now works for a carnival. Their bullying takes an unexpected turn when Jacob finally fights back and they accidentally kill him in retaliation. The carnival’s ring master Dr. Death (Pancho Moler from Rob Zombie’s 31) uses his voodoo powers to resurrect Jacob as a mask wearing monster that avenges himself brutally on his attackers, leaving candy corn stuffed in their dead mouths.

Flick is written and directed very by-the-numbers by Josh Hasty, who has obviously seen a lot of horror films, but doesn’t really understand what makes them work. His script is a dull hodgepodge of flicks we have all seen before, from Carpenter’s classic to Pumpkinhead, yet without any of those films’ chills or thrills. He thinks all that he had to do was hire some familiar faces from horror films past and present, yet gives us no likable or interesting characters for us to identify with or root for. The victims of his dull creature are all cruel local thugs, so they are getting what’s coming to them and we have no sympathy or interest in their deaths whatsoever. Jacob looks like some guy wandering around in a generic Halloween mask and exudes no threat or menace. If you can’t conjure memorable or likable characters, at least have a memorable monster. Epic fail on both counts. Add to that, the cast all recite their dialogue with a deadpan monotone and it makes every scene tedious. There is some routine bloodshed, but absolutely no suspense, atmosphere or tension to give it weight. At 85 minutes it’s a bore to sit through and is as forgettable as it’s vengeful walking corpse. Don’t waste your time unless you have to see every Halloween themed movie out there. Also stars Candyman‘s Tony Todd, Halloween’s P.J. Soles and Children of the Corn’s Courtney Gains.

-MonsterZero NJ

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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

guitar rating

 

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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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HALLOWEEN FAVORITES: HALLOWEEN (1978)

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HALLOWEEN (1978)

What better way to wrap up our month long look at some of my Halloween Favorites then by taking a look back at one of the all time great horror flicks and a bonafide classic that is appropriately named after my favorite holiday. John Carpenter’s Halloween is recognized as a masterpiece of suspense and terror and while it wasn’t the first film that fits the definition of slasher, it did start a horror trend that gave birth to quite a few other classics during the following decade and beyond. It’s also simply one of the quintessential horror flicks to watch on All Hallows Eve!

The story starts out in sleepy Haddonfield, Illinois where 6 year old Michael Myers (Will Sandin), for no apparent reason, takes a butcher knife to his teenage sister Judith (Sandy Johnson) and brutally slaughters her. Fifteen years later on the eve of Halloween, Michael (Nick Castle in costume, Tony Moran when briefly unmasked), who has been incarcerated in the Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, awakens from his trance-like state and escapes the facility with his psychiatrist Dr. Samuel Loomis (the great Donald Pleasence) in pursuit. While no one believes him, Loomis is certain he knows where the escaped Myers is going…home. And Haddonfield is exactly where the soulless killer is heading and soon teen babysitter Laurie Strode (Jaime Lee Curtis) and her friends are going to be trick or treated to the most horrifying night of their lives as evil returns to their little town and leaves a trail of bodies in his wake. Despite Loomis’ warnings, can Myers be stopped on the night HE came home?

