HORROR TV YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: STRANGER THINGS season 2 (2017)

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STRANGER THINGS season 2 (2017)

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

Stranger Things returns with nine new episodes on Netflix that take place a year later, delightfully around Halloween. The story returns us to Hawkins, Indiana, now in 1984 with new trouble brewing. Our four heroes, Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Will (Noah Schnapp), are a year older, though still feeling the effects of their encounter with the Upside Down, especially Will. Unknown to the gang, a new threat is emerging from that paranormal dimension and has it’s sights set on Will. Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) has escaped and is now being hidden by police chief Hopper (David Harbour) from the Hawkins Laboratory folks who are still messing in otherworldly matters. While the group start to realize Will is once again in danger, Eleven goes on a journey to discover her real name and find her birth mother (Aimee Mullins) and half-sister (Linnea Berthelsen). Obviously all the characters’ stories will collide before the season is over.

Second season is just as good as the first and in some ways even more effective as now we are emotionally invested in the familiar characters. Ross and Matt Duffer (Hidden) again pay homage and give plentiful references to the sci-fi and horror flicks of the 80s, while still giving Stranger Things is very own heart and soul. They mange to expand the story, while keeping it familiar, also introducing us to some new characters like new gang member Maxine “Max” Hargrove (Sadie Sink) and her enormous jerk of a brother, Billy (Dacre Montgomery from Better Watch Out). The Duffer Brothers still manage to blend in so many 80s references and yet without them being intrusive or overwhelming, or becoming the main focus. There is another great soundtrack of 80s tunes and the original score, again by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, really adds atmosphere as it did for season one. The FX are top notch, like last time and this season helps give the proceedings a bit bigger scale to go with it’s massive monster. There’s plenty of action, suspense, drama and otherworldly critters to keep it’s core audience happy while rooting for our favorite characters to battle evil once more.

The cast are just as good as last time with new facets being added to the characters. Winona Ryder is again solid as Will’s mother, who is now a bit overprotective, but more of a fighter when her boy is again in danger. Millie Bobby Brown really shines as Eleven, who is now frustrated at being kept from her friends and needing to find out who she really is and where her lost relatives are. As the gang, Wolfhard, Matarazzo, Schnapp and McLaughlin all are really strong and get to play the characters a year older, but still the lovable nerds we last saw, but now with an added strength of being heroes. Schnapp especially gets to show his stuff with Will being a far more present character this season with a strong connection to our story. Harbour is again, a good hero as police chief Hopper, who is going to great lengths to protect Eleven and has made a deal with the Devil, per say, to keep the bad guys out of Hawkins. The rest of the supporting cast get more to do and do it well and the new faces such as Sink, Montgomery and veteran Paul Reiser as Dr. Owens, a shady scientist, all add to the character mix quite nicely. The Duffers juggle a lot of characters, but everyone gets their moment.

This was another solid and very entertaining season. The 80s nostalgia was again very enjoyable as was the recreation of the look and feel of the 80s decade. It took the story in new directions, introduced new characters, yet never lost that Stranger Things feel. The cast are all good, both new and returning and the FX were top notch. There were plenty of chills, suspense, thrills and surprises and some cool critters, too. Can’t wait for season 3 and now there is little doubt the Duffer Brothers can deliver the goods.

EPISODE LIST

  1. MADMAX – directed and written by The Duffer Brothers
  2. Trick or Treat, Freak – directed and written by The Duffer Brothers
  3. The Pollywog – directed by Shawn Levy and written by Jessica Mecklenburg
  4. Will the Wise – directed by Shawn Levy and written by Paul Dichter
  5. Dig Dug – directed by Andrew Stanton written by Jessie Nickson-Lopez
  6. The Spy – directed by Andrew Stanton and written by Kate Trefry
  7. The Lost Sister – directed by Rebbeca Thomas and written by Justin Doble
  8. The Mind Flayer – directed and written by The Duffer Brothers
  9. The Gate – directed and written by The Duffer Brothers

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 mysterious and powerful little girls.
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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE BARN (2016)

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THE BARN (2016)

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

Crowd funded horror/homage definitely has it’s heart in the right place and knows it’s 80s influences well, even if it isn’t quite as successful at delivering the goods as the films it’s trying to pay tribute to.

