MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: NIGHT OF THE CREEPS and SLITHER

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Haven’t done one of these in a long time! These two features are paired up for obvious reasons, but let it be known that James Gunn sights David Cronenberg’s The Shivers as an inspiration for his gooey creature feature and not Night of the Creeps!…though they pair a bit better being both horror/comedies.

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NIGHT OF THE CREEPS (1986)

Fred Dekker wrote and directed 2 of my favorite 80’s guilty pleasures, the underrated The Monster Squad (our second feature) and this B-movie blast, Night of the Creeps. A fun sci-fi/ horror that is not only a homage to the drive-in flicks of the 50’s, but is nostalgically 80’s now, too. Creeps starts out with a desperate chase inside an alien spaceship where a fugitive releases a tube from the ship carrying an “experiment” before being gunned down by his fellow crew members. The tube lands on earth in 1959 where two college students are on a date at a make-out point. The young man sees the tube land and heads into the woods to find it. His pretty date remains behind and is killed by an escaped ax murder while her date gets a face full of alien slugs when he finds the tube and it opens. We then move forward almost 30 years later where dorky college freshman Chris (Jason Lively) and handicapped bud J.C. (Steve Marshall) are desperate to join a fraternity, so Chris can impress beautiful sorority girl Cindy (Jill Whitlow). A little too anxious to accomplish an initiation prank they are assigned to carry out at the morgue, the two wander into the wrong room and wind up letting loose a frozen corpse from suspended animation…that of the young man infected by the alien slugs in the opening sequence. Now with fellow students being infected by the freed creatures and zombifying, the two team up with Cindy and a detective with a past linked to the 1959 ax murder (a great Tom Atkins) to try to stop the alien invasion from spreading through the entire campus and then the world.

Night Of The Creeps is a lot of fun. The whole thing is tongue in cheek from the campy dialog to every major character having the last name of a horror movie director. And, best of all, the audience is in on the fun. Dekker does take his material seriously to a degree so not to make a complete joke out of it and so it does have some suspense and tension, but in the spirit of the drive-in movies of the 50s, lets the deliberately absurd material, bathed with homage, deliver the fun. The cast also play their parts straight and are all good with Atkins’ cynical and grumpy Detective Cameron stealing the show with his one liners and our three leads giving us some very likable heroes and heroines to root for. Whitlow also makes for a fetching flame thrower wielding sorority girl. The entire cast seems to get the tone of the material and it really makes this work. The FX are really good too and there is some nice and abundant gore to go along with the slimy critters and their army of co-ed zombies.

A real fun homage to the sci-fi horrors of yesteryear, as well as, a great slice of fun 80s horror, too. How can you not like a movie with the line “I’ve got good news and bad news, girls… the good news is your dates are here…’what’s the bad news?’… they’re dead!”

MONSTERZERO NJ TRIVIA: Keep an observant eye out as Dekker gives a little shout out to his next movie The Monster Squad in a scene with J.C.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 infected aliens!

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SLITHER (2006)

Slither is a really fun sci-fi/comedy from writer/director James Gunn who helmed Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy flick. This creepy, gooey story is set in the small town of Wheelsy, South Carolina where a meteorite crash lands in the woods and is happened upon by two-timing husband Grant Grant (Michael Rooker) while out messing around with a local girl. Grant is stuck in the chest by some kind of organic dart from within the object and immediately starts to change physically and behaviorally. At first he tells his wife Starla (Elizabeth Banks) it’s an allergic reaction to a bee sting, but as Grant starts chowing down on the local pets and begins transforming into something otherworldly, Starla turns to Sheriff Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion) for help. As fate would have it, Starla Grant has also been the apple of Sheriff Pardy’s eye since they were kids and as the two former school sweethearts try to figure out why Grant is transforming into a ‘squid’. Meanwhile Grant impregnates local girl-toy Brenda (Brenda James), who then gives birth to hundreds of slug-like creatures who set upon the town entering their victims through their mouths and turning the locals into zombies at alien infected Grant’s command. Can Bill, Starla and whoever is left stop this extraterrestrial threat and save Wheesley and the world from this slimy alien incursion?

Gunn directs this fun flick with tongue firmly in cheek. The film doesn’t make a joke out of it’s homage filled story, but never takes itself too seriously either. And while it is light in tone, it is not without it’s share of suspense and chills. The cast are all having a good time with Fillion once again showing he can play comedy and be a charming leading man. Rooker is delightfully over the top as the infected Grant. The actor is having a blast as he transforms into an alien creature who seems to enjoy some of the side benefits of being human, such as his host’s pretty wife. Banks is quite feisty as Starla and makes a fun combo of damsel and heroine and has a great chemistry with both Rooker and Fillion. Also in the cast is Gregg Henry as the obnoxious ass of a Mayor who goes by the name of R.J. MacReady (a nod to Carpenter’s The Thing) and The Office’s Jenna Fischer in a small role as Sheriff Pardy’s sassy receptionist Shelby. The make-up FX are excellent with Grant going through numerous stages as he transforms and of course the activities of his slug-like minions and their carnage are well portrayed. It is a mix of practical and CGI, but it appears mostly practical with some very well done CGI in support, the way it should be. The production value is high on this modestly budgeted film and there is an effective score by Tyler Bates to add atmosphere.

Whether it’s paying homage to The Thing, The Shivers, Night Of The Creeps or The Blob to name a few, Slither is just a real fun, gory and very entertaining night at the movies with a great cast and it’s heart in the right place. Much like some of the films it pays tribute to, Slither was sadly overlooked when it first came out, but seems to have now found it’s audience and developed a bit of a cult following. A highly recommended and delightfully gooey movie.