John Carpenter takes this simple concept…from a script he co-wrote with Debra Hill based on a story idea presented by producers Irwin Yablans and Moustapha Akkad…of a killer stalking a small town and turns it into a masterpiece of suspense and terror as he establishes not only that our killer has, overtime, become a soulless vessel of evil, but gives him a likable batch of typical teens such as Laurie and her friends Annie (Nancy Kyes) and Lynda (P.J. Soles) for us to fear and cheer for, as this fiend targets them for the slaughter. He then uses his camera lens and the cinematography of Dean Cundey to create tension setting shots of Laurie and her friends innocently going about their lives while Michael, or the car he stole, lurks in the background letting us know evil has found them while they remain blissfully oblivious. When Myers begins his carnage that night, we get shots that are filled with shadows from within which evil may lurk and more shots of Michael and his haunting white mask peering in windows or from behind trees watching his unaware prey. And once the audience is drawn in, we get to watch Michael start to eliminate this likable cast in brutal fashion leading to an intense last act that is literally one long stalking chase as Laurie tries to fight back and escape the mysterious killer who has targeted her as his next victim. The legendary director cranks up the pace after a deliberately slow burn and really gets our hearts pumping as the film heads toward it’s haunting conclusion. Carpenter stages all these scenes perfectly and we are with Laurie through one close call after another as the seemingly unstoppable boogeyman is relentless in his pursuit of the babysitter and her young charges (Brian Andrews and Kyle Richards). If his keen direction isn’t enough, Carpenter himself wrote and performed the haunting and now legendary score which really intensifies the atmosphere and accents every scare.

The cast are all good. Pleasence creates an iconic character as the frustrated and desperate Dr. Loomis, In her first film role, Jamie Lee Curtis gives us simply one of the greatest horror movie heroines of all time as Laurie. Nancy Kyes and cult favorite P.J. Soles are endearing as Laurie’s horny gal pals and Charles Cyphers is convincing as a small town sheriff who is more doubtful then concerned…until it’s too late. There is actually little gore in the film, but what bloodshed we do get is well executed, though it is sound FX that really make these kills effective as Michael’s knife makes impact with his unsuspecting victims. The sound is chilling as is his victim’s struggles when the killer simply uses his bare hands to finish them off. Which in my opinion is even more horrifying. Whatever flaws this film has, they are minor and it is a text book example of how to make a low budget horror, achieving a lot with very little.

Whether the film is an allegory on the dangers of teen promiscuity or simply a damn good horror flick, it all comes down to Carpenter’s camera and how he uses it that creates a lot of the tension and suspense. While today’s generation brought up on more blunt and visceral horror may find this too tame, I think it is truly the masterpiece of horror that it’s reputation suggests and quite possible changed horror films forever. A classic and one of the greatest Halloween season flicks of all time.

“Was it the Boogeyman?… As a matter of fact it was…”

A classic 4 carved pumpkins!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES and THE DEVIL’S REJECTS

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HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES (2003)

After directing his own horror influenced music videos, rocker Rob Zombie finally directed his first feature film, House Of 1000 Corpses in 2003. Zombie’s first film is, no surprise, a horror film that is a throwback to the grind-house/drive-in style horror flicks of the 70s like the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the 1980 Mother’s Day. It tells the gruesome tale of four friends, Denise (Erin Daniels), Jerry (Chris Hardwick), Bill (Rainn Wilson) and Mary (Jennifer Jostyn) who happen upon a roadside freak show run by redneck clown Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig)…who we already have witnessed slaughter a couple of would be robbers. They go on his ‘murder ride’ which features a local serial killer named Dr. Satan. Soon the inquisitive teens are off investigating this local urban legend which, through some circumstances that are far from happenstance, leads them to the Firefly house. Inside they become prisoners of the disturbed and twisted Mother (Karen Black), Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), Otis (Bill Moseley), R.J. (Robert Mukes), Grandpa (Dennis Fimple) and Tiny (Matthew McGrory) who treat them to a nightmare of murder and torment, all on Halloween night.

