31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 22 – Clue (1985)

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Director: Jonathan Lynn

Cast: Eileen Brennan, Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Martin Mull, Lesley Ann Warren

Screenplay: Jonathan Lynn

94 mins. Rated PG for violence.

 

Everyone out there is discussing the possible upcoming video game boom. I’m just over here thinking about the board game boom.

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Clue is the story of six people, a butler, a maid, a cook and a man named Boddy. Mr. Boddy has gathered Mrs. Peacock (Eileen Brennan, The Sting, Murder by Death), Mrs. White (Madeline Kahn, Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles), Professor Plum (Christopher Lloyd, Back to the Future, A Million Ways to Die in the West), Mr. Green (Michael McKean, TV’s Better Call Saul, This is Spinal Tap), Colonel Mustard (Martin Mull, TV’s Dads, Mrs. Doubtfire), and Miss Scarlet (Lesley Ann Warren, Secretary, Jobs) together to discuss something. Before he gets the chance to do so, he is murdered by one of the attendees in the room. Now, these conveniently placed people, each with a motive for murdering Mr. Boddy, each with a weapon of choice, have to discover who is the killer? Was it Professor Plum in the billiard room with the revolver? Was is Miss Scarlet with the rope in the kitchen? And what about Wadsworth (Tim Curry, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Burke and Hare), the butler? Is he involved?

My favorite aspect of this film is that writer/director Jonathan Lynn (Nuns on the Run) found interesting  yet convoluted ways to make the board game adaptation actually work. Things like the corny names and the motives, the general campiness of the game/plot, all of it really works well. He even found a way to work in multiple endings (depending on your home video release, you may have a version with all three endings sewn together or one that randomly picks an ending; both are great options).

Now, the decision to cast comic actors who can handle drama seals the deal here. What a terrific cast! Mel Brooks could have directed this film, that’s how impressive our players are. Add to that an impressive direction from Lynn and you have the reason why Clue is such a masterfully beloved cult classic.

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Clue is a classic, even if you present me with a less-than-stellar Rotten Tomatoes score. It’s a classic and I don’t care what you say. See this film and then, hell, play the game. It makes for a fun evening.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 21 [Bottom 100 Wednesday] – #31: The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961)

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Director: Coleman Francis

Cast: Tor Johnson, Conrad Brooks, Douglas Mellor, Barbara Francis, Bing Stafford

Screenplay: Coleman Francis

54 mins. Not Rated.

IMDb Bottom 100: #31 (as of 10/21/2015)

 

This week, I looked back at a classic (or anti-classic) of the science-fiction horror genre: The Beast of Yucca Flats. This film isn’t actually as bad as it seems. It still is boring as hell and very confusing, but when people have compared it to Plan 9 from Outer Space, I could disagree. Still a terrible film, but we’ll get to that.

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Joseph Javorsky (Tor Johnson, Bride of the Monster, Plan 9 from Outer Space) is a defecting KGB agent who has just been hit by a nuclear radiation blast and has now become The Beast, a monstrous man who is murdering the hell out of random strangers. That’s. About. It.

In this film from the terrible writer/director Coleman Francis (Night Train to Mundo Fine, The Skydivers), we get to see an underwhelmingly underdeveloped story with the notoriously terrible Tor Johnson at the forefront. This film doesn’t bother me so much with its many inconsistencies, but more so with the boredom I felt from its 54-minute runtime.

I have very little else to say about this piece of shit. So let’s cover the redeemability…possibly.

 

But is it Good?

No. Not the worst film of all time, mind you, but rather bad.

 

Can it be Fun?

I’d keep the MST3K version for fun. The film has almost no dialogue, so you can get the best experience.

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The Beast of Yucca Flats is truly awful (Ed Wood levels of awful). Yeah. Real bad.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 20 – Monsters University (2013)

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Director: Dan Scanlon

Cast: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Helen Mirren

Screenplay: Daniel Gerson, Robert L. Baird, Dan Scanlon

104 mins. Rated G.