3 and 1/2 disturbingly shaped alien slugs.

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 10 REASONS IT’S NOT HALLOWEEN WITHOUT TOM ATKINS!!

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Watching horror flicks during the Halloween season, there might be one face, aside from Karloff, Lee and Lugosi, that you might see more than once…and that familiar face is Tom Atkins. A cult favorite actor, Tom has appeared in a number of horror classics…especially during the 80s. So, in honor of this unsung hero of horror, here are 10 horror flicks that illustrate why it’s not Halloween without Tom Atkins!

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(Click on the highlighted titles below the movie poster gallery to get to our reviews of the flicks covered here at the Movie Madhouse!)

1. Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo

2. The Fog

3. Creepshow

4. Halloween III: Season Of The Witch

5. Night Of The Creeps

6. Maniac Cop

7. Two Evil Eyes

8. Bruiser

9. My Bloody Valentine (2009)

10. Drive Angry

-MonsterZero NJ

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: CREEPSHOW (1982)

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CREEPSHOW (1982)

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

In 1982, horror masters Stephen King and George A. Romero collaborated on this anthology movie that was inspired by the old horror comics from EC Comics. The film, written by King and directed by Romero, presented five horror-themed stories bookended by a segment about a young boy (Joe King) having his horror comic thrown out by his overbearing father (Tom Atkins). Outside in the garbage can, the pages of the book come to life, opening up and allowing the skeletal “Creep” to present it’s tales. Our first is Father’s Day which tells the story of Nathan Grantham (The Boogens‘ Jon Lormer) a rich curmudgeon murdered by his daughter (Viveca Lindfors). As his children and grandchildren gather for Father’s Day, Nathan comes back from the grave for ghostly revenge. Next is The Lonesome Death Of Jordy Verrill which has King himself playing a country bumpkin who has an unfortunate encounter with a fallen meteorite. This is followed by Something to Tide You Over, a story of infidelity, murder and revenge from beyond the watery grave with Leslie Nielsen and Ted Danson. Then we are treated to The Crate, a tale of an old crate discovered in a university basement and the horrific creature that lives within it. Finally we get They’re Creeping Up On You, a segment about a mean, old, germ-fearing, Howard Hughes-like recluse (E.G. Marshall) with a very nasty bug problem.

Back in the day, those expecting a fright-fest of epic proportions from the collaboration of Romero and King were sadly disappointed by this comic bookish and tongue-in-cheek anthology that focuses on ghoulish humor far more than scares. Creepshow is a lot of  fun, though, especially years later with the added 80s nostalgia, but while there are some chills, it is never really all that scary…and it wasn’t meant to be. The film retains the dark humor of the comics that inspired it and is even filmed as a comic book come to life, with comic style frames and scenes filmed like comic book panels, all with a ghostly animated creeper beginning each segment. First story Father’s Day is fun and spooky and features some nice visuals and make-up effects. The next story, Jordy Verrill, is OK. King can’t really act, but his exaggerated style oddly fits with the story. Despite a bit of a goofy amusement factor, as his nimrod Jordy turns into a form of alien plant-life, the story itself really doesn’t go anywhere or have much of a point. Third story, Something to Tide You Over, is the dullest, with Nielsen’s pontificating villain taking up most of the running time, happily laying out his diabolical plot to his captive audience. Creepshow picks up again for the last two stories which are, by far, the best. The Crate is spooky, gory and really works the dark humor as a beleaguered professor (Hal Holbrook) uses the discovery of a vicious and very hungry creature to rid himself of another monster, his overbearing wife (Adrienne Barbeau). They’re Creeping Up On You is fun and will make your skin crawl as the ruthless and heartless Upson Pratt is trapped in his germ-free apartment by a power outage with an army of invading cockroaches. You get three strong stories, two weak ones and a Halloween set bookend segment that is devious fun, too. So, overall Creepshow is not perfect, but is ghoulish entertainment made even more fun by a healthy dose of 80s nostalgia, brought on by it’s charming hand-drawn animation and live make-up and prosthetics…something sadly missing in today’s movies.

With five stories and a bookending segment, we have a large cast with many horror veterans and each seems to get the tone of the material and have a good over-the-top time with it, in the varying degrees their individual roles call for. Stand outs are…Tom Atkins (The Fog, Halloween III) as the bookending tales’ hard-nosed father. Atkins is no stranger to edgy characters and this time he gets to play a real jerk. Leslie Nielsen oozes malice in his segment and while it is the weakest story, the veteran actor makes a contemptible bad guy. Adrienne Barbeau is deliciously overbearing as the wife of her The Fog co-star Hal Holbrook’s meek professor, Northup. Barbeau really makes you hate her and beg for her comeuppance…call her Billie, everyone does! Last, but certainly not least, is E.G. Marshall who is a delight as the modern day Scrooge, Upson Pratt. Pratt is a ruthless and heartless individual and his skin crawling encounter with an army of cockroaches makes us cheer on the bugs! Also good are Viveca Lindfors, Carrie Nye, Fritz Weaver, Ted Danson and there is a fun cameo from make-up FX master Tom Savini and small roles from future Oscar nominee Ed Harris and Dawn Of The Dead‘s Gaylen Ross.

