HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: JAKOB’S WIFE (2021)

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JAKOB’S WIFE (2021)

Story finds Anne Fedder (Barbara Crampton, who also co-produced) unhappy in her marriage to overbearing Minister Jakob Fedder (Larry Fessenden). When on an ill-fated rendezvous with an old flame (Robert Rusler), Anne is bitten by a female vampire (Bonnie Aarons). Now Anne suddenly finds the strength to stand up to her husband and be her own person, but only the bad thing is, she also develops a strong appetite for blood.

Tale of female empowerment and vampirism is directed by Travis Stevens (The Girl on the Third Floor) from a script by he, Kathy Charles and Mark Steensland. It’s well intended and there are plenty of effective scenes, but the first third seems a bit bland and slow moving until the spooky stuff really begins. Once things get going, there is plenty of bloodshed and it is when dealing with it’s vampire elements that Travis’ flick really comes to life…pun intended. It’s fun to watch Crampton “vamp’ it up as the bitten Anne and also see Fessenden’s minister going all Van Helsing in order to save his wife. It has it’s slow spots, as Travis seems to be far better at the horror elements than the husband/wife drama between Anne and Jakob. It is fun, though, to see the tables turn, as Anne starts to wear the pants in the relationship and Jakob is revealed to be a bit of a coward. The vampire scenes are chilling and there is a subtle humor laced into the proceedings, so we can have a little fun between the darker and bloodier moments. Travis also avoids the clichés in this type of flick whenever possible and while it is not completely unconventional, the familiar tropes are used very well and it comes to a fitting conclusion. The film also has an effective visual style, as photographed by David Matthews and a fun vampire appropriate score by Tara Busch.

The cast are good, especially an excellent Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, Chopping Mall) as the oppressed wife experiencing a supernaturally charged awakening. It’s one of her best roles in a long time. Larry Fessenden is also well cast as her boorish minister husband who realizes there are vampires afoot…and his wife is one of them. It’s fun to see Robert Rusler (A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, Vamp) back in a horror, though his appearance is basically an extended cameo. The film also stars Nyisha Bell as a parishioner turned bloodsucker, Jay DeVon Johnson as Sheriff Mike Hess, along with a cameo by former WWE Superstar CM Punk (The Girl on the Third Floor) as a deputy and featuring Bonnie Aarons (The Nun), who is very effective as the master vampiress.

Overall, Jakob’s Wife starts off a little slowly, but finds it’s footing and presents a spooky and entertaining story of a woman rediscovering and asserting herself, with the help of a little vampirism. Some of the dramatic scenes can come across as a little flat, but director Travis Stevens handles the spooky and bloody stuff a lot more effectively to make up for it. The filmmaker has a good cast, especially with a strong performance by lead Crampton. Not a completely fresh take on the traditional vampire tale, but one that has some novel moments, does it’s own thing at times and mixes in some contemporary themes of female empowerment deftly into it’s story. Flick from RLJE Films and Shudder is now available to stream on Amazon Prime and other streaming outlets.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) fangs.

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

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IN SEARCH OF DARKNESS PART II (2020)

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

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

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

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

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

-MonsterZero NJ

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

 

 

 

 

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CULT CLASSIC CUTIES: DEDEE PFEIFFER as ALLISON in VAMP!

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Cult Classic Cuties are characters from some of our favorite cult classics and midnight movies who captured our hearts and/or actresses who got our attention, but sadly never returned to these type of flicks. They’re femme fatales and final girls whose sexy stars shined only briefly, not quite achieving scream queen status. And this installment’s cutie is…

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DEDEE PFEIFFER as ALLISON in VAMP!

Dedee Pfeiffer as Allison/Amaretto in Vamp!

This installment of Cult Classic Cuties focuses on an actress who starred in only two horror flicks, both in the 80s. Actress Dedee Pfeiffer may be Michelle’s sister, but she carved out her own niche in the minds and hearts of horror fans as Amaretto/Allison, the new waitress at the vampire infested strip club in Vamp! Allison may be oblivious to her bloodsucking coworkers, but when her childhood crush walks in and pisses them off, the adorable Allison finds herself on the run from these creatures of the night!

(You can read my full review for Vamp by clicking the highlighted titles or on the poster below)

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New waitress Amaretto is a blast from the past to our hero Keith (Chris Makepeace).

Allison/Amaretto may be oblivious that she’s surrounded by vampires, but that’s part of her charm!

Allison finally realizes rekindling a grade school romance is dangerous when your paramour pisses off vampires!

A bazooka probably won’t stop a vampire, but can’t blame a girl for trying!

Vampire queen Katrina (Grace Jones) regretting hiring that new waitress maybe?

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Dedee Pfeiffer made one more straight-up horror flick, The Horror Show with Lance Henriksen in 1989. Since then she’s enjoyed a busy career in movies and TV and even done a couple of direct to video thrillers and science fiction flicks in more recent years, though never returning to straight up horror. Wherever she takes her career, Dedee will always be remembered by horror fans for her role in Vamp and certainly qualifies as a Cult Classic Cutie!

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Be sure to check out our Cult Classic Cuties (click right here for the link) section to see more crush worthy ladies from cult films and midnight movies!

-MonsterZero NJ

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COOL STUFF: VAMP (1986) COLLECTOR’S EDITION BLU-RAY!

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VAMP (1986) COLLECTOR’S EDITION BLU-RAY!

 

Vamp (1986) (full review HERE) is an 80s vampire flick that was sadly overlooked when first released. A smaller budgeted movie than the other vampire flicks of that era, but one that finally is being discovered and given the credit it deserves. After all, it presented the story of a queen vampire and her nest of followers being located in a strip club, a full decade before Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn. In this 2016 special edition Blu-ray from Arrow Video, Vamp can now be watched in all it’s original gory glory.