Flick starts out in the small town of Wheary Falls in 1959 where a Halloween set Harvest Hootenany festival goes wrong for one little girl who unwisely challenges a local legend about three demons that inhabit a local barn. The film then jumps 30 years to 1989 where Halloween obsessed teen Sam (Mitchell Musolino) and some friends accidentally awaken this legendary trio of demons while stopping in Weary Falls on the way to a Halloween night rock concert. Now Sam, his best bud Josh (Will Stout) and pretty Michelle (Lexi Dripps) find themselves battling the demonic Scarecrow, Boogeyman and Hollow Jack, that they have awakened from The Barn.

80s homage is written, directed and edited by Justin M. Seaman and the filmmaker’s intentions are certainly noble. The flick does indeed have the feel of one of those 80s horrors and even gives it an old VHS look with scratches and grain and muted colors. For nostalgia purposes, the film knows it’s source material well and we sense Seaman has a genuine love for these films and the horror genre in general. The basic story certainly works for the type of film it’s trying to be and the director does have a good visual eye and achieves a lot on a small budget. Where the film loses ground is in the writing and the editing. The dialogue is simply very stale and the exposition sequences seem to go on and on and are flat and un-involving. Seaman could have cut out a good ten minutes of talkiness from his homage and gotten it in at a much tighter 90 minutes, or less, and the film would have moved much better. It is a bit too slow paced for it’s own good. There were sequences of talk that felt like they could have been removed completely without hurting the movie, such as Sam’s talk with his dad and when they meet George Hayward (David Hampton), who was with the little girl in the opening sequence. Drunken George’s dialogue seems to go on forever and basically adds even more exposition to a local legend that was fine as it was. His story only convolutes things and the possible way of sending the demons back he relates, is just weak. Sometimes a bit of ambiguity is good, instead of explaining things in too much detail. As a matter of fact, the whole 1989 Halloween Hootenanny sequence goes on way too long, a prime example of how better writing and editing could have made this tighter. The horror sequences, featuring the three demons, themselves are fine. They are not scary or suspenseful, but they do work and Seaman’s demons are effective enough on the homage level they are intended. The FX are quite good for a low budget flick, especially the gore and they do emulate 80s FX work very well. As nostalgia, the film works very well in many ways, especially with Rocky Gray’s cool 80s style electronic soundtrack to add even more of the 80s feel. But as a movie, it’s a bit tedious and flat at times and lacks any real suspense and scares to make it really special. It needed some life to it’s scenes and performances.

While on the subject of the performances, to be too picky over the acting in a low budget film like this, isn’t really fair. Let’s be honest,  the acting in a lot of the films that this flick is paying homage to, wasn’t exactly award level either. The cast in one sense are fine, though some of the dialogue reciting is a bit flat, but that could also be from the need for stronger guidance from a first time filmmaker. Mitchell Musolino is OK as Sam, as is Will Stout as Josh, though as heroes they are a bit dull. It also doesn’t help that lead Sam’s character is kind of a moody sourpuss and hard to endear to. At least Stout’s Josh is a bit more animated and likable. The one cast member who stands out a bit is cute, girl-next-door Lexi Dripps who is actually endearing as the perky object of Sam’s awkward affection, Michelle. She is one of the few cast members who sounds like she is talking naturally, not reading from a script. Sadly, the character of Michelle disappears for most of the third act action and when she re-emerges, it’s as a bound and gagged damsel in distress only there to be rescued by Sam and Josh. The film might have been better served to have Miss Dripps play final girl, or at least be more involved in the action, as she is the one with the strongest screen presence and most charm. Her character was one of the livelier ones, too, unlike the droll Sam, and is sadly underused. There are also small parts played by legendary Scream Queen, Linnea Quigley and Ari Lehman, who was the first actor to ever play Jason Voorhees (as a boy) in the first Friday The 13th.

I wanted to like this flick a lot more than I did*. It’s heart was in the right place, it knew it’s influences very well and nailed the nostalgia elements pretty much dead on. It had a perfectly fine horror flick story and director Justin M. Seaman has a nice eye for spooky visuals, with the flick looking good for something very low budget. Definitely an “A” for effort. Where the film stumbles, is in it’s writing and editing. The Barn could have been ten minutes shorter, without hurting the story, it’s a little too talky between the action and the dialog itself was very stale and flat. The film wasn’t actually scary and the simple and effective plot gets a little convoluted in it’s second act. Simpler and more streamlined was working earlier on. A very noble effort and we hope filmmaker Justin M. Seaman continues to hone his craft and maybe the next flick will be closer to the home run he was swinging for here. I still recommend horror fans give it a look for the nostalgia of it and simply for the effort put in by some independent filmmakers with a passion…and despite it’s flaws, that passion does show!