Overall, I like Creepshow and it’s a lot of fun, especially now that it carries such heavy 80s nostalgia. I will admit I was a little disappointed back in the 80s that it wasn’t a more serious horror, considering who was involved, but it has grown on me considerably. It isn’t completely successful with all it’s stories, but the ones that are, really work and provide some fun and goosebumps to keep us entertained. The large cast gets the material completely and is filled with familiar faces to horror fans. An entertaining comic book style horror that sadly gets forgotten when people discuss comic book style films as it does convey the comic book feeling far better than many a superhero movie. Creepshow was followed by a sub-par sequel in 1987, directed by Michael Gornick and written by Romero, based on some Stephen King short stories. A third flick, without the involvement of Romero or King, was made in 2006 and seemed to go straight to DVD with little or no fanfare.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Creeps!

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COOL STUFF: ESCAPE FROM N.Y. COLLECTOR’S EDITION on BLU-RAY

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ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK COLLECTOR’S EDITION Blu-Ray

Escape From New York is one of my all time favorite films (see full review here). It’s the film that cemented John Carpenter as one of my favorite directors. A starkly original idea featuring one of the greatest, and sadly underused, film anti-heroes of all time. There have been a few editions of the film on VHS, DVD and even a feature-only blu-ray, but, now Scream Factory has delivered this classic flick in a special 2-disc edition loaded with extra features that gives this quirky Sci-Fi adventure the treatment and respect it deserves!

The print is a new remaster from the original negative and is absolutely gorgeous. The image is crisp and clear and the colors are vibrant without betraying the look and feel intended by the filmmakers. The movie has never looked better and having seen it on screen, on VHS, on DVD and on previous blu-ray, I can say that with the utmost confidence. It’s never looked better. The audio is DTS-HD 5.1 and sounds great. It’s like seeing and hearing the movie again for the first time. It’s a beautiful presentation of this classic movie. Now on to the fun stuff…

We get some nice audio extras… not one but, three commentary tracks. There is a new track featuring actress Adrienne Barbeau and cinematographer Dean Cundey. Also, previously released tracks from Joe Alves and Debra Hill, as well as, the classic John Carpenter and Kurt Russell commentary, which is almost as entertaining as the film. More on-set insight than you could ever hope for. As for video treats and featurettes, the second disc holds a mix of new and previously released material. The first featurette is new and is a really cool look at EFNY’s SFX. It contains behind the scenes stills and interviews with Dennis and Robert Skotak, who worked at Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, which did the visual effects for the film. The Return To Escape From New York documentary from the MGM collector’s edition DVD is also included here and is filled with interviews from all the principles. We get the now legendary deleted bank robbery/arrest scene with an added new interview with actor Joe Unger, who played Snake’s partner Taylor in that deleted sequence. There’s a fun new look at scoring the film and the legacy of the soundtrack, with co-composer Alan Howarth. There is a great interview/slide show with on-set photographer Kim Gottlieb-Walker, who recently released a book (review here) featuring her work as a photographer on a number of Carpenter’s films. We get an interview with filmmaker David DeCoteau, who was working as a PA with New World Pictures at the time and got to visit the EFNY set. The disc then finishes up it’s extra’s section with theatrical trailers and two photo galleries on top of all the rest of the features. A great selection of extras to compliment the film.

As fan of Escape From New York, you couldn’t ask for a better special edition. The film looks great, sounds great and there is a nice selection of nostalgic and informative features and interviews to bring you back to 1980 when the film was being shot. I personally had the opportunity to see this flick in a theater…my beloved Oritani Theater…back in January of 1981 and it instantly became one of my all time favorites. Now I can enjoy it like never before thanks to this newly remastered, extra-filled, loving tribute from Scream Factory.

-MonsterZero NJ

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: HAPPY 35th ANNIVERSARY to JOHN CARPENTER’S THE FOG (1980)

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JOHN CARPENTER’S THE FOG (1980)

John Carpenter’s The Fog was released on February 8th 1980 and my butt was there in a theater to see it! So, in honor of the 35th anniversary of one of my all-time favorite horror flicks, I am re-posting this look back at Carpenter’s classic!

One of my all time favorite horrors and one of my favorite John Carpenter flicks, in fact, since I was too young to see Halloween when it came out, this was the first Carpenter film I saw in a theater and the flick that started me on my love of his movies.

The Fog tells the story of the 100 year anniversary of the small coastal California town of Antonio Bay and as the town prepares for it’s centennial celebration, a dark secret is revealed. Legend has it a leper colony paid the founders of Antonio Bay a lot of gold to let them settle nearby but, they were betrayed and murdered, as their ship was lured onto the rocks to crash and sink on a fog laden night. All were lost but, now a horde of vengeful spirits returns from the sea, wrapped in a surreal fog, to make the descendants of those who wronged them, pay with their lives.