 

Pixar sequels scare me. I wasn’t a big fan of Toy Story 2. I hated Cars 2. Toy Story 3 was great, but it felt like the exception that proved the rule. When Pixar announced that my favorite property Monsters, Inc. was getting a prequel, I was both shocked and intrigued by the concept. When I discovered that we would be seeing the story of Mike and Sully meeting in college, I was still very confused. Then, I saw it…

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In Monsters University, we get another look into the unique universe that Pixar created where monsters exist and get energy from the screams of children, where a young monster named Mike Wazowski (TV’s The Comedians, When Harry Met Sally…) experiences disapproval by his peers in his attempts to become a professional scarer. But he finds a new rival in fellow student Sully (John Goodman, TV’s Roseanne, The Gambler). When both students are kicked out of the scaring program, they decide to join Oozma Kappa, a failing fraternity, in an effort to win the Annual Scare Games and earn their way back into the scaring program, proving to their judgmental Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren, The Queen, Woman in Gold) that they have what it takes.

Pixar has great timing. Releasing Monsters University at a time when fans of the original film are entering the college portion of their lives is perfection, much in the same way they did with Toy Story 3 a few years previously. Great working of their audience.

The voicework here is phenomenal, getting great work from the veterans as well as new additions Helen Mirren and Nathan Fillion. Charlie Day absolutely steals his scenes.

"MONSTERS UNIVERSITY" (Pictured) SULLEY amongst other MU monsters. ©2013 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Monsters University is a perfect prequel, rarely feeling the need to fall back on referencing the original. For the most part, it blazes a new trail and knows it doesn’t have to embrace a cliché finale.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

For my review of Pete Docter’s Monsters, Inc., click here.

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 19 [Happy 25th Birthday!] – Night of the Living Dead (1990)

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Director: Tom Savini

Cast: Tony Todd, Patricia Tallman, Tom Towles

Screenplay: George A. Romero

92 mins. Rated R for adult situations/language, nudity, and violence.

 

Last year, we covered Night of the Living Dead, an incredible classic of the horror genre. This year, we’ll cover the remake, a less stellar but still interesting reworking of the zombie hit.

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Night of the Living Dead runs in much the same way as its predecessor. Barbara (Patricia Tallman, Army of Darkness, Atlas Shrugged II: The Strike) is out visiting her deceased mother’s grave with her brother Johnny. When Johnny is attacked and killed by a vicious ghoul, Barbara flees for the countryside, stumbling upon a farm house where she meets Ben (Tony Todd, The Man from Earth, Sushi Girl). Together, Ben and Barbara, along with several other survivors, attempt to make it through the night of the living dead.

Tony Todd makes a great Ben. Patricia Tallman makes a better but not great Barbara. Tom Towles (Halloween, Miami Vice) does okay as Harry Cooper, who only has one goal: protect his wife and sick child (a goal that would prove to be less on his mind as our story progresses). Performances all around are passable.

The real divergence from the original is the screenplay from George A. Romero (The Crazies, Bruiser). Many won’t notice the differences between the two stories, and in fact, there are but few. Barbara’s character arc alters, and the film omits several plot points from fellow screenwriter John Russo, who originally wrote the screenplay with Romero. I prefer this script, but I prefer that movie. Just saying.

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There isn’t a whole lot wrong with the film. Tom Savini’s directing is still very novice here, but it works well enough. Night of the Living Dead has the potential to keep you up all night. It does. You just need to get over a few bumps along the road.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 18 [Happy 30th Birthday!] – Re-Animator (1985)

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Director: Stuart Gordon

Cast: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton, David Gale, Robert Sampson

Screenplay: Dennis Paoli, William Norris, Stuart Gordon

104 mins. Not Rated.

 

I think I genuinely avoided Re-Animator growing up, though I don’t entirely understand why. It matters not in the grand scheme of things. I eventually did see it, and I couldn’t stop raving about it. The beautiful concoction of quirky strange horror with comedic elements absolutely mesmerized me.

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Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott, TV’s Dark Justice, The Prophecy II) has a new roommate in Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs, The Frighteners, Beethoven’s Treasure Tail), an unstable med student with an interesting emphasis: he wants to re-animate the dead. When West revives the dead cat that belongs to Dan’s girlfriend Megan (Barbara Crampton, You’re Next, We Are Still Here), the young doctor-in-training joins Herbert West and the two dig themselves into the questionable territory separating the laws of man from those of God.