*This little flick has grown on me a lot since I first reviewed it. Not sure this statement still applies -MZNJ

-MonsterZero NJ

3 jack-o-lanterns for effort, heart and Halloween spirit.

tales of halloween rating

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HORROR TV YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: STRANGER THINGS (2016)

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STRANGER THINGS (2016)

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

Stranger Things is an eight episode series from Netflix that takes place in Hawkins, Indiana in 1983. This fun retro series tells of four friends, Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Will (Noah Schnapp), who are into Dungeons and Dragons and Star Wars like most nerdy kids of this era. A bizarre series of events occur with Will disappearing and a mysterious young girl (Millie Bobby Brown) with strange powers showing up in town, at the same time. She calls herself ‘Eleven’ and seems to be on the run. The three friends bond with Eleven and the four set out to find Will, as does local police chief Hopper (David Harbour) with all clues pointing to the mysterious Hawkins Laboratory and it’s presiding head scientist (Matthew Modine). Where is Will? Who really is Eleven? And what do the experiments at Hawkins have to do with all this?

This is a fun and nostalgic series from Ross and Matt Duffer (Hidden) that not only pays homage and gives affectionate nods to the sci-fi/horror flicks of the 80s and their filmmakers, but succeeds in being it’s own thing as well. Sure we see references to many 80s classics, but Stranger Things has it’s own vibe and it’s own story to go along with it’s tributes and provides it’s own chills, as no more evident than it’s opening scenes. We get little girls with deadly powers, evil men in black, alternate dimensions, creatures, conspiracy and a small town caught in the middle of it all. The Duffers deliver it with the look and feel of a movie of that era, as well as, a really cool electronic 80s score by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, but not without a touch of their own style. While the mysteries slowly unravel over the course of the eight chapters, we are kept in the dark as long as possible, fed only small bits till it all comes together in the thrilling last few episodes. It’s a delightfully retro series that delivers the goods on all levels including having a little bit of an unobtrusive and offbeat sense of humor. It’s engaging and entertaining and very cleverly written by it’s creators who know exactly in what degree to deliver both it’s homages and it’s scares. The FX are well done, with much of the creature work appearing to be live effects and it never goes too overboard with them as to not betray the era it is recreating. To say anymore would be to spoil a really enjoyable and spooky show.

The cast are all really good from the name actors to the new faces. Winona Ryder is solid as Will’s emotionally troubled mother, who is pushed close to the edge by her son’s disappearance and the strange events that follow. Matthew Modine is appropriately arrogant and sleazy as head Hawkins scientist, Dr. Brenner, who pretends to care for Eleven, but is only using her for his experiments. Young Miss Brown is very endearing as Eleven, a child with some amazing and dangerous gifts who just wants to have a normal life and be cared for. We do feel sorry for her use as a test subject and how hurt she is that people fear her once they know what she is capable of. As our main group, Wolfhard, Matarazzo and McLaughlin all are engaging and make a likable trio of friends. They are brave in their search for Will and noble, especially Mike, in their befriending of Eleven. Harbour is also a good hero as the police chief who will go up against some very dangerous people to find a little boy. Schnapp doesn’t get much screen time as the missing Will, but he is likable enough in his brief appearances that we are sympathetic to what has happened to him. A good cast.

This was a solid and very entertaining series from start to finish. The 80s nostalgia was very enjoyable as was the recreation of the look and feel of films of that era, especially those of Carpenter and Spielberg. It payed homage to and referenced many 80s classics, yet was very much it’s own story that let it’s paying tribute be part of it’s tale, but not dictate it. The cast are all good, the FX were well-rendered, but did not look out of place in an 80s style film and there were plenty of chills, suspense and thrills throughout. Highly recommended and hopefully, there is only a second season, if it can match the quality of the first. Otherwise it stands perfectly on it’s own.