The Fog focuses not on a main character but, a group of central characters whose individual experiences during this supernatural crisis bring them slowly all together for it’s tense and creepy final act set in the town church. A good cast, including Jamie Lee Curtis as hitchhiker Elizabeth, Tom Atkins as local fisherman Nick, Janet Leigh as centennial chairwoman Kathy Williams and Adrienne Barbeau as single mom and radio DJ Stevie Wayne, give life to this ensemble and make them characters we like and care about so, we fear for them when they are placed in harm’s way. Add to that Hal Holbrook as the town’s alcoholic priest and a host of Carpenter regulars…with even a cameo by Carpenter himself…and you have a film wonderfully filled with a variety of characters who are all potential victims for the marauding phantoms. As for those phantoms, lets not forget to mention the ghostly Captain Blake (FX man Rob Bottin) and his vengeful crew who are portrayed with in-camera practical FX. This makes them quite spooky and gives them a heavy dose of menace and a lot of effectiveness when they are on the attack. There is loads of atmosphere and some very solid scares and suspense created by Carpenter, along with some great cinematography from frequent Carpenter collaborator Dean Cundey, which makes this a good, solid, old-fashioned ghost story and a fun Halloween season treat. Carpenter again delivers a score which adds chills and foreboding to his tale of ghostly revenge, much like he did for Halloween and he starts the film off perfectly with a chillingly fun opening sequence featuring veteran John Houseman as a crusty sailor who likes to tell kids scary stories. It sets the mood for the thrills and chills yet to come. This classic was made back when there was no phoney CGI, just solid make-up effects from master Rob Bottin (who went on to do The Thing’s FX for Carpenter) and some very basic down to earth smoke and mirrors style visuals, that are as beautiful as they are scary. A great flick the likes of which they rarely make anymore and one of MonsterZero NJ’s must-watch flicks during the Halloween season!

The film is available, for the first time, on blu-ray from Scream Factory with all the extras from previous releases plus, an added new commentary track with Barbeau, Atkins and Tommy Lee Wallace and two really fun and informative interviews with Jamie Lee Curtis and Cinematographer Dean Cundey who also supervised the absolutely gorgeous new transfer!

4 spectral sailors!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and SHAKEDOWN

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This week’s double feature combines two movies I’ve covered before but, since NYC was on a lot of people’s minds this past week and the World Trade Centers figure prominently in both features, I decided to pair up two of my favorite 80s action guilty pleasures! Enjoy!

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ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981)

Escape From New York is one of my all time favorite B movies and a bonafide film classic. I instantly fell in love with this film upon seeing it opening night at the legendary Oritani Theater in Hackensack, N.J. and John Carpenter solidified himself as one of my favorite directors.

An outrageously original idea has New York City in a war torn, crime filled, future turned into a maximum security prison, and legendary director Carpenter makes it work by taking his subject matter just seriously enough to make the audience buy it. Add to that a colorful cast of characters, including one of the greatest, and sadly underused, film anti-heros of all time, Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) and you have the recipe for a B movie classic. The story is simple, war hero turned outlaw, Snake Plissken has been captured and is about to be sentenced to life imprisonment in New York City Penitentiary. But, fate intervenes and the President’s (Donald Pleasence) plane is hijacked on the way to a crucial peace summit and crashed inside the city. Former special forces soldier Plissken is the only man skilled enough to sneak in quietly and get him out alive and Snake now has a chance at a full pardon for all his crimes if he takes the job. But, a vicious gang leader called The Duke Of New York (Isaac Hayes) has other ideas for both The President and Snake, who has less then 24 hours to complete his mission or the world goes back to war.

Director and co-writer (with Nick Castle) Carpenter creates some nice tension and suspense and his visual eye is great at creating a gloomy hellhole out of the world’s greatest city. And Dean Cundey’s cinematography is absolutely beautiful as it captures the world inside New York, which is very effectively portrayed on a small budget. Carpenter moves the film along well, although not as fast paced as today’s audience are used to, and there is plenty of action and chases to keep one entertained. And despite being released in 1981, this film may be the last film to have a real 70s feel to it before the Lethal Weapons and Die Hards changed action films forever. Another film that inspired many and was imitated many times and another great Carpenter film score to add to the atmosphere.

As for the cast… Kurt Russell does his best Clint Eastwood as Snake and it’s only natural then to pair him up with Eastwood co-star Lee Van Cleef as Police Commissioner, Bob Hauk. Rounding out the cast is Halloween vet Donald Pleasence as the President, Harry Dean Stanton as Brain, Carpenter’s then wife, Adrienne Barbeau as Maggie, Ernest Borgnine as Cabbie and legendary soul man Isaac Hayes as The Duke of New York. And not to forget, there is also genre favorite Tom Atkins as Hauk’s right hand man, Rehme and frequent Carpenter collaborator Charles Cyphers as the Secretary Of State. A simply classic B-movie sci-fi/action flick and one of my all time favorites! MONSTERZERO NJ EXTRA TRIVIA:  The studio wanted Charles Bronson as Snake, but, Carpenter fought for his choice of former Disney child actor, Russell and the rest is history. Also, the SPFX were done in part by a then unknown James Cameron, who went on to direct Terminator and Titanic. And despite it’s setting, most of the film was lensed in St. Louis and L.A. with only one night actual shooting in NYC at the Statue of Liberty.

One of the greatest B-movies of all time!

A classic 4 Snakes

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Shakedown

SHAKEDOWN (1988)

Shakedown is an 80s action guilty pleasure from Exterminator director James Glickenhaus that is not only his best film but, a darn entertaining cop thriller that is one of the last to take place in NYC before the 42nd street clean up and thus presents New York in all it’s sleazy pre-90s glory.

