Anthology

Tales from the Darkside: The Movie

tales-from-the-darkside-movie-posterI’m not a hundred percent sure what draws me to horror anthologies. But I have a couple of guesses, one that if I get bored I can suffer out till the end of the segment, two I that I get more variety, or three that they’re just awesome. Though all are not made equal. Luckily Tales from the Darkside: The Movie is one of the good ones. Heck I might be tempted to call it one of the great ones. Though is would be due to my deep and endearing love for Debbie Harry and Steve Buscemi.

Tales from the Darkside: The movie opens with its wrap-around story, Betty (Debbie Harry) arrives home from grocery shopping to prepare for a dinner party. After finalizing plans with some of her guests she opens the pantry where she has a local boy, Timmy (Matthew Lawrence). In order to stave off her plans to flay and cook him, Timmy reads her a selection of stories from her favorite book.

The first story is Lot 249, Andy (Christian Slater) and his friend Lee (Robert Sedgwick), two spoiled rich kids discuss how Lee won a scholarship by cheating by having Andy’s sister Susan (Julian Moore) write it for him. Thus cheating fellow student Bellingham (Steve Buscemi) out of it. Bellingham being poor than them and working to pay his way through college. Susan and Lee have also framed Bellingham of theft at his job at a local museum to make winning the scholarship easier. Bellingham confronts them in the hall alluding to his knowledge of their miss-dealings, but invites them in to view his newest acquisition Lot 249. A mummy complete with its sarcophagus. Lee leaves disgusted by the mummy while Andy stays. Bellingham unwraps the mummy and even explores its body cavity where he finds an ancient scroll. One that he uses to make the mummy rise and sets it upon those who has wronged him.

The second story that Timmy tells to avoid the oven is Cat from Hell, which is directed by George A. Romero based on a work by Stephen King. Drogan (William Hickey), an elderly pharmaceutical mogul hires hit man Halston (David Johansen) to kill a cat. The cat in question has according to Drogan killed his friend, his sister and his butler/man servant.  As the cat has been sent to get revenge for the five thousand cats killed by Drogan’s company through testing is pharmaceuticals. Halston accepts the easy sounding job, but the cat might be exactly what Drogan fears.

The last story that Timmy tells is Lovers Vow. Preston (James Remar) is a struggling artist. One night he’s called to by his agent for a meeting where the agent lets him go. Preston drowns his sorrows and is escorted out at when the bar closes. He then witnesses a monster kill the bartender brutally. The creature then makes Preston a deal that it would spare his life, but he could never speak of the events of the night or describe the creatures appearance to anyone for as long as he lived. Preston agrees and is let go. On his way back home he comes across a young woman, Carola (Rae Dawn Chong). He takes her to his apartment out of fear she might be attacked by the creature. Prestons life quickly changes after meeting Carola. His art starts selling, they fall in love and get married. Even having two children over the next ten years. Though the memories of that night always haunt him. One night he breaks down, telling Carola the truth of the night they met, breaking his vow to the monster.

All the stories, including the wrap around are really good. My favorite stories were Lot 249 and Lovers Vow respectively. Cat from Hell being the weakest in terms of story for me. The wrap around story had me hooked as well, right until Timmy broke the fourth wall at the end of the film.

The acting is solid and enjoyable straight through. Which isn’t in the least surprising given all the great actors that make and appearance in this film. Tales from the Darkside: The Movie might just be the most star studded horror anthology I’ve seen. With names like Debbie Harry, James Remar, William Hickey, Christian Slater, Julian Moore and Steve Buscemi I’m surprised that I haven’t seen this film before.

Final thoughts, I loved this film. Though it isn’t going to dethrone my current and reigning favorite anthology Trick r’ Treat, Tale from the Darkside makes a strong attempt. The acting is fun, the stories are memorable and I would suggest this film to horror fans. 9/10

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V/H/S Viral

vhsviral_poster_web-1V/H/S Viral is the final installment of the V/H/S series. Which is sad given how much the series has downgraded over time. The first V/H/S was great, the second was alright, but this one was either of those things. Horror anthologies are hard to get right. Here we see a lot of the problems I have with the idea along with some of the issues I have with found footage films rearing up as well. Not that Viral is completely without merit, I found myself enjoying one of the entries, but just the one. My main issue is the story that intertwines the film felt out-of-place and would have worked better as its own solid entry.

