MONSTERZERO NJ’S 12 HORROR FLICKS FOR BLACK HISTORY MONTH!

MZNJ_new_views

now playing

MONSTERZERO NJ’S 12 HORROR FLICKS FOR BLACK HISTORY MONTH!

February is the month where we mark the achievements of the black community and there have been some wonderful contributions to the world of horror films by some amazing talents. Whether it be black filmmakers like William Crain and Jordan Peele, or actors such as William Marshall, Pam Grier, Lupita Nyong’o and Duane Jones, there is much to celebrate! Here are twelve films that illustrate the sometimes groundbreaking and always entertaining achievements in the horror genre that this month so proudly commemorates!

REVIEW LINKS: click to read the corresponding review!

  1. Blacula
  2. Scream Blacula Scream
  3. Abby
  4. Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde
  5. Sugar Hill
  6. The House On Skull Mountain
  7. Candyman
  8. Tales from the Hood
  9. Night of the Living Dead
  10. Get Out
  11. Us
  12. His House

*************************************************************

To all these talented men and women in front of and behind the camera…CHEERS!

-MonsterZero NJ

bars

MONSTERZERO NJ’S 10 HORROR FLICKS FOR BLACK HISTORY MONTH!

MZNJ_new_views

now playing

MONSTERZERO NJ’S 10 HORROR FLICKS FOR BLACK HISTORY MONTH!

February is the month where we mark the achievements of the black community and there have been some wonderful contributions to the world of horror films by some amazing talents. Whether it be black filmmakers like William Crain and Jordan Peele, or actors such as William Marshall, Pam Grier and Duane Jones, there is much to celebrate! Here are ten films that illustrate the sometimes groundbreaking and always entertaining achievements in the horror genre that this month so proudly commemorates!

REVIEW LINKS: click to read the corresponding review!

  1. Blacula
  2. Scream Blacula Scream
  3. Abby
  4. Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde
  5. Sugar Hill
  6. The House On Skull Mountain
  7. Candyman
  8. Tales from the Hood
  9. Night of the Living Dead
  10. Get Out

 

To all these talented men and women in front of and behind the camera…CHEERS!

-MonsterZero NJ

bars

COOL STUFF: PUMPKINHEAD on BLU-RAY

MZNJ_cool_stuff

now playing

pumpkinhead

PUMPKINHEAD COLLECTOR’S EDITION Blu-Ray

I love Pumpkinhead (see full review here), it’s a favorite horror, especially around the Halloween season, and one of my favorite movie monsters. The film has never been released on video or DVD in it’s proper aspect ratio, so, those like myself who didn’t catch it in it’s limited theatrical release in 1988 have yet to see it in all it’s glory… until now!

Scream Factory once again takes a cult classic title and gives it the proper respect it is due. The remastered picture looks absolutely gorgeous with rich colors and clarity that preserve the wonderfully spooky imagery director Stan Winston brought to this creepy tale of backwoods revenge. The image is presented in a sumptuous 1080 HD and there is remastered DTS audio to go with it. It’s like seeing it and hearing it for the first time.

As for the extras, there are commentary tracks from writer Gary Gerani and the creature FX team and about 3 hours of interviews and featurettes to chew on. Everything from the previous MGM DVD special edition is there, as well as, some new interviews from producer Richard Weinman and actor John Di’Aquino (Joel), as well as, an interview filled tribute to the late Stan Winston… which brings about my only criticism. The Stan Winston tribute documentary goes on for about 15 minutes too long. At about the 35 minute mark, the interviewees seem, at that point, to be rambling on and it becomes tedious and loses a bit of it’s focus. Some judicious editing would have kept this at a more reasonable length and still preserved the essence of it’s fond look back at working with the FX legend and the impact he had on these individuals. There’s a lot or repetitiveness as it drags on and would have lost none of it’s heartfelt purpose with losing a few minutes.