Shakedown is the story of public defender Roland Dalton (Peter Weller) who is moving on to a Wall Street law firm, run by his future father in-law, and as his last case, defends a drug dealer (Richard Brooks) accused of killing a cop. But, the dealer says it was self defense, he was defending himself in a robbery and the officer never identified himself. Dalton investigates along with lone wolf cop Richie Marks (Sam Elliot) and they discover a conspiracy of criminals and dirty cops who now want them both dead.
Sure some of the action is a bit overblown and the FX in the final showdown very cheesy but, Shakedown, as written and directed by Glickenhaus, is a down and dirty good time with a New York City bathed in neon lights, covered with empty crack vials and where sex, drugs and murder are a common occurrence. Add some 80s nostalgia to the mix and you have a whole six pack worth of Saturday night entertainment that is both grind-house action flick and slick crime thriller.
But, aside from it’s dirty, backstreet depiction of New York and some over the top action scenes, what really makes Shakedown work is that Elliot and Weller makes such a great team. They work very well together and it’s a shame the film never caught on enough to further the adventures of Marks and Dalton. The characters and the actor who portray them, really click and begged for a series. Supporting cast all perform well too, including Antonio “Huggy Bear” Fargas as drug lord Nicky Carr, Blanche (Sixteen Candles) Baker as Dalton’s fiance’ and hot Patricia Charbonneau as the assistant D.A. and Dalton’s former flame.
One of my favorite 80s guilty pleasure action flicks. A fun movie.
MONSTERZERO NJ EXTRA TRIVIA: The original title for the film and it’s title in other parts of the world was Blue Jean Cop which is a term used in the film for a cop on the take (dirty cops can afford designer jeans as opposed to Wranglers or Levis). Also, Director Glickenhaus made a few more flicks, including the campy Gary Busey action vehicle Bulletproof, before leaving show business to work at his father’s investment firm and became a successful investment professional and car collector.
3 and 1/2 bullets!
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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: MANIAC COP (1988)

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MANIAC COP (1988)

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

If anything can be said about this late 80s slasher, it is that it contains a virtual who’s who of 80s/genre icons both before and behind the camera. Produced by James Glickenhaus (The Exterminator, Shakedown), written by Larry Cohen (It’s Alive, Q The Winged Serpent) and directed by William Lustig (Maniac), while starring Tom Atkins (The FogHalloween III), Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead), William Smith (The Ultimate Warrior), Richard Roundtree (Shaft), Laurene Landon (All The Marbles) and started the career of genre favorite Robert Z’Dar… an impressive list. And while the film doesn’t quite live up to the potential of the sum of it’s makers and cast, it is a fun slasher made at a time where the 80s slasher genre had pretty much run it’s course and this flick is among some of it’s last gasps before Scream brought the slasher back as the subject of pop culture nostalgia 8 years later.

Maniac Cop is set in NYC and tells the story of a murder spree that is being committed by a large hulking assailant dressed liked a police officer or, worse yet, actually is a police officer. This killer is being hunted by Det. Frank McCrae (Atkins) who can’t seem to get a lead till fellow officer Jack Forrest (Campbell) is framed for the villain’s handiwork, with the murder of Forrest’s own wife. McCrea knows the cheating Forrest was with his mistress, Officer Theresa Mallory (Landon) at the time and begins to suspect the killer is indeed a cop getting information from the inside. What’s more, the man he suspects, Officer Matt Cordell (Z’Dar), a once hero cop sent to prison for rights violations to keep him from exposing city officials, was supposedly murdered in prison by vengeful inmates. If proving Forrest’s innocence is not hard enough, he now has to prove that the real culprit is a man long believed dead.

NYC set slasher is directed fairly by the numbers by William Lustig but, Larry Cohen’s script is filled with his trademarked sly humor and doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s definitely a bit livelier then Lustig’s cult classic Maniac was though, far less gruesome. It’s not one of the best of the 80s slashers but, is entertaining and has enough gore and action to make it a fun nostalgic watch, especially when one sees NYC landmarks and once famous night spots that are no longer there. The plot, if thought about, makes little sense. While Cordell may have suffered brain damage when assaulted in prison, it still doesn’t make too much sense that he now preys on innocent civilians when he was once a dedicated cop. But, there is a deviation with him wanting to kill those responsible for setting him up and at one point, he decimates a precinct full of fellow officers whom he may feel betrayed him and it is an 80s slasher so, very little inspiration is needed for a killing spree and like other flicks of it’s kind, you just go with it. The film is well produced and looks good and there is some effective gore though, not as much as one might expect. The pace is rather brisk and there is an effective score by another genre favorite Jay Chattaway (Missing In Action, Star Trek: TNG).

And if nothing else, it’s great to see the cast in action. Atkins chews up the scenery as only Atkins can but, still takes the subject matter seriously so we do too. Campbell is actually playing a straight hero type here, though he spends a lot of time incarcerated and in cuffs while the perky and leggy Landon tries to free him and get him out of Cordell’s grasp. Not sure why Cordell wants his patsy dead but, like I said, go with it. The rest of the genre vets have lesser roles but, Smith and Roundtree add some nice character to their small roles. And Z’Dar may have no dialog but, cuts an imposing figure as the vengeful cop whose basically Michael Myers in a police uniform… but, it works and Z’Dar is a perfect fit for the badge and night stick. The cast go a long way in making this one a fun viewing.

So, while Maniac Cop is not a prime example of it’s sub-genre, is a fairly entertaining one and the cast of familiar B-movie faces makes it fun to watch as does the nostalgia of 80s NYC. It isn’t very stylish but moves quickly and has it’s share of well executed gore and stunts. Not among my favorites but, does have personal nostalgia from seeing it at the long gone Hyway Theater in Fair lawn, N.J. which showed a lot of B-movies like this back in those days.

3 maniac cops.

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CAUTION: The trailer does show a lot of spoiler-ish scenes if you haven’t seen this cult classic yet.