Viral opens with the wrap-around story Vicious Circles. Kevin (Patrick Lawrie) and Iris (Celia K. Milius) are a young couple in love. Kevin loves filming Iris, something that she seems to enjoy as well. One night a high-speed pursuit goes past their home and Kevin runs out to film it, hoping that the footage would go viral. While waiting for the chase to loop back around as the chase is going in literal circles, Iris gets a message are her phone that places her into a trance, during which she walks into the road. During the pass she’s abducted and Kevin chases after her, first on foot than later on a bicycle. The point between segments focus on small portions of the chase, gang members killing one another after receiving the same message which ends in an explosion. A woman trying to take a revenge on a man who posted a revenge porn video of her. Until Kevin is finally able to reach the vehicle containing Iris after is successfully evades police.

The first story Dante The Great, is about Dante (Justin Welborn) an elite illusionist and magician. His current assistant Scarlet (Emmy Argo) goes to the police after finding videos implicating the Dante has been killing is assistants, and Scarlet’s ex-boyfriend. The police go to arrest Dante after reviewing the evidence, only for Dante to start killing with magic. Magic bestowed by his cloak, one that one was once owned by Harry Houdini. Dante pulls Scarlet from the police station via magic to the stage of the theater where he performs. Scarlet manages to get her hand on the cape, while Dante holds the other end. Resulting in a magic battle.

The Second story Parallel Monsters, inventor Alfonso (Gustavo Salmeron) powers up his greatest invention. One that bridges two parallel universes. On the other side is another Alfonso. The two have a quick interaction before deciding to swap universes for fifteen minutes…

The final story Bonestorm, two skateboarders Danny (Nick Blanco) and Jason (Chase Newton) keep getting pushed into increasingly dangerous stunts by their videographer Taylor (Shane Brady).  Taylor talks Danny and Jason into going Tijuana, one they recruit Gas Money Kid (Peter Villalba). After buying fireworks the group gets lost eventually finding a place to shoot their skateboarding video. Unfortunately the site is covered with religious markings and the worshipers show up mysteriously after one of the skateboarders bleeds on the symbols. The worshipers attack them, forcing them to fight back for their lives.

My main issue is most of the stories, Dante the Great and Parallel Monsters feel far too polished to be found footage. This gripe is mostly reserved for Dante the Great and the magic fight at the end of the segment. It feels like a normal film and nothing like found footage. I have the same issue with Parallel Monsters. It looks too nice.

The stories themselves feel lacking. I liked Dante the Great, other than my previous mentioned gripe, and feel it was the strongest entry. Emmy Argo delivers the best performance in the whole film here. I find her incredibly sympathetic and she plays of the megalomania of Justin Welborn’s Dante amazingly.

Final thoughts, I wish I had more to say, but I just found this entry in the V/H/S series to be incredibly underwhelming. The series decline is a real shame as the first entry really showed what could be done with found footage anthologies and the second film experimented with the ideas but were off the mark on delivery. Viral on the other hand felt like a lazy finish at best. 5/10

Creepshow

d2b73d5552f2155417cd5bd7a97426d3Honestly, though it’s written by Stephen King, Creepshow is not a contender for my favorite horror anthology film. In fact, I see this film as below both King and Romero’s ability. I only enjoyed less than half of the stories and with the others being fair or simply boring. Which is sad, because I remember this film being far better than it is. It wasn’t until I re-watched this film did I realize I had seen it, but it had been so long that it had mostly been buried under other more recent films. The realization clicked during the second story, The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill. As I had remembered this short, but I could never place where I had seen it. It makes sense to me that I would remember that one, as it stars King and in my opinion, it is far and away the best of the bunch.