 

EPISODE LIST

  1. The Vanishing of Will Byers – directed and written by The Duffer Brothers
  2. The Weirdo on Maple Street – directed and written by The Duffer Brothers
  3. Holly Jolly – directed by Shawn Levy and written by Jessica Mecklenburg
  4. The Body – directed by The Duffer Brothers and written by Justin Doble
  5. The Flea and the Acrobat – directed by The Duffer Brothers written by Alison Tatlock
  6. The Monster – directed by The Duffer Brothers and written by Jessie Nickson-Lopez
  7. The Bathtub – directed by The Duffer Brothers and written by Justin Doble
  8. The Upside Down – directed and written by The Duffer Brothers from a story by Paul Dichter

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 mysterious and powerful little girls.
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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE ZERO BOYS (1986)

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THE ZERO BOYS (1986)

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

Aside from starring 80s B-movie babe Kelli Maroney, having the score composed by future mega-composer Hans Zimmer and Frank Darabont as an assistant art director, there is little or nothing remarkable about this flick. Three paintball enthusiasts who fancy themselves survivalists and call themselves The Zero Boys, take their girls into the woods for a camping trip and wind up spending the night at a secluded cabin, that does not belong to them. The actual owners turn out to be sadistic, murderous rednecks and decide to make the group pay for the intrusion. But the Zero Boys are armed and ready and when rednecks attack, this means war!…sort of.

Flick is written, produced and directed by Greek filmmaker Nico Mastorakis and is a tedious and dull movie with very little of the action that the premise would suggest should be in abundance. The story unfolds very slowly with a lot of uninteresting dialog with the rednecks only making brief appearances here and there until they kidnap one of the girlfriends, later on in the flick. It’s only in the last few minutes where we finally get a confrontation and that’s over quickly with minimal body count…not counting various miscellaneous corpses that seem to pop up here and there to illustrate the good ole boys have been doing this for a while. The acting from the cast of mostly unknowns is wooden and bland across the board, with only Maroney showing a little spark getting to play a bad girl this time instead of the more wholesome types she played in Chopping Mall and Night Of The Comet. As for the villains, they are seen in shadow most of the time and are stereotypical creepy rednecks. They lack much threat and even their leader (Joe Estevez billed as Joe Phelan) is dressed like a suburban dad complete with sweater and collared shirt. Not very scary for a homicidal redneck. Director Matorakis provides little or no tension, suspense or even fun and stages everything very by-the-numbers. His script gets borderline silly at times and only moderately delivers on the throw-down that the story sets up.

Despite seeming to have a bit of a following, this is a really lame and dull movie even for slightly under 90 minutes. The premise would suggest a lot of action, yet there is very little till the last 10-15 minutes and even that is very by-the-numbers and over quickly. The Zero Boys themselves are a dull group and only Kelli Maroney gives her feisty Jaime a little life and is the only recognizable cast member. Worst of all, it even lacked the 80s charm that can sometimes make stuff at least a little fun. Only if you are an 80s movie completist.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 bullets.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: MONSTER DOG (1984)

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MONSTER DOG (1984)

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This is a delightfully awful Italian horror movie most notable for starring rock legend Alice Cooper as it’s leading man. Cooper (dubbed by another actor for some reason) plays Vincent Roberts, known to the world as rock star Vincent Raven, who returns to his ancestral home to shoot a music video. The area is being plagued by a pack of wild dogs, that have caused a few deaths and the locals feel that somehow Vincent and his family are involved. Is this just the overactive minds of superstitious locals, or is there lycanthropy running in the veins of rock star Vincent Raven? Soon the old house is besieged by both crazed canines and vengeful locals. Will Vincent, girlfriend Sandra (Victoria Vera) and their friends survive the night?

Written and directed by Claudio Fragasso (under the pseudonym of Clyde Anderson), this is a hysterically bad flick. It’s cheesy in every way from the ridiculously fake rubber Monster Dog prop, to the terrible music videos, to the fact that star Cooper is dubbed by another actor. The acting is quite wooden, though it’s hard to tell with the bad dubbing just where the fault lies. At least the dialog is delightfully as awful as most everything else. Leading lady Victoria Vera is appropriate eye candy as Raven’s girlfriend/video director, as is co-star Pepa Sarsa, so there is that. The flick delivers some gore and violence and it is amusing to see Cooper running around with a shotgun in a blue leather outfit and loads of make-up and guy-liner. The old house it’s filmed in is atmospheric and spooky and it’s sad this amusing misfire doesn’t provide something more solid to make use of the Spanish settings. This is a fun movie for all the wrong reasons in true ‘so bad it’s good’ style and certainly notable for it’s rock star lead. It would be totally forgettable without Cooper, dubbed or not, though why Cooper got involved in this to begin with, is possibly more the question…that and why the poster refers to him as “Lou” when his character is named Vincent.