But, aside from that one meager critique, this is an absolute must have for fans of this flick. It is a gorgeous looking edition filled with extras that take you back behind the scenes of the making of a cult classic that sadly never got the proper attention it deserved… until Scream Factory got a hold of it. Another great collector’s edition from the awesome folks at Scream Factory! Pumpkinhead has truly been resurrected at last!

bars

MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: GARGOYLES and DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK

MZNJ_SNDF

now playing

double feature_G_DBAOTD

bars

The 70s was a great time for made for TV horror. So, for this week’s Saturday Night Double Feature I have decided to showcase two 70s TV movie horrors that scared the heck out of me when I was a little kid and watched them when they first aired. Gargoyles and the original Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark gave me nightmares back in the day, when I was a lad of less then ten years old and will always remain horror favorites despite what effect time might have had on them…and speaking of which, what effect did they still have on me?…

gargoyles

GARGOYLES (1972)

Gargoyles is still one of my favorites and brings back such memories of a seven year old MonsterZero NJ being scared out of his wits by this fun and sometimes still spooky TV movie. The film opens with narration telling us that when The Devil was cast from Heaven he vowed to get revenge by ruling earth and every 600 years his minions, The Gargoyles would rise up to attempt to do so. We then focus on Dr. Mercer Boley (Cornel Wilde), a scientist and author who specializes in the study of man’s belief in demons, traveling in the desert with his hot photographer daughter Diana (Jennifer Salt) to see a man who claims to have found something of interest. Uncle Willie (Woody Chamblis) is an old man running a middle of nowhere roadside attraction and shows the pair a bizarre skeleton that looks like some kind of man-sized flying, horned lizard. Boley thinks it a fraud, but agrees to hear the old man’s tale of the local Native American legends telling of the tribes battling such creatures. During his tale the shack is attacked and Mercer and Diana barely escape with their lives and the mysterious creature’s skull, but not before being attacked by one of the very monsters Boley thought didn’t exist moments before. The creatures follow the two to a remote motel and after continual attacks The Gargoyles retrieve the skull, the corpse of one of their own killed in a previous attack and Diana, whom the leader (Bernie Casey in Stan Winston make-up) takes a liking to. Now with only two cops and a dirt bike gang, initially blamed for Willie’s death, as allies, Mercer must find the Gargoyles lair, rescue his daughter and stop the monsters from taking over the planet.

Directed by Bill L. Norton from a script by Steven and Elinor Karpf, Gargoyles is a fun horror flick that may not be as scary now as it was to me as a child, but is still a spooky, nostalgic good time nonetheless. Norton takes his film seriously and provides some very creepy moments early on, such as the attack on Willie’s and the subsequent attacks on Mercer and Diane in the motel. The film then switches gears somewhat and becomes a more traditional monster movie with our small band of heroes making a desperate attack on the Gargoyle nest. The film makes things a bit interesting by having the Gargoyle leader not only speak, but intelligently as well. He actually has charm as he obviously lies to Diana about his intent with not only her, but their purpose here, revealing his true nature and goal to Mercer once he feels he has the upper hand. This cleverly makes him less of a generic monster and gives him character and personality under the creepy make-up by FX legend Stan Winston (who would work on Bernie Casey again in Dr. Black And Mr. Hyde). This adds to a film already given some unsettling atmosphere by director Norton who really succeeds on making the creatures threatening and keeping them mysterious even once fully revealed. The film has some added suspense as the Gargoyles are few, but their long gestating eggs are steadily hatching and there will be thousands of them if Mercer and Co. cannot destroy them soon. Adding to Norton’s atmosphere is a very effective score by Robert Prince and equally effective cinematography from Earl Rath. Sure the film is not perfect, the narration tells us the creatures appear every 600 years, but the Gargoyle leader says 500, as does Mercer, and the Gargoyles revealing themselves long before they have enough numbers to be a real threat makes no sense since their existence is disbelieved. Why risk everything for a skeleton no one believes is real? But the flaws are minimal when compared to the entertainment.

As for the stars, the cast all take this very seriously and thus it goes a long way in giving weight to a, let’s face it, silly story. Wilde makes a strong hero, a man with both intelligence and fortitude and the fact that he is a skeptic at first makes his character more interesting in light of what is happening. Salt is more than just a pretty face and hot body as she gives Diana a lot of courage and she is a professional, smart and a tough girl, who works well in her scenes with Casey’s Gargoyle. As the leader, Casey is both charismatic and threatening. His scenes with Salt are very effective because, despite telling her he means her and mankind no harm, you can see it on her face that she isn’t convinced and he seems almost amused by his own lies. There is an uncomfortable sexual tension as the creature seems very enamored with Diana and she very afraid, despite his attempts to assure her that is not his intent. The whole ‘charm of the devil’ is well conveyed by Casey as is his malice when his true nature is brought to bare. The added element of the leader’s mate being jealous of his attention to Diana adds an effective angle that displays that the creatures are not very different than us under the scales and horns. The rest of the supporting characters are fine though we do get a little overacting by Grayson Hall’s Mrs. Parks, but the character appears to be an alcoholic, so it’s not that obtrusive. We also get a glimpse of an actor that would become a star in later years, with a young Scott Glenn playing a heroic biker who has taken a liking to Diana and joins Mercer to rescue her. A solid cast that worked well with the material.