Creepshow opens with an overbearing father Stan (Tom Atkins), coming down on his son Billy (Joe Hill) for reading horror comics. The argument over the choice of reading material brushes into abuse when Stan hits his son, who refuses to throw out the comic. Needless to say the comic gets thrown out. The Creep, the creature host of the comic appears before Billy’s window that night…

The first story is Fathers Day, which focuses on a rich family gathering on father’s day in memory of Nathan Grantham (Jon Lormer). The families former head, who had amassed a great fortune through murder, and various other dark dealings and had met his early end at the hands of his daughter Bedelia (Viveca Lindfors). As the rest the family celebrates, as none of them liked Nathan as he was a cruel man, Bedelia visits his grave. Where she gets drunk and spills some whiskey on his tombstone, which resurrects Nathan.Who rises and exacts his revenge on his money hungry family.

The next story is The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill. Jordy Verrill (Stephen King), a slow, poor farmer finds a crashed meteor outside his home. He envisions selling the meteor to the local collage for enough to pay off his two-hundred dollar bank loan. When he grabs the meteor, it of course burns his fingers. So in an effort to cool it, Jordy splashes it with a bucket of water. Which causes it to split in half and a strange fluid pours out. While distraught over the breaking of meteor as he now thinks that it has ruined its worth, gathers the halves to still see what he can get and while doing so gets the fluid on his burned fingers. Later that Night while watching the television and sucking on his burned fingers, Jordy notices that they’ve started to grow a strange fungus. Which has spread to his tongue. In fact, his property is slowly become overgrown with the alien vegetation. As the vegetation spreads over Jordy’s body, an itching intensifies. Until he can no longer resist a bath, even after being warned by his dead father’s ghost that the plant thirsts for water…

The following story is Something to Tide you over, in which jealous husband Richard Vickers (Leslie Nielsen), confronts Harry Wentworth (Ted Danson), who’s been having an affair with his wife Becky (Gaylen Ross). Richard coerces Harry to accompany him to his beach house, where he buries Harry up to his neck in sand under threats if he doesn’t comply that he’ll never see Becky again. After being buried Richards true plan is revealed as he has also buried Becky and with the tide coming in he tells them to stay calm and hold their breath. Harry vows revenge as Richard leaves and he’s forced to watch Becky drown on a live TV feed. The next morning Richard finds both bodies gone and assumes the tide has washed them out to sea…

This is followed by The Crate, in which a custodian at a college, Mike (Don Keffer) comes across an old crate long forgotten under some stairs. He alerts Professor Dexter Stanley (Fritz Weaver) of the find and the two decided to open the crate. Inside is a monstrous yeti like creature that attacks, kills and consumes Professor Stanley. Leaving behind  only Stanley’s boots. Mike flees the room and telling the first student he comes across, Charlie Gereson (Robert Harper). Who gets just as eaten as poor Professor Stanley. After this death Mike goes to his friend Professor Henry Northup (Hal Holbrook). While at first hesitant, Northup soon see’s the creature as a way to get rid of his drunk wife Wilma (Adrienne Barbeau)…

The final story is They’re Creeping Up On You, is about Upson Pratt (E.G. Marshall) a ruthless and mean-spirited business man, who rules over those in his employ. He also happens to be a germophobe and lives in a sterile white apartment to remain safe. With a distinct distaste from insects and cockroaches in particular. Pratt is forced to face his fears as the city is consumed by a blackout and the roaches come out in force…

There’s quite a few things that I really loved about this film. Stephen Kings performance being the highest point, followed by Tom Savini’s tiny cameo. Other things I loved was Leslie Nielsen and Ted Danson’s chemistry in Something to Tide You Over is truly memorable.

But beyond that, which is basically eighty percent of the film, is lackluster. I know I’m in a minority here, but beyond what I just stated, King and Romero feel like they only put in a token effort. Though I know that’s not true, I just expect so much more out of their pairing.

Final thoughts, I didn’t much care for this film. The parts I like I loved. But those are by far the minority with the rest ranging from uninteresting to boring. I can understand how this film is a loved classic, even if I can’t jump on this particular bandwagon. 4/10

Holidays (2016)

Poster-film-HolidaysAs it’s been a while, I figured it was time to review another anthology film. So when I found one that had one of the shorts written and directed by one of my favorite Directors, Kevin Smith, I jumped at it. Which was sad as Holidays was more deserving than that. The idea behind Holidays are eight short stories, each focused on a different holiday throughout the year with a different writer/director doing each holiday and it works great. As I genuinely liked six of the eight shorts, which is a pretty great success ratio and even the ones I dislike having a redeeming element or two.