 

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: MY BLOODY VALENTINE and HOUSE OF WAX

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This week’s double feature is comprised of the remakes/reboots/re-imaginings of two horror classics which are actually not bad on their own as horror flicks go. They may not be held in the same regard as the films they are based on but, as a fun night on the couch, they both provide some bloody horror entertainment and stand enough on their own so as not to dishonor their predecessors.

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MY BLOODY VALENTINE (2009)

While I can’t say I am a fan of remaking horror classics, it has been a trend for quite a few years now and occasionally you get one that stands on it’s own like the recent Evil Dead remake or this fun horror which actually, slightly improves on the 1981 original …which, in my opinion, doesn’t quite live up to it’s reputation, though is still nostalgic and enjoyable.

The 2009 remake is based on the original’s story, but basically does it’s own thing and that’s what helps keeps it from being a bland redo. Filmed in 3D, this film opens with a mining accident caused by the mine owner’s son, Tom Hanniger (Jensen Ackles), who forgets to vent the lines and the resulting explosion traps six miners inside a cave-in. When they are finally dug out, five are dead at the hands of the sixth, Harry Warden (Richard John Walters), who murdered them to preserve oxygen for himself. When found, he is comatose and subsequently hospitalized. A year later Harry awakens from his coma and after a bloody massacre at the hospital, returns to the mine on Valentine’s Day where a party is in progress and he viciously attacks the party goers which includes Tom, his girlfriend Sarah (Jaime King), along with Axel Palmer (Kerr Smith) and his girl Irene (Betsy Rue). Many youths are killed by the time the sheriff (the great Tom Atkins) arrives and guns down Warden resulting in another cave-in. Warden is thought dead and Tom, still feeling guilt over his accident causing mistake and the following deaths, leaves town and disappears. We pick up the story 10 years later where Axel is now sheriff, Sarah is his wife and Tom has returned to sell the mine now that his father has died. But, death and murder has also returned to Harmony as a man dressed in miner’s gear is going on a killing spree with his trusty pick-axe. He is leaving a trail of mutilated bodies, some with hearts ripped out and placed in heart-shaped boxes. Did Harry Warden escape the mine and his wounds 10 years earlier, or has the approaching sale of the mine sent an unbalanced individual on a copy-cat killing spree? All this peaceful town and it’s inhabitants know is that suspects and bodies are piling up. Will the killer be unveiled and stopped?

Brought to us by the team of director Patrick Lussier and writer/actor Todd Farmer (co-wrtten with Zane Smith)…who would next collaborate on the grind-house style Drive Angry…this remake uses the original’s storyline to get things started, then goes off on it’s bloody own. Lussier is able to have a good time with the flick, adding some intensity, livening things up and giving it a bit faster pace, which the original film lacked. He also adds a touch of humor here and there such as a scene where he gets to slaughter his writer Todd Farmer, in an amusing sex scene gone wrong with Axel’s ex, Irene, in a seedy hotel. The classic original could have benefited from some of what Lussier brings here, as it was very by-the-numbers and had a very dry approach…though, credit where credit is due, the original had a bit more atmosphere.

Lussier also gets lively performances out of his leads, especially our final girl Jaime King who proves to be a resilient and tough woman when corned by a psycho with a pick axe. Ackles and Smith are both good as well, especially considering their characters are not only in a competition for Sarah, but flip-flop back and forth as possible suspects or potential heroes. And Tom Atkins is a delight to watch as always.

The film is not perfect. Filmed for 3D, there is a lot of stuff thrust at the screen and it gets tiresome watching it in 2D and having scenes often stop for a few seconds to stick something in your face. The big reveal in the film is not as surprising as it was in the original and there is some mediocre CGI mixed in with the abundant prosthetic gore. And while on that subject, the film is quite gruesome like the original, but in the last act I have to admit the whole death by pick axe thing was wearing out it’s welcome. At least the original added some variety in it’s kills.

Overall this is a fun and entertaining slasher that has a good time and pays homage to the original yet, takes off and does it’s own thing. I also give it credit for focusing on a group of characters who are in their late twenties/early thirties than the usual nubile teens or college kids. It’s not all that often that the final girl is a final MILF. It may not be remembered as a classic like the original 1981 film is, but it is a fun horror that entertains on it’s own and doesn’t dishonor it’s source material. A fun ‘Saturday night on the couch’ horror. Also stars Kevin Tighe from the classic 70s show Emergency as the mine’s manager.

pick axes.

my bloody Valentine 2009 rating

 
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HOUSE OF WAX (2005)

House Of Wax may share the title of the 1953 Vincent Price classic, but it’s plot is more Texas Chainsaw Massacre with wax than it is a true remake of that vintage horror. The film opens with 6 young people, including Carly (Elisha Cuthbert) and her delinquent of a twin brother Nick (Chad Michael Murray), on their way to Louisiana for a big football game. Along for the ride are Paige (Paris Hilton), her boyfriend Blake (Robert Ri’chard… yes, that’s how it’s spelled), Carly’s boyfriend Wade (Jared Padalecki) and Dalton (Jon Abrahams). They decide to camp off the side of the road and are vexed that night by an ominous truck glaring it’s headlights at them. After chasing the truck off, someone returns later that night to videotape them while they sleep and mess with Wade’s car. Something is not right in them thar woods! Carly and Wade decide to try to get the car fixed while the others leave for the game. They encounter a very odd local man dumping road kill in a huge pit filled with dead animals and hitch a ride with him into town. Makes sense! But the town they arrive at seems devoid of much life and despite being very remote, is home to a large and very creepy wax museum. The only living soul seems to be garage mechanic Bo (Brian Van Holt) who offers to take them up to his decrepit house to get the proper part for Wade’s car. Inside, Wade unfortunately meets Bo’s wax masked brother Vincent (also Van Holt) and Carly soon becomes the hunted prey of two very twisted individuals who seem to have a hobby of turning unsuspecting visitors into wax statues for display in this empty ghost town. But worse still, her brother and friends are on the way back and are looking for her and may soon join the grotesque side show attraction these demented ex-siamese twins have made of the little town of Ambrose.