Director Stuart Gordon (From Beyond, Edmond) plays his film like an episode of Tales from the Crypt, enjoying the strange and eclectic tale based on the story by H.P. Lovecraft. Jeffrey Combs does possibly the best performance of his career, and he gets great backplay from David Gale (Guyver, Savage Weekend) as Dr. Carl Hill, a professor at the school who seems out to destroy West and his career. On the flipside, I wasn’t entirely impressed by Abbott’s portrayal of Dan, although he is raised by the terrific work of his costars.

Then there is the real star of the film, and that is the use of practical effects, which elevate the craft by being as real as possible. These effects still work amazingly well even 30 years later.

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Re-Animator is just about a damn near overlooked classic of the horror genre. It features a perfect performance by Jeffrey Combs and the masterful directing of Stuart Gordon. If you haven’t seen this terrific display of strange horror, please do yourself a favor soon.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 17 – Beetlejuice (1988)

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Director: Tim Burton

Cast: Michael Keaton, Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Jeffrey Jones, Catherine O’Hara, Winona Ryder

Screenplay: Michael McDowell, Warren Skaaren

92 mins. Rated PG for adult situations/language and violence.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Makeup

 

I remember really enjoying the animated Beetlejuice television series as a kid. When my mother finally introduced me to the idea that it was preceded by a live-action film, I just about went crazy. When she told me that it was going to be on television that night, I lost it. I saw it. I loved it. I still love it.

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Meet the Maitlands: Adam (Alec Baldwin, The Departed, Aloha) and Barbara (Geena Davis, Thelma & Louise, In a World…). They just died and now confined to an afterlife in their home. But when Charles (Jeffrey Jones, Sleepy Hollow, 10.0 Earthquake) and Delia (Catherine O’Hara, The Nightmare Before Christmas, A.C.O.D.) Deetz move in, accompanied by outcast daughter Lydia (Winona Ryder, Black Swan, Homefront), they are forced to go to extreme situations to haunt the Deetzes into moving out. In steps Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton, Birdman, Minions), a bioexorcist who specializes in getting people to move out of their dwellings, but the self-described “ghost with the most” has an agenda of his own, and the Maitlands have just gotten in too deep.

Beetlejuice came after director Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands, Big Eyes) greated great success as director of Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and used his clout to reveal his true genius with the visual medium as a gothic director of merit. Beetlejuice is an excellent exercise in tone, cinematography, storytelling, and excitement.

It seems as though everyone knows their place in this film, from Baldwin and Davis playing the timless Maitlands to the big city quirky Deetzes, and especially an often overlooked performance from Glenn Shaddix, who plays the smug and cynical Otho (after Shaddix’s death in 2010, the famous Day-O from the film played at the end of the funeral). Otho’s role in driving the plot with his hubris-filled attempts at showing his wide array of skills gives the story so much flavor.

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From a storytelling perspective, Beetlejuice proves that you don’t have to explain away the mysteries of your film. The script from Michael McDowell and Warren Skaaren was rewritten from being a straight horror film with several cliché plot points into the afterlife character study that it is today. It is arguably one of Tim Burton’s finest works, and is easily viewable to any audience in any time, even if some of the effects have not dated well.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

For my review of Tim Burton’s Batman, click here.

For my review of Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, click here.

For my review of Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, click here.

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 16 – Big Ass Spider! (2013)

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Director: Mike Mendez

Cast: Greg Grunberg, Lin Shaye, Patrick Bauchau, Ray Wise, Clare Kramer, Lombardo Boyar, Ruben Pla

Screenplay: Gregory Gieras

80 mins. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and gore.

 

Apparently Mike Mendez (The Gravedancers, Tales of Halloween) fought like hell to keep the title Big Ass Spider! He was right, though unfortunately there is little else to draw one in.

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Alex Mathis (Greg Grunberg, TV’s Heroes, Super 8) is an expert exterminator (ignore the part at the beginning where he is bit by an apparently lethal spider). His expertise comes to great importance as the hospital that he’s in has an extremely dangerous spider that quadruples in size at an alarming rate. Now, Alex and his de facto partner Jose (Lombardo Boyar, Happy Feet, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) attempt to stop the mammoth bug while a team of government agents led by Major Braxton C. Tanner (Ray Wise, RoboCop, The Lazarus Effect) attempt to blow it out of the sky, putting millions at risk.