The first short is Valentines day and focuses on a young girl, Maxine (Madeleine Coghlan) an awkward social outcast. Who’s relentlessly teased by fellow student and member of swim team Heidi (Savannah Kennick). The teasing often focusing on Maxine’s crush on their swim team coach, Coach Rockwell (Rick Peters). Who is in need of a new heart…

The second story is based on Saint Patrick’s day and focus on Elizabeth Cullen (Ruth Bradley). A teacher, who after going out partying on Saint Patrick’s day and wakes up pregnant… with a snake.

The third film is about a young girl (Ava Acres), who fears Easter after learning Jesus rose from the dead that day. That night she hears a noise that draws her to the living room where she witnesses and egg roll into her home. Out side she finds a twisted rabbit/Jesus hybrid (Mark Steger) that hatches baby chicks from his hand. Who gives her an egg so that she may take his place…

The fourth film is Mothers Day and is about Kate (Sophie Traub). A young woman cursed with becoming pregnant every time she has sex and has had over fifty terminations so far. By referral of her doctor, she visits a remote house in the desert where women come in hopes of becoming pregnant…

The next holiday is Fathers Day and focuses on Carol (Jocelin Donahue). A young woman who comes into possession of a tape recorded by her Father (Micheal Gross) who left when she was younger. The tape contains directions to find him when she’s older. Directions that lead to an abandoned building and a mysterious man you only get one chance to meet.

Halloween is next and centers on Ian (Harley Morenstein) a ruthless pimp, for lack of a better word. Who gets the tables turned on him by his cam girls (Ashley Greene, Harley Quinn Smith, Olivia Roush) after he verbally, emotionally and sexually abuses them.

Christmas is the next tale, and opens with Pete Gunderson (Seth Green) arriving late to a toy shop to buy the last VR headset for his son. He arrives right after the last one’s sold to another man (Shawn Parsons). Pete tries to buy it off the man, but he refuses to sell it. Though Pete’s luck changes when the man suffers a heart attack at his car, allowing him to steal the headset over the body of the dying man. Rather than call for help. On Christmas day he gives the toy to his son who tells him the headset shows different things to different people tailored to them. When he dons the headset he see’s himself in a BDSM relationship. Though things change when he wears it again as he see’s his crimes through the eyes of the dying man. Something later seen by his wife (Clare Grant) when he fails to log out.

The last tale is New Years and opens with Reggie (Andrew Bowen) a lonely psychopath who murders the women he dates. He gets a New Years Eve date with Jean (Lorenza Izzo), who is as lonely as he is. The two go back to her apartment where things start to heat up and Reggie excuses himself to the bathroom. Where he finds the remains of Jeans former lovers, just as she comes for him with an ax.

As with all anthology not every short is equal and sadly the weakest is hands down Halloween. Kevin Smith does nothing to use the holiday other than a couple throw away shots in the opening scene where Ian buys candy for his cam girls. After this point the fact that it’s Halloween is irrelevant and the story has as much do with a random day in June as it does with Halloween. The best part of this short is Harley Morenstein, who does a great job in his role. Until the part where he’s forced to mutilate himself rather than just cut the cord to the vibrator that’s been glued inside him.

The other weak story I felt was Mothers day as it was brutally slow-paced. The short feels like it takes two to three times as long as it actually does. But the wait is almost worth ending reveal, which makes the whole short work.

My favorite shorts through were Christmas, Fathers Day, Valentines Day and New Years. In that order. Seth Green does a great job as the conflicted father coming to terms with what he’s done and the haunting tone of Fathers day is hard to shake.

Final thoughts, really good. Actually crazy good considering how little I liked two of the entries. The other six more than make up for the shortcomings of the other two. While Holidays will never supplant Trick r’ Treat as required Halloween watching or become so for any of the other holidays it features. Holidays is certainly worth the watch. 8/10

Also Easter is really good, with some solid visuals.