Written by Chad and Carey Hayes and directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan), this ‘remake’ is actually a fun popcorn horror despite being very derivative of things we’ve seen before. If you go in not expecting much, it actually has some good chills and thrills and delivers some good gore. Collet-Serra has a really nice visual style that gives the film a very unsettling look, provides some disturbing atmosphere and really shines in the fiery climax. There are some definite lapses in logic here and characters do make some dumb decisions to move the plot along, but no worse then we are used to in films like this. Though the most annoying example is a scene with Bo securing Carly to a chair with duct tape and then wrestling with her to super glue her lips closed, when all he had to do was use another strip of duct tape and voila!…silent captive. It’s done for shock value and is just stupid and completely unpractical…not that I know what practical behavior is for a serial killer. So, if you are a fan of backwoods horror this is certainly no worse an offender in terms of character stupidity and certainly delivers what fans of the sub-genre enjoy… at least enough to make this a good time, though fairly forgettable once it’s over.

The cast are fine with Cuthbert really standing out as a strong and resourceful heroine which makes me wonder why her movie career remained unremarkable…the awful Captivity probably didn’t help. Media darling Paris Hilton was far better than expected and since her character doesn’t do much, there wasn’t much expected of her and that works fine. She was cast for her notoriety and is quite adequate in what little she is asked to do. Murray makes an OK douche turned hero and his performance picks up once Nick and his sister go up against Bo and Vincent for the final act’s twins vs. twins smackdown. The rest of the performers are adequate as fodder for slaughter and wax sculpture and there is no mistake that that’s what they are for.

The make-up FX are good and there is plentiful gore. Collet-Serra gives us some nice suspense and some tension, especially in the action packed last third where we get some fun set-pieces, including the climactic showdown in the burning wax museum. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before, but it’s done well and overall it entertains well enough for a night on the coach with some brews. And as long as you don’t expect anything more, House Of Wax is perfectly fine amusement for a Saturday night horror fest.

3 cute and courageous Cuthberts.

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: NIGHT OF THE CREEPS and THE MONSTER SQUAD

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NIGHT OF THE CREEPS (1986)

Fred Dekker wrote and directed 2 of my favorite 80’s guilty pleasures, the underrated The Monster Squad (our second feature) and this B-movie blast, Night of the Creeps. A fun sci-fi/ horror that is not only a homage to the drive-in flicks of the 50’s, but is nostalgically 80’s now, too. Creeps starts out with a desperate chase inside an alien spaceship where a fugitive releases a tube from the ship carrying an “experiment” before being gunned down by his fellow crew members. The tube lands on earth in 1959 where two college students are on a date at a make-out point. The young man sees the tube land and heads into the woods to find it. His pretty date remains behind and is killed by an escaped ax murder while her date gets a face full of alien slugs when he finds the tube and it opens. We then move forward almost 30 years later where dorky college freshman Chris (Jason Lively) and handicapped bud J.C. (Steve Marshall) are desperate to join a fraternity, so Chris can impress beautiful sorority girl Cindy (Jill Whitlow). A little too anxious to accomplish an initiation prank they are assigned to carry out at the morgue, the two wander into the wrong room and wind up letting loose a frozen corpse from suspended animation…that of the young man infected by the alien slugs in the opening sequence. Now with fellow students being infected by the freed creatures and zombifying, the two team up with Cindy and a detective with a past linked to the 1959 ax murder (a great Tom Atkins) to try to stop the alien invasion from spreading through the entire campus and then the world.

Night Of The Creeps is a lot of fun. The whole thing is tongue in cheek from the campy dialog to every major character having the last name of a horror movie director. And, best of all, the audience is in on the fun. Dekker does take his material seriously to a degree so not to make a complete joke out of it and so it does have some suspense and tension, but in the spirit of the drive-in movies of the 50s, lets the deliberately absurd material, bathed with homage, deliver the fun. The cast also play their parts straight and are all good with Atkins’ cynical and grumpy Detective Cameron stealing the show with his one liners and our three leads giving us some very likable heroes and heroines to root for. Whitlow also makes for a fetching flame thrower wielding sorority girl. The entire cast seems to get the tone of the material and it really makes this work. The FX are really good too and there is some nice and abundant gore to go along with the slimy critters and their army of co-ed zombies.

A real fun homage to the sci-fi horrors of yesteryear, as well as, a great slice of fun 80s horror, too. How can you not like a movie with the line “I’ve got good news and bad news, girls… the good news is your dates are here…’what’s the bad news?’… they’re dead!”

MONSTERZERO NJ TRIVIA: Keep an observant eye out as Dekker gives a little shout out to his next movie The Monster Squad in a scene with J.C.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 infected aliens!

