MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: GRIZZLY AND ALLIGATOR

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: GRIZZLY AND ALLIGATOR

This installment of MonsterZero NJ’s Saturday Night Double Feature goes back to nature…nature run amok that is! Jaws inspired a number of animal on the rampage movies and along with Piranha, these two are among the best! Sure they are more B-movie level thrillers, but that’s all the more reason to love them, as mother nature strikes back with some of her most lethal critters!

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Grizzly

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GRIZZLY (1976)

Grizzly is a 1976 Jaws rip-off that tells the horrifying tale of a massive 15 foot (the ads for the film say 18, but in the movie it is said to be 15) grizzly bear, who has wandered hungrily into a state park and begins snacking down on the campers and rangers alike. Chief Ranger Mike Kelly (Christopher George) has his hands full as he, Naturalist Arthur Scott (Richard Jaeckel) and war vet chopper pilot Don Stober (Andrew Prine) have to somehow stop the relentless carnivore.

Grizzly follows the template created by Spielberg’s thriller quite closely with our three leads being the Brody, Hooper and Quint characters who are hunting a vicious, yet seemingly very intelligent predator, while it racks up quite the body count of innocent victims. We get the greedy head of the park refusing to close the place down despite the deaths and bringing in a bunch of amateur yahoos to hunt the bear down. But despite the blatant similarities, Grizzly actually works on a B-movie level. As directed by William Girdler (Abby, The Manitou), Grizzly is actually an effective and surprisingly gory PG horror flick. While it never matches the tension of the movie it was clearly inspired by, it does entertain in more of a low budget slasher flick kind of way, with the rampaging bear filling in for Jason or Michael Myers. For a 2000 lb. animal, it sneaks up on people quite easily. There is never much attempt to explain why the animal is so big, or why it has come to this park to feed, except for a quick throw-away line suggesting it might be a throw-back to it’s prehistoric ancestors. But like with the shark in Jaws, the grizzly is effectively portrayed and it’s background is unimportant to the carnage it creates. A live bear was used in filming and the 11 foot “Teddy” is quite effective in the part along with a prop arm for up-close mauling. It is said that the crew coaxed the bear into it’s roaring stance by offering it marshmallows, adding the roar in post production. Works for me!

Sure there is some silly dialog and all the acting is not top notch, but the leads are veteran actors and give the material the respect it needs to work and their characters are all pretty likable. This, along with some effectively gory kills and a nice fast pace by director Girdler, turns this low budget rip-off into an entertaining B-movie that works well enough on it’s own. Made for a reported $750,000, Grizzly grossed almost $40 million. Not bad for a Jaws imitation that, when you add the 70s nostalgia factor, is actually a fun Saturday night B-movie horror thriller despite it’s rip-off roots.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) rampaging grizzly bears

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second feature

alligator

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ALLIGATOR (1980)

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

What happens when you combine a baby alligator flushed down the toilet and the corpses of dogs who have been experimented on with growth hormones and dumped into the sewers?…a 1980 horror flick/Jaws rip-off called Alligator. This fun monster on the loose flick takes place in Chicago with exactly that premise as Detective David Madison (the underrated Robert Forster) is trying to solve the mystery of body parts showing up at the sewer treatment plant and soon comes to discover…through the gruesome loss of a rookie partner…that there is a massive reptilian predator stalking the sewers of the windy city. Now with pretty herpetologist Marisa Kendall (a smoking hot Robin Riker) in tow, Madison must hunt the massive beast and expose the Slade Corporation whose illegal experiments have inadvertently created a monster…with an accelerated metabolism and appetite!

Directed by Lewis Teague (Cujo) and written with loads of wit by John Sayles (Piranha, The Howling) and Frank Ray Perilli, Alligator has just the right mix of seriousness and sly humor to tell it’s tale of a 36 foot predator in the sewers of one of America’s most famous cities. On the outset, the film is all business, but there are a lot of unobtrusive playful moments to let us know it’s all in fun…like the local merchants taking full advantage of the news frenzy of a gator on the loose in their city, or, Great White Hunter Col. Brock’s (a perfectly cast Henry Silva) choice of ‘guides’ to accompany him on his hunt through the city back streets. Very politically incorrect, but very funny. The film is unapologetically R-rated and we get some nice gore and carnage as our reptilian eating machine eludes capture, but not his dinner, and the creature itself is portrayed by a real gator on miniature sets or a fairly convincing mechanical mock-up. Teague creates some fun sequences, some solid and bloody action and some genuine suspense despite the goofy premise. He mixes the subtle humor and drama perfectly, while never overdosing on either. He also gets good work from his cast whose serious approach to the material helps us go along with the preposterousness of it all.

