[IndyPendence Day] Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw, Amrish Puri, Roshan Seth, Philip Stone, Ke Huy Quan

Screenplay: William Huyck, Gloria Katz

118 mins. Rated PG.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Effects, Visual Effects
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Music, Original Score

 

Happy IndyPendence Day! Let’s celebrate with the prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark, set one year prior. Yes, I’m talking about Temple of Doom, probably the darkest film in the Indiana Jones saga.

The year is 1935, and Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford, The Fugitive, The Call of the Wild) has found himself stranded in India with his sidekick, Short Round (Ke Huy Quan, The Goonies, Second Time Around), and a nightclub singer named Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw, Black Rain, Due East). Now, in order to get home, Indy has agreed to retrieve a sacred stone for some local villagers from the walls of Pankot Palace. What Indy doesn’t expect, though, is that his journey will lead him into a deeper darkness than he has seen before, and there’s a lot more insidious work being done at Pankot Palace.

The decision to make Temple of Doom into a prequel instead of a follow-up is due to a rather silly reason. George Lucas did not want the Nazis to be the main focus off the film, which is notable, but the film didn’t need to be a prequel to forgo the Nazis, but it matters not as most of this franchise does not rely on previous knowledge. Temple of Doom does break the mold and go in a wildly different direction than its predecessor. For example, Indy is not hired for this mission and merely falls, quite literally, into it. The entire story is set after a botched mission, and it’s nice to see Indy kind of out of his element. He’s always capable of thinking on his feet, but the task required of him this time around does not allow himself to plan or plot to complete it.

That doesn’t mean that this Indy adventure is without its faults. I find that the film meanders quite a bit in its search to find footing for its story. While it contains my two favorite sequences in the entire franchise (the opening in Club Obi-Wan and the mine cart chase), the rest of the film is more forgettable outside of the big ritual scene. Honestly, it’s hard to imagine the film has a two-hour run time if you haven’t seen it in a while because so much of that first half of the film is dedicated to exposition and nonsense.

Having Short Round as Indy’s sidekick in this film elevates it so much because of how we see Indy through him. The two performers have such great chemistry that all of their scenes have a sense of fun amidst all the horrors. It’s amazing that Ke Huy Quan wasn’t even trying to audition for the role but instead was providing moral support for his brother who was auditioning. He was picked out and put into a room to do a scene with Ford that ended up getting him the role that hundreds were passed over for. It does add the question of whatever happened to the character as he doesn’t appear in Raiders despite it taking place only a year later.

On the other hand, new character Willie is, I’m sorry to say, absolutely awful. Kate Capshaw has nothing to do in this movie that’s worth a damn and the film would be so much better without her. I’ll agree with Capshaw’s quoted description of Willie as “not much more than a dub screaming blonde.” In fact, the only notable accomplishment that Willie does in the film is scream 71 times in two hours.

As I said above, Temple of Doom, for all its faults, contains the two best scenes of the franchise, most notable the mine cart scene. It’s one of the best action set pieces in any film ever. That’s where the film truly wins; it has some of the coolest visuals of the franchise. The ritual chamber is epic in scope, the Pankot Palace scenes are elegant and magical, and even the opening in Club Obi-Wan is elaborate and intense, an unforgettable way to open a movie.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is the weakest film in the original Indy trilogy of the 1980s but it has elements that make it stand out as truly unique. Ford gets to flex some new acting muscles here and his dynamic with Short Round is wonderful. There are things, however, that don’t work, most notably Willie Scott, the weakest Indy love interest by a stretch. Still, though, there’s enough here to warrant a watch and a rewatch.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, click here.

For my review of Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, click here.

For my review of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, click here.

For my review of Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, click here.

For my review of Steven Spielberg’s The Post, click here.

[Oscar Madness Monday] Alien (1979)

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Yaphet Kotto

Screenplay: Dan O’Bannon

117 mins. Rated R.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Effects, Visual Effects
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Art Direction – Set Decoration

IMDb Top 250: #53 (as of 4/29/2020)

 

Recently, in April, Alien fans everywhere celebrated Alien Day on 4/26 (as in LV-426, the moon where the Facehugger Eggs are first discovered in the original film), and it seems like a great time to revisit that very important film, one that changed many minds about the strength of horror films and sci-fi films.

The commercial transport ship Nostromo is returning to Earth with Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt, Contact, Lucky) and the other six members of the crew in stasis sleep. They are awoken by the ship’s computer it detects a transmission coming from a nearby moon. The crew sends a team down to discover the origins of the transmission, and what they uncover on the planet is more horrifying than any of them have ever known.

This comparison has been made many a time, but Alien shares a lot with Jaws. Now, everyone is going to say that the less-is-more comparison is obvious, but I’m looking at it from a different angle. The use of darkness and perspective in particular highlights all of the strengths of the film, particularly in their central monster. Director Ridley Scott (The Martian, All the Money in the World) understands what will work and what won’t, and he utilizes his tools well. Looking at some of the behind-the-scenes photos of the film, and particularly the xenomorph (played by Bolaji Badejo) showcase that this movie could’ve looked damn goofy, but the way it was shot and the way it was lit helps to focus the mood of the film, and it still, to this day, looks gorgeous as much as it looks gruesome.