Extraordinary Tales

ExtraordinaryTalesDVD-FIt’s been a while since I’ve reviewed an anthology film, so I decided to correct that with Extraordinary Tales. Extraordinary Tales is an animated anthology film telling five separate stories by Edgar Allen Poe, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, The Pit and the Pendulum, and finally The Masque of the Red Death. All done with beautiful animation and some great narration, well for the four that have narration.

The five stories are bound together, though a story not of Poe’s creation. Death (Cornelia Funke) questions, probes and mild chastises a Raven (Stephen Hughes). The Raven being Poe’s spirit still fighting to linger in the world of leaving. So Death and the Raven tell Poe’s stories back and forth, while discussing Poe’s fascination with Death. Something she finds flattering…. I think.

The first story The Fall of the House of Usher is Narrated by the great horror Icon Christopher Lee, who knocks out a wonderful performance. I liked the blocky, cell-shaded art style as I feel that it pairs wonderfully with Lee haunting narration.

The second story The Tell-Tale Heart’s narrated by another horror icon, Bela Lugosi. With his narration pulled from a radio broadcast archive. I really like that they didn’t clean up the audio much, if at all for this story. Leaving the clicks and static from the original recording in tact as it added a good deal more gloom to the story. This story takes on a black and white approach that I can only compare to Sin City.

The next tale The Facts in the Case of M. Valdmare narrated by Julian Sands. Perhaps my favorite of the three if for no other reason than the subject mater. Though it did bother me some that one of the characters’s modeled after Vincent Price, so I kept expecting to hear his voice instead of Julian Sands.

Following that is The Pit and the Pendulum narrated by Guillermo del Toro and is perhaps my least liked of the stories. This is mainly due to del Toro being hard to understand at times and that his narration comes off incredibly monotone. Which unfortunately clashes a bit with the art style, which is sadly also the weakest of the entries.

The final story The Masque of the Red Death isn’t narrated at all. Which makes sense given that most of it describes the gloom, where here in the visual medium it shows you. This tale contains the best art style and does a decent job telling the story with little dialog. In fact, I think there is a single spoken line.

As a casual fan of Edgar Allen Poe I really liked this film. I’m sure serious or hardcore fans of his work would find something to complain about. Because I found a few things to complain about. With the most grievous of which being that Poe’s spirit is Crow rather than that of a Raven. Which I feel would have been far more fitting.

Another being if this takes place after Poe’s death, I would have liked to hear reference to his last words “Lord, help my poor soul”. But I can understand why this would have been left out as many of the other strangeness surrounding Poe’s death.

Final thoughts, I liked it. A lot. Love it? Maybe, the jury is still out on that one. As with all anthology films, some entries are stronger than others. The Facts in the Case of M. Valdmare and The Fall of the House of Usher being my personal favorites, while The Pit and the Pendulum and the overarching story being the weakest. Extraordinary Tales does an overall good job at keeping Poe’s essence while shifting mediums. Extraordinary Tales is entertainingly fun to watch and worth the effort if your a casual fan or have never been exposed to Poe’s work before. 8.5/10

Blood of 1000 Virgins

BLOOD-OF-1000-VIRGINS-666x1024I’m not quite sure how to review let alone talk about this… movie? Blood of a 1000 Virgins was released in 2013 under Full Moon Entertainment, is simply a collection of trailers from exploitation and grind-house films from the early 1970’s , hosted by knock-out Nikki Leigh.

So as this “film” lacks any real meat and substance, it doesn’t really lack for entertainment. Labeled a documentary someplace and a fake documentary others. I disagree with both, as that would require research and a point that’s trying to be made. Blood of a 1000 Virgins is broken down into four segments, trailers about female virgins, trailers about male virgins, trailers about virgins and the devil/demons/ghosts, and trailers about virgin rape-revenge films. Nikki Leigh gives a brief introduction into each.

Out of all the trailers quite a few caught my eye, sadly a number of them aren’t horror films. But more than a handful were, so here’s a quick sample of films to look forward to me talking about in the future.