And while on the subject of that cast…the always strong Robert Forester gives us an every-man hero to identify with. He’s very likable and believable as a street-smart cop with some inner turmoil of his own, that adds depth to the character. And Forester gives it his all despite being basically in a giant alligator movie. Pretty Robin Riker is also solid as the pretty reptile geek Dr. Kendall and she is sexy and smart without ever becoming a helpless damsel. She and Forester have good on-screen chemistry and I loved the added irony that it is her alligator ‘Ramon’ flushed down the toilet 12 years earlier that she and Madison are now hunting. She’s never aware of this fact, but we are and it adds something to her character and the film overall. Henry Silva is hilarious as the arrogant big game hunter called in to track down and destroy the big guy and his eccentric Col. Brock is a hoot. Rounding out is Michael V. Gazzo, who is slightly over-the-top as Madison’s commanding officer and Dean Jagger who is perfectly arrogant and slimy as Slade, whose company has inadvertently created a monster. A solid cast that helps make this flick work.

I like this film. It’s another of the flicks scene at my beloved Oritani Theater and it is a fun monster movie made at a time where monsters where portrayed with charming in-camera prosthetics. John Sayles gives us another witty script that perfectly balances the fun with the more serious nature of this horror tale. The film never makes a joke out of it’s story, as guided by Teague, but never takes itself too seriously either, so we don’t forget to have a good time. It’s got a good cast and a reptilian predator who we almost root for. A really fun flick that has far more charm than the CGI overloaded SYFY beast run amok movies today’s audiences seem to think are so clever.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) alligators.

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

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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

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

-MonsterZero NJ

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WEEKLY WRAP-UP!: APRIL 26th to MAY 1st

Decided to start a new column basically listing the articles published during the past week, or so, here on Monster Zero NJ’s Movie Madhouse! This way folks can catch up on what they missed! Hit the highlighted links to read the full articles!

WEEKLY WRAP-UP!: APRIL 26th to MAY 1st

Sunday April 26th, 2020

Bare Bones reviewed the recently released on streaming Witches in the Woods!

https://monsterzeronj.wordpress.com/2020/04/26/bare-bones-witches-in-the-woods-2019/

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Monday April 27th, 2020

Bare Bones reviewed the IFC Midnight mystery/thriller on streaming Disappearance At Clifton Hill!

https://monsterzeronj.wordpress.com/2020/04/27/bare-bones-the-disappearance-at-clifton-hill-2019/

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Tuesday April 28th, 2020

Tomb of Nostalgia looked back at the 1977 eco-horror Day of the Animals!

https://monsterzeronj.wordpress.com/2020/04/28/tomb-of-nostalgia-day-of-the-animals-1977/

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Wednesday April 29th, 2020

Bare Bones reviewed the Canadian zombie horror Blood Quantum!

https://monsterzeronj.wordpress.com/2020/04/29/bare-bones-blood-quantum-2019/

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Thursday April 30th, 2020

Views and Opinions took a look at the career and films of the late William Girdler!

https://monsterzeronj.wordpress.com/2020/04/30/a-talent-gone-too-soon-the-films-of-william-girdler/

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Friday May 1st, 2020

Horror You Might Have Missed reviewed IFC Midnight’s newest release The Wretched!

https://monsterzeronj.wordpress.com/2020/05/01/horror-you-might-have-missed-the-wretched-2020/

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And that sums up the week. Check out anything you missed, there’s always more new stuff to come!

-MonsterZero NJ

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: DAY OF THE ANIMALS (1977)

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DAY OF THE ANIMALS (1977)

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

Nature run amok flick is one of many of this popular 70s sub-genre. Here a group of wilderness hikers are under siege from basically every animal in the park. The ozone layer depletion is the blame here, as the earth’s animals have had enough and decide to rid the planet of us pesky humans, starting with this bunch. Is there anywhere these folks can hide?