I won’t deny I had fun with this flick. It is entertainingly bad in every way and has rock legend Alice Cooper as a shotgun carrying werewolf suspect. It’s cheesy, it’s awful and yet somehow, very watchable for exactly those reasons. Good movie?…definitely not. Fun movie?…to a degree, yes.

-MonsterZero NJ

As a movie, it rates 2 Coopers…add another Cooper for cheesy, entertainment value!

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: MADMAN (1982)

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MADMAN (1982)

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Madman is a lesser known 80s slasher that has enough moments to make it worth a watch. Story has a group of counselors and their charges at a remote deep woods retreat for gifted children. At the opening campfire scene, we hear the story of Madman Mars (Paul Ehlers), a giant mountain man farmer who went mad one night and slaughtered his entire family. The townsfolk took him into the woods and hung him from a tree, but his body disappeared never to be found. His supposed abandoned house is near the camp and when one doubting counselor, Ritchie (Jimmy Steele) mocks the tale and throws a rock through one of the house’s windows…well you know what comes next. Soon counselors are meeting their doom in gruesome ways and they start to wonder if there isn’t some truth to the campfire tale of Madman Mars!

Written and directed by Joe Giannone, this slasher has an almost surreal/dark fantasy atmosphere with James Lemmo’s spooky cinematography and the hulking Mars who, with his long white beard and rubbery grey skin, looks like a fantasy film ogre in overalls. There isn’t too much in terms of suspense or tension, but there are some very gruesome kills and director Giannone does keep an unsettling mood about the flick. Mars is a formidable enough stalker/killer and he’s given an almost supernatural quality as he quietly moves throughout the forest taking his victims back to his abandoned home only to return to the camp for more. Film is far from perfect. The dialog and acting are pretty poor and despite the plot involving children, they rarely factor into the story till the end. There is a really silly scene where two counselors frolic in a hot tub to an incredibly laughable love song and the subplot of Ritchie continually hanging out inside Mars’ house while the killer goes back and forth with the bodies of his victims, is just really odd. Why not leave? Even when he is able to leave the house, he goes back inside. WTF? The gore FX are well rendered and there is a typical 80s electronic score by Stephen Horelick to enhance the atmosphere. Not a great movie, but one with some good kills and some spooky atmosphere and the pacing is typically moderate for slashers of the early 80s.

The cast are all unknowns, except for one interesting member as our lead girl Betsy. Betsy is played by Dawn of the Dead’s Gaylen Ross though, for some reason, she’s billed as Alex Dubin. She makes for a good heroine, this time not playing fourth banana to three men and gets to be a little sexier with her long braided hair and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nudity. Her character disappears for a bit during the middle of the film, but returns to try to get the kids to safety and battle Mars in it’s last act. Surprising that Ross never did more final girl work, especially with the notoriety she gained in Dawn. She does a decent job here. Also very curious why she chose to use an alias for this film. Paul Ehlers is effective as Mars and gives him some menace though he’s no Freddy or Jason. The rest of the cast are fairly wooden, but do make for good enough Madman Mars fodder.

Personally, I kind of like this movie. It has it’s shortcomings, the dialog and acting are pretty weak and there are some silly sequences. It is atmospheric though, the cinematography is spooky and there are some good gory kills. There is an odd, almost surreal element to the film that actually makes it feel more like the campfire tale it’s supposed to be. A flawed, but still somewhat entertaining movie.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 axes.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: GRADUATION DAY (1981)

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GRADUATION DAY (1981)

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Graduation Day is a ho-hum 80s slasher that sees a high school track team being targeted by a killer as graduation approaches. The film opens with pretty track star Laura (Ruth Ann Llorens) winning a big race, but collapsing dead immediately after crossing the finish line. People blame her coach (Christopher George) for pushing her too hard. As her Navy Ensign sister Anne (Patch Mackenzie) returns home for Laura’s graduation, more members of the Midvale High School track team start to fall dead, this time by someone’s murderous hand. Is it a vengeful sister? Is it a deranged coach?…or does someone else have a reason to see the track team meet a fate far worse than Laura?