So, overall, this is a fun and very well made TV movie horror that treats it’s B-movie monster story with a lot of respect and a talented cast and crew that makes it work. Even now it still has some creepy moments and effective bits, not to mention some decent bloodletting and with the added 70s nostalgia, it makes an entertaining treat. I will personally always have a place in my heart for this flick as a prime example of an era when TV horror was prolific and could hold it’s own against theatrical releases. The scene with the Gargoyle creeping up from under Mercer’s bed still gives me the willies!

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) gargoyles!

gargoyles rating

**************************************************

Couldn’t find a trailer so a short clip will have to do…

plus

dont-be-afraid-dark

DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK (1973)

I saw this 70s TV movie horror classic as a kid when it first aired and it scared the heck out of me. I had trouble sleeping thinking the tiny demons from the film were under my bed and waiting to get me. Now, upon revisiting it, I do still feel it still has some creepy sequences, but some problems too.

The story has a young couple, Alex and Sally (Jim Hutton and Kim Darby) inheriting an old house that has been in Sally’s family for years. Sally notices the fireplace in the cellar is bricked up and the door used to remove the ash is bolted shut. Her inquiries to family handyman Mr. Harris (William Demarest) are met with vague warnings to leave well enough alone. Of course Sally fails to heed and opens the door and unknowingly unleashes 3 goblin-like creatures into her home who intend to do her great harm. Worse still, no one believes her when she starts to see the creepy little beings who want the pretty young woman to become one of their own. Can Sally save herself before the creatures get her, or her husband has her committed?

From a script by Nigel McKeand, Don’t Be afraid Of The Dark is very well directed by John Newland, who got his experience with all things spooky directing and hosting the classic One Step Beyond TV show. He gives the film some really creepy atmosphere and along with cinematographer Andrew Jackson gets really effective use out of the big old house that serves as it’s primary location. The little demons and their eerie whispering are very effective even now and after all these years they still give you the creeps despite being fairly simple in their design…like little prune headed apes. Basically they are three little people in suits (Tamara De Treaux, Patty Maloney and Felix Silla, to be exact) filmed on large sets to make them look small and it’s simple and effective. Also effective is keeping the creatures origins a mystery. They seem to have been there since the house was built claiming anyone who releases them from their imprisonment. In this case, the air of mystery works. The film has some nice suspense, especially in it’s last act and a very unsettling ending that still stays with you. Add Billy Goldenberg’s chilling score and you have a very effective little horror…though not perfect…

Where the film fails somewhat is in it’s the human characters. Kim Darby is just bland as the object of the demon’s attention. Sure we have sympathy for her, as no one believes she’s being haunted and terrorized, but the actress seems very monotone most of the time. It’s hard to really become endeared or concerned for her. Jim Hutton is livelier as her husband, but he’s written like such a jerk that you can’t stand him, so he elicits very little sympathy when he finally realizes his wife may really be in danger. And my biggest problem is with William Demarest’s handyman. His performance is fine, he’s a little hammy, but it suits the material. The character claims to only know something isn’t right with the house, but not too many details. Yet, when in the basement and he encounters the creatures, they talk to him like they know him and he responds as if he knows them, too. It’s never clarified. Is he hiding something? Even when the husband comes to him later for answers, he never mentions his encounter, or that he knows exactly was going on. He again gives vague details that there is something in the house that he thinks claimed Sally’s grandfather and he now might be one of them. But he is never clear, though his ‘talk’ with the little monsters indicates he knows a lot more than he ever tells. If he’s going to warn them and save Sally’s life, why not tell them everything? Also there is a sequence in the last act where a friend of Sally’s is locked outside the house by the fiends and there are a few shots that are in daylight when the sequence clearly takes place after dark. Whoops!

Flaws aside, there is still a nostalgic charm attached to this and it is still very effective in the creepy department. I count this as a favorite despite seeing it a little differently now, through the eyes of an adult and not an eight year-old boy. This film scared that eight year-old boy quite a bit when first viewed in 1973. Remade recently under the guidance of producer Guillermo Del Toro, but with none of the effectiveness of this 1973 TV gem.