Flick is directed by WIlliam Girdler (Grizzly, Abby) from a script by Eleanor E. Norton and William W. Norton, based on a story by producer Edward L. Montoro. The film has a somewhat serious tone, which helps with such a silly story. Birds, bears, mountain lions and even rats are all on the attack and this group of campers and a remote mountain community are at ground zero. Unfortunately, it’s nowhere near as good as Girdler’s Grizzly and is a slow paced affair with most of the animal attacks coming across as more silly than scary. Shots of owls and other birds of prey staring at their potential snacks are fun and there is a mountain lion attack which works well enough, as does the wild pack of dogs in the last act. The bickering and whining between the panicking campers gets old quick and Leslie Nielsen’s alpha male, advertising executive engaging in a power struggle with nature guide Steve Buckner (Christopher George), gets a bit tiresome as well. Nielsen’s Jenson gets so over-the-top he becomes laughable. His bare-chested battle with a grizzly bear is extremely entertaining, though. The scenes of rival predators moving together as an army, under what appears to be the guidance of various birds of prey, do work better than they should. It’s too bad the animal attacks are few and far between, with things being far too talky for a flick like this. Too much melodrama and not enough mauling. Day of the Animals also ends very anti-climactically, when something with more “bite” would have served the film better.

Cast has a lot of 70s familiar faces. Christopher George is solid as nature guide Steve Buckner. Very much like his park ranger character from Grizzly. His wife Linda Day George, is a reporter. Leslie Nielsen is hilariously over-the-top as arrogant advertising exec Paul Jenson. This guy has issues and uses the situation to assert his perceived dominance. When the groups splinter, his abusive treatment of those dumb enough to follow him is hysterically tyrannical, as is his before mentioned bare chested battle with a grizzly bear. He definitely takes a badly written part into camp territory and not the camp one stays at when in such woods. Michael Ansara plays a Native American guide, a role the Lebanese actor played many times. He gives his Daniel Santee nobility and is the voice of reason between Buckner and Jenson. Richard Jaeckel is present as a professor and provides some possible scientific explanations. Rounding out is 70s TV and movie fixture Andrew Stevens and Robinson Crusoe on Mars star Paul Mantee as a cancer stricken athlete. A solid cast with not a lot to work with.

In conclusion, this could have been a lot better with a much better script. Grizzly proved Girdler could make a solid action flick, even from a derivative idea, as long as he had a good script. The film is very talky and very slow paced for a flick like this. The animal attacks range from effective to silly and it’s pretty tame bloodshed wise as it was a PG release. The character interaction gets tedious, as Leslie Nielsen’s tyrannical advertising executive gets ridiculous, despite an overall serious tone. There are a few moments and plenty of 70s nostalgia, but could have been a lot better.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2  (out of 4) rattle snakes.

 

 

 

 

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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

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: ABBY and JD’S REVENGE

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It’s been a long time since I took a look at any films from the Blaxploitation era of the 70s, so I decided to put these two stories of supernatural possession together for today’s Saturday Night Double Feature!…
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ABBY (1974)

Released Christmas day 1974, Abby was A.I.P.’s blaxploitation answer to The Exorcist, so much so, that Warner Brothers sued and got the film pulled from release. But not before it made a ton of cash on it’s low budget investment. Abby tells the story of a holy man (the great William ‘Blacula’ Marshall) who, while investigating an archeological dig in Nigeria, pertaining to their ancient Yoruba religion, accidentally releases the evil entity Eshu. The vile spirit shows it’s gratitude by possessing his daughter-in-law Abby (Carol Speed). As the spirit takes hold and Abby becomes more and more vile in her behavior, Dr.Williams (Marshall) returns home to do battle with the demonic entity.

Abby is played very straight despite delivering some unintentional laughs. It’s very low budget, so it’s FX are limited to blowing wind, bizarre sounds and throwing furniture around while Abby speaks in an almost comically dubbed man voice, that was provided by Bob Holt, a prolific voice actor, complete with echo. Exploitation filmmaker William Girdler writes and directs and while despite trying to play it straight, most of possessed Abby’s vulgar talk and behavior just elicits laughs not chills. I do give credit to Carol Speed for just going with it and giving it her all despite how silly some of this comes off. Not to forget William Marshall, who once again brings a power and nobility to his role and maintains it despite how ridiculous things get. Still, you gotta like a movie that stages an African themed exorcism in a bar.

In Abby’s defense, there is some nice 70s nostalgia and unintentional laughs are a form of entertainment, so Abby is by no means a boring movie, it’s just not very scary or chilling. With a few beers it can be a hoot to watch and that’s just fine. Also stars Austin Stoker (Assault On Precinct 13) as Abby’s police officer brother.