This title brought me in. The film put me out. I actually really like Greg Grunberg but I don’t feel like he is ready to lead a movie, even one like Big Ass Spider! He is joined by Boyar who plays off as a cliché token Hispanic. The only man who plays to this film’s strengths is Wise, who delivers a goofy satire of the by-the-numbers Major. I also enjoyed the “cameo” by Lin Shaye (There’s Something About Mary, Insidious: Chapter 3).

Big Ass Spider! has some actually engaging effects, but the screenplay didn’t move along in any way that actually interested me, choosing to embrace its B-Movie possibilities rather poorly.

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All in all, get a laugh out of the fact that somebody actually made a movie called Big Ass Spider! No, you don’t actually have to watch the movie.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 15 – The Faculty (1998)

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Director: Robert Rodriguez

Cast: Jordana Brewster, Clea DuVall, Laura Harris, Josh Hartnett, Shawn Hatosy, Elijah Wood

Screenplay: Kevin Williamson

104 mins. Rated R.

 

I always find it strange when a director known for writing and directing his or her own work decides to take on a project written by someone else. When the writer is well known too, it really increases my excitement. Of course, The Faculty came out when I was eight years old, so none of that really mattered, but still, something to think about.

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The teachers of Herrington High School are acting a bit strange, and young Casey (Elijah Wood, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Last Witch Hunter) and Delilah (Jordana Brewster, Fast Five, Home Sweet Hell) have just discovered their secret: they aren’t exactly from our planet. Now it rests on several students to stop the impending alien invasion before their school is overrun.

The Faculty is a rather fun little sendup to alien invasion stories like Invasion of the Body Snatchers from director Robert Rodriguez (Grindhouse, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For) and screenwriter Kevin Williamson (TV’s The Following, Scream 2). Rodriguez gathered a rather impressive group of young actors for his film also including Josh Hartnett (TV’s Penny Dreadful, Black Hawk Down).

I found the various faculty members were portrayed by some impressive genre performers like Robert Patrick, Salma Hayek, Piper Laurie, Daniel von Bargen, and John Stewart. Sure, the film itself has problems that stem from it being a studio horror film, but overall Rodriguez is able to apply his mythical sense of the macabre to this film, keeping the style mostly high but not perfectly so.

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I enjoyed The Faculty at age eight. I also did at age twenty-five. It has aged pretty well. Check it out.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

For my review of Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s Sin City, click here.

For my review of Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, click here.

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 14 [Bottom 100 Wednesday] – #24: Hobgoblins (1988)

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Director: Rick Sloane

Cast: Tom Bartlett, Paige Sullivan, Steven Boggs, Kelley Palmer, Billy Frank, Daran Norris

Screenplay: Rick Sloane

88 mins. Rated R.

IMDb Bottom 100: #24 (as of 10/14/2015)

 

Man, I really though Hobgoblins would be better.

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In Hobgoblins, from writer/director Rick Sloane (Blood Theatre, Vice Academy Part 6), we meet Kevin (Tom Bartlett), a new night security guard keeping watch over a movie studio containing several forbidden hallways. However, one of the halls leads to a vault which has been opened, and out have spilled dozens little hobgoblins, creature that kill while making you believe that your innermost dreams are coming true. Now, Kevin is off to stop the little creatures from taking over his small town and steal his girlfriend (who doesn’t even appear to actually like him, just a thought).

I kind of thought that Hobgoblins would be better. Not that I don’t get that it isn’t universally enjoyed. I just thought the tiny creature feature would be a bit of hyper-fun. It still was mildly enjoyable for being such an awful movie, but I wanted more.

Firstly, the performances are terrible. None of these actors ever went on to anything worthwhile and there’s a reason for that: they aren’t any good. Now, they play very well to the horrendous tone of the film. I enjoyed watching them struggle throughout the film, especially Steven Boggs who plays Kyle, a phone sex addict.

Rick Sloane has made many films, and Hobgoblins surprisingly isn’t the worst one. But it isn’t very good either. I’m not entirely sure it belongs on this list.

 

But is it Good?

Not good, no. But it isn’t the worst film you’ll ever see. Just close.

 

Can it be Fun?

I think the film is mild fun, but I would suggest viewing it in the MST3K edition.

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Hobgoblins is one bonkers film. Bonkers in the sense of bad. There’s little more I can say to sway you on this matter.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

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