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) goblins!

dont be afraid of the dark rating

**************************************************

If these TV movies interest you, also check out my profile of the classic 70s Night Stalker and Night Strangler films!

bars

MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: BLACULA and DR. BLACK AND MR. HYDE

MZNJ_SNDF

now playing

double feature_BLAC_DBAMH

bars

Black History Month MonsterZero NJ style! I thought I’d revisit the blaxploitation era for this week’s double feature paying tribute to not only pioneer African-American director William Crain, with two of his most famous films but, African-American acting icons William Marshall and Bernie Casey who headline these two cult classic horror flicks!

 

BLACULA_poster

BLACULA (1972)

Blacula is one of the best examples of the 70’s blaxploitation films refered to in today’s politically correct times as Soul Cinema. Not only does it properly represent the era but, it is also simply a good horror flick, providing some legitimate chills and thrills, as well as, a bit of bittersweet romance too. As written by Raymond Koenig and Joan Torres and directed by William Crain, the tale of an African prince cursed to become the undead by Dracula himself and released from his ages old prison in modern day (at the time) Los Angeles, is a very entertaining movie even without the added 70s nostagia factor. There is lots to enjoy as Blacula builds his undead army and romances a woman who is the striking image of his long dead wife. A big part of the film’s success is the casting of Shakespearean actor William Marshall (know to many of today’s movie fans as The King Of Cartoons from Pee Wee’s Playhouse) in the lead role. Marshall brings a sense of power and nobility to the cursed African prince, Mamuwalde and knows exactly how and when to bring the monster to life when called upon. He even succeeds in making him sexy and sympathetic at the appropriate moments. He is supported by a good cast that brings life to what could have been two dimensional roles including Vonette McGee as Tina, a beautiful woman who resembles Blacula’s lost wife, Luva (also McGee) and veteran actor Thalmus Rasulala as a Dr. Gordon Thomas, a forensics investigator who serves as the film’s Van Helsing character and is helping the police investigate a rash of mysterious deaths. Three guesses who’s responsible for those. Sure it’s campy fun at this point and the FX are cheesy by today’s high standards but, that doesn’t negate the work of those in front of and behind the camera as Blacula delivers lots of spooky entertainment with class, style and not without a touch of humor. A classic of more than one genre.

EXTRA TRIVIA: It is said that  William Marshall himself worked with the filmmakers to give the character nobility and is responsible for his origin as an African Prince which was not part of the original script.

A solid 3 and 1/2 fangs

blacula_1_rating

plus

Drblackmrhyde

DR. BLACK AND MR. HYDE (1976)

Blacksploitation classic tells the story of African-American Dr. Henry Pryde (Bernie Casey) who is working tirelessly to find a cure for liver disease. He develops a serum that shows potential but, he can’t perfect it without human experimentation. After a failed test on a dying woman, Henry decides to test the serum on himself. The result transforms the valiant doctor into a super strong, violent tempered… white man. Directed by Blacula’s William Crain, this 70s horror treats it’s story with respect despite how silly it is and Crain, as with Blacula, gets good performances out of his cast that also includes Rosalind Cash (The Omega Man) and Marie O’Henry as Pryde’s love interest, a local hooker named Linda. Sadly, Larry LeBron’s script from an idea by Lawrence Woolner doesn’t nearly make as much use of the classic story it’s based on as did Blacula, nor is Crain able to give this film the same gothic flavor and style he did with that film. It’s pretty much a generic monster movie with Mr. Hyde stalking and killing Linda’s fellow hookers and their pimps while the police trying to find and stop the rampaging killer. The obvious blaxploitation elements are present but, seem a bit forced here as opposed to Blacula where they were just part of the characters and their life at that point in time. Still, the film does have that 70s nostalgia and is worth a look for those interested in the blaxploitation era of filmmaking. Not to mention the movie certainly is not without it’s entertainment value and is never dull. Also noteworthy are the Mr. Hyde make-up effects on Bernie Casey which were created by the legendary Stan Winston.

2 and 1/2 stars!