Film is directed by Herb Freed and co-written by he and David Baughn (who also co-produced with Freed) along with Anne Marisse. This is a very slow paced and dull flick with very flat direction and little suspense or tension. The killings are also very basic and routine, nothing special, nor especially gory. There really isn’t much going on here story-wise as we slowly try to figure out who the killer is and why the track team is their target. It is a little offbeat and weird that the killer often wears a sweatsuit and times the killings with a stopwatch, but once we get the reveal it does make a little more sense…a little. While on the subject of that, Graduation Day’s reveal actually works somewhat, as the character is simply someone you’ve kind of forgotten about, yet they do make sense, to a degree. There is a little creepiness at the end once we meet our villain, but it is too little too late. The final confrontation has some fun to it, but basically for the wrong reasons as it gets a bit over-the-top and silly.

The cast are also fairly bland as well, with only vets Christopher George and Micahel (Halloween 4) Pataki giving their thinly written roles a little life. The teen (some look like they’re in their thirties) leads are fairly dull with legendary scream queen Linnea Quigley once again showing up to show off her boobs before meeting her fate. Keep an eye out for a young Vanna White as a student, as well.

Overall, this is a dull and forgettable slasher that does have a bit of a following and did make back close to ten times it’s small budget at the box office. There is little suspense or tension, the kills are routine and with nothing interesting gore wise, but it is very 80s so there is that. The ending gets enjoyable goofy and there is a ridiculously long music video-ish segment featuring a band called Felony that brings giggles because it seems like it will never end. Not a total waste of time, but nothing special and I don’t see what it’s followers find so…worth following.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 knives.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: BLOOD RAGE (1987)

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BLOOD RAGE (1987)

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This is an odd and lesser known 80s slasher that tells the story of twin brothers Todd and Terry. It starts in 1974 where the young brothers are at a drive-in with their mother (Louise Lasser) and her boyfriend. Terry and Todd sneak away only to have Terry senselessly murder a patron and then blame it on the catatonic Todd. Todd is institutionalized and only begins to remember that awful night ten years later. Now an adult, Todd (Mark Soper) tells his doctor that Terry (also Mark Soper) is actually the killer and when no one seems to believe him, he escapes on Thanksgiving night to confront his brother. When informed of Todd’s escape, Terry embarks on a bloody killing spree knowing his sibling will be blamed once more and locked away forever.

Written by Bruce Rubin and directed by John Grissmer, this is a strange slasher. We are never given a reason for the murder at the drive-in, nor why Terry is so quick to frame Todd. Once Todd escapes a decade later, the deranged Terry just picks up where he left off and starts to murder not only his own friends, but anyone who might believe Todd. The film does make some good use of the fact that the two are identical twins and they are played by the same actor. The gimmick would have worked better, though, if director Grissmer gave the film a bit more intensity and life. It’s got some atmosphere, but the film is directed very by-the-numbers, is very dreary in tone and the cast, including vet Lasser, are very wooden for the most part…though Soper does do a good job making a noticeable difference in the two brother’s personalities and seems to be having fun with the role. There is some graphic gore and bloodshed in the flick and it has a very bleak ending and one must wonder what the film would had been like, guided by someone more willing to really go for broke with it’s premise. It’s a mediocre film that could have been more of a stand-out in the 80s slasher canon, if only it cranked things up a bit and wasn’t played out quite as somberly.

Blood Rage is a moderately entertaining 80s horror. It has a decent body count, with some very good gore, but never really comes alive with by-the-numbers direction and it’s very somber mood. Actor Mark Soper seems to be having fun playing the brothers, but lead Lasser acts as if she’d rather be somewhere else. There is some fun with hero and villain both being twins, though the script and director could have made even more use of the premise and had a lot more fun with it. A decent enough watch, but could have used a director who really could take the story and milk it for all it’s was worth. Flick was made in 1983, but took four years to finally find distribution. Watch for Ted Raimi in a brief cameo role in the drive-in sequence.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 serrated machetes.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE MUTILATOR (1984)

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THE MUTILATOR (1984)

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Written and directed by Buddy Cooper, The Mutilator is a bit of a mixed bag, but worth watching for the 80s nostalgia and some very explicit gore. The story opens with young Ed Jr. (Trace Cooper) wanting to impress his father (Jack Chatham) for his birthday by cleaning his gun collection. Never a good idea. Ed Jr. accidentally shoots his mom (Pamela Weddle Cooper) which drives dad a bit over the edge. The story then shifts to Ed Jr. (Matt Mitler) now in college and going out to his father’s beach condo with friends for the weekend to close it down for the winter. Little does Ed Jr. and friends know, that Ed Sr. is waiting for them and planning to finally exact the revenge on his son and his companions for the accident that took his wife’s life so many years ago.