House is a faithful homage to the gritty, gory low budget horrors of the 70s and Zombie shows some real potential, but the film, while deviously entertaining to a degree, is never really scary, suspenseful or shocking enough to truly emulate the films it’s inspired by. The film also has a somewhat uneven tone as it plays it straight for the most part, but then can be borderline goofy at times. The humor doesn’t come across as disturbing as it should, as say in the dinner scene in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Zombie gives us some interesting characters amongst the Firefly family, though the four teens are fairly generic and only heroine Daniels shows some spunk, and there are some shocking and brutal moments along with some quotable dialogue. It only starts to get really interesting when a hard nosed cop (Tom Towles) shows up looking for the kids and then shows us some twisted originality during the surreal final act when it turns into a sort of dark, nightmarish Alice in Wonderland. The ghoulish visuals here are Zombie’s strong point and while the whole film is visually interesting, it’s here that things get truly bizarre and grabs our attention, when the film takes the traumatized Erin into the underground lair of ‘guess who’. Then it’s over with a shock ending that’s not all that much of a shock. Still Corpses is a fun tribute to a type of exploitation horror they don’t make anymore, nothing groundbreaking though and I don’t think it was meant to be. What it does most is show Zombie’s potential and that he has a passion for this type of horror flick and the film really shines when Zombie forgets his influences and does his own thing.

The cast are fine with veterans like Black, Haig, Fimple and Towles standing out. Moseley is fine too as Otis, but gets some of the movie’s more stilted dialogue and Zombie’s wife does a nice job in her first feature as the sweet and twisted Baby. Erin Daniels is the only one of the four protagonists, sadly, that really shows a bit of spark in her performance.

Despite it’s flaws I like House as I like the type of films it pays homage to and while it could have been much better, it’s black heart is in the right place and it shows that Zombie might yet gives us something to really spill our popcorn over.

A solid 3 homicidal clowns!

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THE DEVIL’S REJECTS (2005)

Rob Zombie’s sophomore film is technically a sequel to House of 1000 Corpses, but the further the film moves along, the less it has to do with that film, except for the three main characters, it’s opening sequence and a few references.

The story picks up with vengeful Sheriff John Quincey Wydell (Willaim Forsythe) laying siege to the Firefly house to avenge the murder of his brother Lt. George Wydell (Tom Towles), who the vicious clan killed in House Of 1000 Corpses. Mother (played here by Leslie Easterbrook) is captured, while Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), Otis (Bill Moseley) and Spaulding (Sid Haig) make their escape. The film then takes us along for the gruesome ride as the three fugitives flee to a motel where they torment and murder some of the guests and occupants while the revenge crazed Wydell continues his manhunt to track them down.

Again a homage to exploitation flicks of the 70s, this time Zombie creates a savage crime thriller about three deranged murderers on the run from an equally deranged lawman and the group of innocents caught in the middle. This an unflinchingly violent tale that is straight out of a 70’s grind-house revenge flick, or sleazy biker movie. It can be very brutal, gruesome and quite disturbing at times. Gone is House’s goofy humor and uneven tone, Zombie maintains an intensity from the opening shoot-out to the climactic showdown and crafts a lean and mean movie of the kind they don’t make anymore. His expert use of classic 70’s music throughout, ads to the overall effect and atmosphere of the film. You may never listen to Freebird the same way again. One of the things I liked about the film is that it’s three main characters are horrible people who do horrible things, but when Wydell catches up to them, he has let revenge turn him into a far more horrible person and you begin to root for our homicidal trio. Zombie takes a few moments here and there to show what little humanity the three have left, at least in relation to their bond with each other, so when their paths finally collide with the deranged sheriff’s, we clearly see that Wydell has lost all his humanity in his quest to make them pay for his brother’s death, and it makes him the villain. Sure the film has flaws. Did we really need to sit through the torture and torment of the hotel guests for so long and the re-emergence of a Corpses character later on, is a bit jarring as we left that film behind in the first act. Zombie sometimes revels in the trashy nature of the characters a bit too much, but the director/musician also shows growth as a filmmaker and the film does gives us a rousing last act with a really cool shoot-out finale.

Again, not perfect, but Zombie continues to show he does know his source material and does have his own ideas about what to do with his influences. He is a director to watch whether you like his type of films or not. Also stars a who’s who of low budget film icons such as Ken Foree, Danny Trejo, P.J. Soles and Michael Berryman to name a few.

3 homicidal clowns!

zombie DBL rating

Also click here to check out our review of his latest flick, The Lords Of Salem.

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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 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

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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

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