2 and 1-2 star rating

WARNING: trailer features some nudity and violence.

bars

HALLOWEEN FAVORITES: PUMPKINHEAD (1988)

MZNJ_halloween_favorites_02

now playing

pumpkinhead poster

bars

PUMPKINHEAD (1988)

Keep away from Pumpkinhead,
Unless you’re tired of living,
His enemies are mostly dead,
He’s mean and unforgiving,
Laugh at him and you’re undone,
But in some dreadful fashion,
Vengeance, he considers fun,
And plans it with a passion,
Time will not erase or blot,
A plot that he has brewing,
It’s when you think that he’s forgot,
He’ll conjure your undoing,
Bolted doors and windows barred,
Guard dogs prowling in the yard,
Won’t protect you in your bed,
Nothing will, from Pumpkinhead.

– Ed Justin

The Halloween season is upon us and in celebration, Tomb Of Nostalgia and Horror You Might Have Missed will be taking a break while MonsterZero NJ presents Halloween Favorites which will obviously focus on horror films I consider essential viewing for this spooky time of year. And what better way to kick off this look at some of my favorite films for my favorite time of year then with a film that is one of my top Halloween season flicks… Pumpkinhead!

Pumpkinhead tells the grim tale of a group of partying twenty-somethings from the city who head into the Appalachian Mountains for a weekend of drinking and dirt biking in a secluded cabin and run afoul of a local legend who is quite real. While stopped at the rural general store of kind, local man Ed Harley (the legendary Lance Henriksen), drunk jerk Joel (John D’Aquino), who already has injured a girl in a drunk driving accident, takes out his dirt bike and proceeds to carelessly run over and kill Harley’s son Billy (Matthew Hurley). Enraged with grief, Harley turns to a mountain woman who is rumored to be a witch named Haggis (Florence Schauffer) to evoke the demon Pumpkinhead that Harley saw once as a boy. The demon is said to grant vengeance to those who call upon it. But as both Harley and the young vacationers find out, evoking Pumpkinhead comes with a powerful price, as not only will it stop at nothing till all it’s prey, including good natured Chris (Jeff East) and his girlfriend Tracy (Cynthia Bain), are dead, but may take Harley back to Hell with it when it’s done. Can a now regretful Harley stop what he started and save the remaining youths or will the demon of vengeance have all their souls before it returns to the pumpkin patch from whence it was called?

Pumpkinhead is a very spooky horror dripping with Halloween atmosphere thanks to the great visuals from first time director and make-up SPFX legend Stan Winston. With a truly great looking creature and production design that oozes All Hallow’s Eve, this is a welcome edition to any Halloween season movie viewing. Aside from his awesome monster, Winston not only gives us some great settings…such as Haggis’ cabin, the pumpkin patch from which Pumpkinhead originates and an abandoned church where our remaining characters flee to…but he also creates some nice suspense, tension and chills. The biggest factor in the film’s effectiveness, though, is imbuing the title creature with a great sense of character and menace. Pumpkinhead is a vicious and unforgiving demon who shows no mercy and even seems to enjoy taunting and then killing his victims. When Ed Harley, who is cursed to feel it’s victims’ pain, changes his mind about calling it, the creature still will not stop till all are dead. Winston, who also co-wrote, also creates likable characters for us to fear for. They are all pretty good people with Joel being the exception and even he shows us he has a soul when he realizes that his friends are being slaughtered because of his selfish actions. A key to a good horror is empathy with it’s characters and here we feel for them as the backwoods demon relentlessly pursues them for a nasty death.

Winston gets good performances out of his cast with Henriksen creating one of his best roles in Ed Harley and the young cast members, like East and Bain, creating likable victims to root for. D’Aquino does a great job of making Joel an unlikable jerk and yet being very convincing in his moment of redemption when it comes. Film vet Buck Flower has a strong presence as mountain man Mr. Wallace and Schauffer is downright chilling as the witch, Haggis.

Overall, Pumpkinhead is part slasher, part backwoods horror and part monster movie with some great special FX to present it’s title creature and the carnage it creates and surrounded in some very spooky visuals that evoke the spirit of Halloween in almost every shot. It is an underrated horror that got a sadly ineffective limited release back in October of 1988 and then dumped onto VHS and then DVD. It should have gotten better and thankfully, it has developed the cult following it deserves and Pumpkinhead himself is now regarded along with Giger’s Alien as one of modern horrors most iconic creatures.

Sadly, the film was followed by three awful sequels and if any character deserves a reboot and another chance, it’s dear ole Pumpkinhead! Also stars Brian Bremer as Bunt Wallce, a local boy trying to help the city folk escape the monster’s wrath and Big Bang Theory’s own Mayim Bialik as one of the Wallace kids.

3 and 1/2 Pumpkinheads!

pumpkinhead rating

bars