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THE MONSTER SQUAD (1987) 

Practically ignored when it first came out, this overlooked gem written and directed by Fred Dekker and co-scripted by Shane Black, is now recognized by many as a classic. I saw it when it was first released in 1987 and have loved it since and I am very proud to be among those that championed this fun monster movie from the very beginning. The film tells the homage filled story of group of young monster movie fans who call themselves ‘The Monster Squad’. They acquire a diary…at a garage sale no less…that is allegedly from none other than the great Dr. Van Helsing (Jack Gwilliam) who tells of an amulet that keeps evil at bay. But once every hundred years the amulet becomes vulnerable to harm and at that time the forces of evil may seek to destroy it…and that time is soon approaching. And evil does come looking for the amulet, which is stored beneath an old house in their very town. Now this band of monster movie fans must quickly become a band of monster fighters to do battle with the most famous monsters of all time as Dracula (Duncan Regehr) has come to destroy the amulet and unleash great evil upon the world. And with him are Frankenstein’s Monster (Tom Noonan), The Wolfman (Jonathan Gries in human form, Carl Thibault once transformed), The Mummy (Michael MacKay) and The Gill-Man (Tom Woodruff Jr.). Left on their own by disbelieving adults, can these suburban kids stop the greatest monsters in horror film history?

A lot of fun, the flick plays it serious when it needs to but, also provides plenty of laughs and has a genuine love for the monster movies it pays tribute to. The monsters are all well represented by Dekker, the make-up FX team (headed by the legendary Stan Winston) and the actors portraying them with Regehr making a very sinister Count, Gries a sympathetic victim of lycanthropy and Noonan a monster who may still have a heart when treated with kindness. Dekker also gets great work from his squad of wannabe monster fighters, with Andre Gower as leader Sean, Robby Kiger as his best bud Patrick, Brent Chalem (who sadly passed away in 1997) as the bullied fat kid, Horace, who wants to prove himself, Ryan Lambert as tough rebel Rudy, Michael Faustino as the young Eugene and Ashley Bank as Sean’s little sister Phoebe, who steal’s the Frankenstein monster’s heart. Round out nice work from Stephen Macht and Mary Ellen Trainor as Sean’s concerned parents and Leonardo Cimino as ‘Scary German Guy’ and you get a movie filled with endearing characters and fearsome fiends.

The Monster Squad is a very entertaining little movie made with a lot of heart and has far more warmth and charm then a lot of the souless blockbusters that pass as entertainment today. A fun nostalgic 80s blast that also gives a lot of love and respect to some of the most famous monsters of all time. Finally recognized as the classic it is. “Wolfman’s got nards!”

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 wolfmen complete with nards!

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE FOG (1980)

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JOHN CARPENTER’S THE FOG (1980)

Since The Fog has just been released on blu-ray from the awesome folks at Scream Factory, I thought I’d roll out another Tomb Of Nostalgia and take a look back at this classic ghost tale…

One of my all time favorite horrors and one of my favorite John Carpenter flicks, in fact, since I was too young to see Halloween when it came out, this was the first Carpenter film I saw in a theater and the flick that started me on my love of his movies.

The Fog tells the story of the 100 year anniversary of the small coastal California town of Antonio Bay and as the town prepares for it’s centennial celebration, a dark secret is revealed. Legend has it a leper colony paid the founders of Antonio Bay a lot of gold to let them settle nearby but, they were betrayed and murdered, as their ship was lured onto the rocks to crash and sink on a fog laden night. All were lost but, now a horde of vengeful spirits returns from the sea, wrapped in a surreal fog, to make the descendants of those who wronged them, pay with their lives.

The Fog focuses not on a main character but, a group of central characters whose individual experiences during this supernatural crisis bring them slowly all together for it’s tense and creepy final act set in the town church. A good cast, including Jamie Lee Curtis as hitchhiker Elizabeth, Tom Atkins as local fisherman Nick, Janet Leigh as centennial chairwoman Kathy Williams and Adrienne Barbeau as single mom and radio DJ Stevie Wayne, give life to this ensemble and make them characters we like and care about so, we fear for them when they are placed in harm’s way. Add to that Hal Holbrook as the town’s alcoholic priest and a host of Carpenter regulars…with even a cameo by Carpenter himself…and you have a film wonderfully filled with a variety of characters who are all potential victims for the marauding phantoms. As for those phantoms, lets not forget to mention the ghostly Captain Blake (FX man Rob Bottin) and his vengeful crew who are portrayed with in-camera practical FX. This makes them quite spooky and gives them a heavy dose of menace and a lot of effectiveness when they are on the attack. There is loads of atmosphere and some very solid scares and suspense created by Carpenter, along with some great cinematography from frequent Carpenter collaborator Dean Cundey, which makes this a good, solid, old-fashioned ghost story and a fun Halloween season treat. Carpenter again delivers a score which adds chills and foreboding to his tale of ghostly revenge, much like he did for Halloween and he starts the film off perfectly with a chillingly fun opening sequence featuring veteran John Houseman as a crusty sailor who likes to tell kids scary stories. It sets the mood for the thrills and chills yet to come. This classic was made back when there was no phoney CGI, just solid make-up effects from master Rob Bottin (who went on to do The Thing’s FX for Carpenter) and some very basic down to earth smoke and mirrors style visuals, that are as beautiful as they are scary. A great flick the likes of which they rarely make anymore and one of MonsterZero NJ’s must-watch flicks during the Halloween season!

As stated, the film was just released for the first time on blu-ray from Scream Factory with all the extras from previous releases plus an added new commentary track with Barbeau, Atkins and Tommy Lee Wallace and two really fun and informative interviews with Jamie Lee Curtis and Cinematographer Dean Cundey who also supervised the absolutely gorgeous new transfer!

4 spectral sailors!

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