Goliathon aka The Might Peking Man – A Japanese rip-off of King Kong to cash in on the 1973 remake.

The Dead are Alive – A ghost is freed from an ancient tomb and goes about killing virgins.

Andy Warhol’s Dracula aka Blood for Dracula – Dracula as told by Andy Warhol.

Axe aka The Virgin Slaughter  -A virgin seduces and kills men.

Exoperad aka The Depraved aka Diary of a Rape – not technically a horror film, but seemed interesting. I may or may not watch this one as it seems to fall into my least favorite sub-genre, the rape revenge film.

Final thoughts, I wish there was more to talk about here but there really isn’t. While The Blood of 1000 Virgins lacks a story line or characters, it still does manage to be entertaining. If you love the classic announcer voice of old school trailers then this film is for you. I would also recommend to people who want to get into the older exploitation films, but don’t know where to start. On the sole grounds of being entertaining and introducing me to a large number of films I doubt I would have ever heard about otherwise. So I give Blood of 1000 Virgins a meager 4/10.

Cat’s Eye

Cats EyeCat’s Eye, I remember this film fondly from my childhood. Which isn’t odd for a change as Cat’s Eye is PG-13. Directed by Lewis Teaugue, who also directed Cujo and written by Stephen King. Cat’s Eye is a horror anthology with the first two stories from Night Shift and the last one being written just for this movie. Cat’s Eye features a number actors and actress that I deeply admire, primarily James Woods and Drew Barrymore.

Cat’s Eye as I said his a horror anthology connected by a wandering cat named General.

The first story Quitters Inc. in which long time smoker Dick Morrison (James Woods) joins the titular Quitters Inc. at the advice of a friend to help him quit his habit. In the office, Morrison meets the company man Vinnie Donatti (Alan King). Who quickly unnerves him and he tries to leave. But Donatti informs Morrison that he’s already joined the organization. He tells Morrison that he’s now under constant surveillance and if Morrison smokes again he will torture his wife. Upon a second infraction, his daughter will be tortured, the third Donatti will send a man to rape his wife and if he infracts a fourth time he will be killed. Donatti demonstrates his method of torture on the cat trapped in an electrified room. Morrison returns home and in the middle of the night goes down to have a smoke, but discovers he’s being watched by someone hiding in his home. He doesn’t break until rush hour traffic and is caught. Morrison rushes home, but finds his wife is already missing…

The second story is The Ledge. The cat having escaped Quitters Inc. is found by Cresser (Kenneth McMillian), a gangster type. Cresser has the man having an affair with his wife, Johnny Norris (Robert Hayes) and forces him into a wager. If Norris is able to circumvent the whole building via a thin ledge, Cresser will divorce his wife and give him cash if he refuses, Cresser will have him framed using drugs he’s had placed in his car. Norris agrees…

The final story is General. The cat having been searching, has finally found the little girl he was looking for, Amanda (Drew Barrymore). Amanda’s mother (Candy Clark) takes a dislike to the cat, fearing it will kill the pet bird and place the cat outside at night. But at night a troll that lives in the wall comes out to steal Amanda’s breath and General is the one who must save her.

I’m torn when it comes to this film. I enjoy it the last tale is very weak when compared to the others and it would have been nice to see it more fleshed out. My favorite story is actually The Ledge, as both Hayes and McMillian deliver fantastic performances.  Woods and King also do great jobs in their story, but it feels very far-fetched and I have a hard time suspending my disbelief for it.

As far as horror anthologies go, this one is a little weak. When I’m in the mood for a King anthology my standard fare is Creepshow, Cat’s Eye being a distant second. A point that I do really like is all of the King references spread through the film, Cujo chases the cat, we see the car Christine, James Woods is watching The Dead Zone, plus quite a few more.

Final thoughts, I’ve actually said all I have to say about this film. If it wasn’t for the far-fetched beginning and the weak ending I would hold this film in much higher regards. But this film absolutely reeks of nostalgia for me. So Cat’s Eye still makes a solid grade on that fact alone ranking it in at a 7/10.