For the most part this is a slow paced flick at a time where the pace of horror thrillers was starting to pick up. The acting is very wooden, as the dialog is sometimes stilted and amateurish. There is little mystery to it, as we know right away it’s Ed Sr. who is stalking our weekend partiers and there is little suspense as victims are seen from a mile away. Ed Sr. also has almost no dialog, so we never really get much of a character developed besides that he is apparently nuts. The actor does exude some menace, so at least there is that. What does make Buddy Cooper’s horror worth watching is the exceptional and very graphic gore from FX legend Mark Shostrom (Evil Dead II, Phantasm II & III, Elm St. II & III) and Anthony Showe. The killings may be few and far between, but the kills are inventive, vicious and extremely graphic leading to both an unrated and R-rated cut when released directly to VHS. Despite the film being a bit amateurish otherwise, the gore is quite shocking and very well-rendered. The heavy 80s atmosphere also helps too and turns a mediocre flick into something that can be a good time.

The cast are all fairly wooden and most never went anywhere except for lead Matt Mitler doing voice work for the Pokémon series and Francis Raines, who had a brief film career during the 80s. They are all fairly amateur here with killer Jack Chatham, as said earlier, exuding a bit of menace as Ed’s deranged dad. None of them are bad enough to really damage the film, but none are really that strong either. Rounding out the cast as Ed Jr.’s friends are Ruth Martinez as Pam, Connie Rogers as Sue, Morey Lampley as Mike, Frances Raines as Linda and Bill Hitchcock as jokester Ralph. Not an unlikable bunch, but not anyone memorable either, except maybe for looney Chatham.

This is still worth a look due to the exceptional and very graphic kill scenes. Other than that, there is not much to recommend, as far as, acting, mystery or suspense. There is some nice 80s nostalgia along with the bloodshed and a fun 80s electronic score by Michael Minard, which helps. If you’re an 80s purist and haven’t seen this one, it is worth watching and can be fun, especially within a movie night of similar titles.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2  fisherman’s gaffs which are used quite painfully.

mutilator rating

 

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE NIGHT BRINGS CHARLIE (1990)

MZNJ_New_TONnow playing

the night brings out charlie
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THE NIGHT BRINGS CHARLIE  (1990)

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Low budget slasher may be be from 1990, but is still very 80s in terms of music, fashions and mood. Flick has a mysterious killer stalking the rural town of Pakoe. He likes to decapitate his victims with a serrated wood saw and wears a sack over his head with goggles. The local sheriff (Kerry Knight) is baffled who it might be, despite the fact that disfigured landscaper Charlie (Chuck Whiting) dresses exactly the same way (and let’s not even mention the film’s title). Even with her father close to the case, the daughter (Aimee Tenalia) of the local mortician (Joe Fishback) keeps getting in harm’s way, too. Who is this killer and can he be stopped?

Written by Bruce Carson and directed by Tom Logan, this is an OK 80s horror flick more renown for being obscure than actually being all that good. It does have a creepy killer and there are a few amusing moments, but overall it’s very low budget and very by-the-numbers and gets very silly when identities start being revealed. There is little intensity or suspense, though the gore is decent for a very cheap movie. The acting is fairly wooden across the board and the dialog is pretty weak from all the characters involved. Once we get the big reveal, it’s a bit hard to swallow and seems to have been concocted simply to throw off the audience, briefly, as the actual identity was so easy to guess to begin with. The fact that the reveal comes about halfway through also eliminates any sense of mystery the film had and just leads to a cliché confrontation and climax.

In conclusion, the film is worth a look since it is a bit of a rarity. It’s not completely terrible and has some spooky moments early on, it’s just that it looses any sense of mystery it had when an overly-complicated reveal unmasks our killer far too early. There is some OK gore and it is very 80s, but overall is not as intriguing to watch as it was tracking it down…which wasn’t all that hard either if you know where to look.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 serrated saws

the night brings charlie rating

 

 

 

 

 

I couldn’t find a trailer, so how’s the whole movie?

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