 

As for the disc itself….

The high definition transfer of this 80s vampire flick looks really good considering it is over 30 years-old. The film is presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and there is some grain in the picture, but the neon colors are bright and vibrant and the images are sharp. The sound is the original mono track and while that may disappoint home theater enthusiasts, it’s certainly sufficient and should please purists who want to hear it in it’s original presentation. Probably as good as it’s ever going to look.

 

Now on to the extras….

The extras included are better than one might expect for what was a bit of an under-the-radar release back in 1986 and should please fans of this film. It starts out with a new documentary made at the time of this disc’s release in 2016 called One of those Nights: The Making of Vamp. It features new interviews with director and co-writer Richard Wenk, stars Chris Makepeace, Dedee Pfeiffer, Robert Rusler, Gedde Watanabe, the late Billy Drago and cinematographer Elliot Davis. It’s fun and informative, from the universal praise for Deedee Pfeiffer from cast and crew, to Grace Jone’s being both very enthusiastic to work on the film, yet perpetually tardy getting to the set. A cool documentary. There is also rehearsal footage, Richard Wenk’s 1979 comedy/musical short Dracula Bites the Big Apple, a blooper reel, TV spots, trailers and a photo gallery. While there are oddly no audio commentary tracks, there is a nice info-filled souvenir booklet inside the case. A solid special edition from Arrow Video, who also did the really good BloodThirsty Trilogy Blu-Ray set.

 

Vamp was not a huge box office success when first released on July 18, 1986, but wasn’t a bomb either. It has developed a well deserved cult following since and is now recognized as a cult classic. It was kind of the overlooked 80s vampire flick, released between Fright Night and The Lost Boys, but now is finally getting the attention and treatment this underrated little flick deserves.

On a personal note, I actually saw in a theater back in 1986 and this special edition really brought back memories and was a great way to revisit it. Highly recommended if you are a fan.

Available on https://arrowfilms.com or from Amazon.

-MonsterZero NJ

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: VAMP (1986)

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VAMP (1986)

A full ten years before Robert Rodriguez took us to the Titty Twister, writer/director Richard Wenk took us to The After Dark Club, a vampire infested strip bar deep in the urban jungle of Los Angeles, in this 80s horror/comedy from post-Corman New World Pictures (Corman sold it in 1983). Keith (Chris Makepeace) and A.J. (Robert Rusler) want desperately to get into a fraternity and to do so, make the frat brothers a deal that, if they get them a stripper for one of their parties, they are in. The boys hitch a ride with nerdy but wealthy Duncan (Gedde Watanabe) into downtown L.A. and choose a place called The After Dark Club to find their stripper. Inside the sleazy club, the haunting and impressive Katrina (Grace Jones) is whom they choose. Unknown to them, though, Katrina is a centuries old vampire and so are most of the club employees, except for new girl and old friend of Keith’s, Amaretto (Dedee Pfeiffer…Michelle’s sister). Soon a quest to join a frat becomes a night of terror and survival for Keith and his friends, as they face an ancient and hungry evil that wants them all dead…or worse.

Low budget flick is no Lost Boys, but it is fun, though, not as fun as I remembered it when I saw it in 1986. Under Wenk’s direction the film has a slower pace than a flick like this should. He could have used some more intensity and energy in the action sequences, though budgetary restrictions probably were to blame here, too, as the action is pretty small scale and low key. His visual style gives it a sleazy neon-bathed look and that works in the film’s favor and Wenk is supported by some nice gore and make-up FX from master Greg Cannom. The script has some definite weak points, such as vampires keeping drums of flammable liquid in their lair. Then there’s an albino street gang that prowls the neighborhood, yet somehow has never come across their fanged neighbors, but the local coffee shop guy is well aware of them? Giving the film a boost over it’s flaws is that the flick is very 80s and the nostalgia helps one past some of it’s weaker spots.

Wenk also has a cast that gets the material and it’s tone. Makepeace is a suitable hero and it doesn’t hurt that he has a passing resemblance to Mel Gibson. Rusler performs well the part he usually played in the 80s flicks he was in, the cool player. Wantanabe is still milking Long Duk Dong, but with better English here and Pfeiffer gives us a crush-worthy, cute and ditzy heroine in her Allison/Amaretto. Grace Jones doesn’t have as much screen time as you might think as Katrina. She is formidable, though, and has presence, even if she has no dialog and spends a lot of time under Greg Cannom’s make-up artistry. The music by Jonathan Elias suits the mood fine and the cinematography by Elliot Davis and Douglas F. O’Neons captures the sleazy neon soaked atmosphere of the setting. To give the film credit, the comedy and horror elements do mix fairly well and that isn’t always easy.

Overall, Vamp is still fun, especially with the 80s nostalgia added, but not as good as I remembered it being. Grace Jones made an interesting stripper/vampire queen and with a little more energy and a perkier pace, this could have been a real treat. It’s still considered a cult classic by some and I agree it is a good example of 80s B-Movies, the type that soon went direct to DVD. It might be one of the last films of it’s kind to get a theatrical release before the home video era made it cheaper to go direct with flicks like this. It’s an amusing 80s horror/comedy and while there are certainly better examples of that genre mix, Vamp is still worth a look and a bit unique in it’s own way…and it did pre-date Lost Boys by a year and From Dusk Till Dawn by a decade. Also stars 80s B-Movie bad guy Billy Drago as albino street gang leader Snow.

Rated 3 (out of 4) fangs.

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