EXTRA TRIVIA: Again actor William Marshall was involved in adding African culture to a film as he did with Blacula. It was he who added the use of the Yoruba religion in the film, though he apparently was still unhappy about the film’s final script. I don’t blame him.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 possessed Abbys!

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JD’S REVENGE (1976)

J.D.’s Revenge starts out in 1942 New Orleans as gangster J.D. Walker (David McKnight) is gunned down for a murder he didn’t commit, that of his own sister. Flash forward to 1976 New Orleans where Ike (Glynn E. Turman), a student working through law school, starts to have bloody hallucinations of a mysterious and violent man and soon starts to take on his characteristics against his will. A confused Ike seeks help, not realizing J.D. is back for revenge and using Ike’s body to do it.

As blaxploitation films go, this A.I.P. made flick looks good on a low budget and the acting (including future Oscar winner Lou Gossett Jr. as a former mobster turned preacher, who figures in J.D.’s past) is actually pretty good, especially from Turman. What hurts J.D.’s Revenge is director Arthur Marks’ slow pace and that the film could have used some more intensity. That’s not to say there aren’t intense scenes, there are, especially during the last act, but the film does drag a bit early on. You would expect a bit more scares in a story of possession and revenge from beyond the grave. Marks seems to treat the material like a routine drama despite the violent and supernatural story and that takes away from the fun and makes it a bit too serious for this type of movie. It’s as if he wasn’t comfortable with the horror elements, despite the fact that this is indeed a horror film. If it wasn’t for Turman’s effective portrayal of Ike’s torment, J.D.’s Revenge would be far less watchable. And without giving anything away, the end was far too neat and clean.

As it is, it is a well made film but not as intense or fun as we’d like. It is a curiosity for those who enjoy films from this era and not without some nostalgic fun, but doesn’t quite live up to it’s cult reputation.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 gangster possessed Ikes!

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: GRIZZLY (1976)

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Grizzly

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GRIZZLY (1976)

Grizzly is a 1976 Jaws rip-off that tells the horrifying tale of a massive 15 foot (the ads for the film say 18, but in the movie it is said to be 15) grizzly bear, who has wandered hungrily into a state park and begins snacking down on the campers and rangers alike. Chief Ranger Mike Kelly (Christopher George) has his hands full as he, Naturalist Arthur Scott (Richard Jaeckel) and war vet chopper pilot Don Stober (Andrew Prine) have to somehow stop the relentless carnivore.

Grizzly follows the template created by Spielberg’s thriller quite closely with our three leads being the Brody, Hooper and Quint characters who are hunting a vicious, yet seemingly very intelligent predator, while it racks up quite the body count of innocent victims. We get the greedy head of the park refusing to close the place down despite the deaths and bringing in a bunch of amateur yahoos to hunt the bear down. But despite the blatant similarities, Grizzly actually works on a B-movie level. As directed by William Girdler (Abby, The Manitou), Grizzly is actually an effective and surprisingly gory PG horror flick. While it never matches the tension of the movie it was clearly inspired by, it does entertain in more of a low budget slasher flick kind of way, with the rampaging bear filling in for Jason or Michael Myers. For a 2000 lb. animal, it sneaks up on people quite easily. There is never much attempt to explain why the animal is so big, or why it has come to this park to feed, except for a quick throw-away line suggesting it might be a throw-back to it’s prehistoric ancestors. But like with the shark in Jaws, the grizzly is effectively portrayed and it’s background is unimportant to the carnage it creates. A live bear was used in filming and the 11 foot “Teddy” is quite effective in the part along with a prop arm for up-close mauling. It is said that the crew coaxed the bear into it’s roaring stance by offering it marshmallows, adding the roar in post production. Works for me!

Sure there is some silly dialog and all the acting is not top notch, but the leads are veteran actors and give the material the respect it needs to work and their characters are all pretty likable. This, along with some effectively gory kills and a nice fast pace by director Girdler, turns this low budget rip-off into an entertaining B-movie that works well enough on it’s own. Made for a reported $750,000, Grizzly grossed almost $40 million. Not bad for a Jaws imitation that, when you add the 70s nostalgia factor, is actually a fun Saturday night B-movie horror thriller despite it’s rip-off roots.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) rampaging grizzly bears

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