Actor John Hurt on the set of “Alien”. (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

The cast is fantastic, with specific emphasis thrown toward Sigourney Weaver (Avatar, Ghostbusters II) as Ripley, the warrant officer, and Ian Holm (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, 1066: The Battle for Middle Earth) as Ash, the science officer. Everyone gets at least one great moment in the film.

The script is very strong and runs along very smoothly. This movie just cruises along, with no extra fat. Looking at Alien as a screenplay, it could very simply boil down into a slasher film as the xenomorph moves through the ship trying to pick off the crew one-by-one, but thankfully, the Dan O’Bannon (Dark Star, The Return of the Living Dead) screenplay is stacked with flavor and atmosphere that Scott was able to play off of.

Ridley Scott’s strong directing and Dan O’Bannon’s screenplay combined to make a truly excellent atmospheric horror film. This is one that has aged like a fine wine, and it features some incredible set pieces, including the dinner scene with John Hurt’s (1984, The Elephant Man) intense performance is still one of the most shocking movie moments of all time. This is a movie that shows that not everything needs explaining and that, in fact, some films are stronger without all the answers. Stick with the Theatrical Cut as Scott’s Director’s Cut no longer makes full canonical sense within the confines of the xenomorph’s life cycle, but both versions of Alien are well-worth your time.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Ridley Scott’s The Martian, click here.

For my review of Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World, click here.

[Nigel Tufnel Day] This is Spinal Tap (1984)

Director: Rob Reiner

Cast: Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Rob Reiner, June Chadwick, Tony Hendra, Bruno Kirby

Screenplay: Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Rob Reiner

82 mins. Rated R.

 

So, technically Nigel Tufnel Day was November 11th, 2011, but I still celebrate it yearly. Don’t you?

Filmmaker Marty DiBergi (Rob Reiner, A Few Good Men, Shock and Awe) has been a fan of the legendary rock band Spinal Tap for many years, and when word of a new concert tour in preparation for their new album release, Smell the Glove, DiBergi had to be a part of it. Formed by childhood pals Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest, Waiting for Guffman, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian) and David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2, TV’s Better Call Saul), Spinal Tap quickly became whole with the additions of Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer, Father Figures, TV’s The Simpsons), Viv Savage, and Mick Shrimpton. Now, DiBergi is getting an inside look at one of the most outlandish and insane rock groups in music history.

This Is Spinal Tap is one of the earliest mockumentaries in history, and it’s also one of the absolute best. Director Rob Reiner put forth the effort to make the band look and feel as realistic as possible, to the point where viewers, and even rock stars (Ozzy Osborne, The Edge), thought the band was real. I thought it myself the first time I’d seen the film, and it took me most of the movie before I started to realize what was going on. Mockumentaries are a lot more common place today thanks to The Office, but back then, nobody really put it together.

Part of what makes the spoof so real is the careful attention to detail and taking real rock events, characters, and details, many of which are a part of legend, and turning them upside down. There are little in-jokes and parodies of many songs and events in the film, so much so that some musicians thought they were being personally called out and made fun of (Aerosmith thought some of the humor in the film was at their expense). The reason this film works is love for the music and the performers that make it.

The best running gag in the film is the replacement of drummers, something many bands have gone through (and something writer J.K. Rowling would use in her Harry Potter novels by constantly replacing the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, a nod to Spinal Tap).

This is Spinal Tap is a classic of its era and also an endlessly re-watchable experience. I myself pop it in on a yearly basis. It’s quotable, laugh-out-loud funny, and a beautiful ode to the rock stars who have influenced, inspired, and above all, entertained fans for decades. It deserves a grade all of its own.

 

11/11

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[31 Days of Horror 3] Day 4 – Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)

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Director: Joseph Zito

Cast: Erich Anderson, Judie Aronson, Peter Barton, Kimberly Beck, Corey Feldman, Crispin Glover, Alan Hayes, Barbara Howard, Laurence Monoson, Joan Freeman, Camila More, Carey More

Screenplay: Barney Cohen

91 mins. Rated R.

 

Ah, The Final Chapter. Never what it truly means. Hell, Jason Voorhees had two film touted as the Final Something. You just can’t keep a slasher down.

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In Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, the bloodbath from the previous installment has ended, and as Jason Voorhees’ body is dropped off at the morgue, the staff quickly discovers that the killer has not yet died. Now, Jason is up and going, determined to seek further vengeance over the death of his mother. His reign of terror has been going on for days (technically this movie takes place from Sunday the 15th to Tuesday the 17th, but hey, who’s counting), and the body count continues to rise as Jason makes his way back home to Camp Crystal Lake.

This fourth entry is the Friday the 13th franchise is where the series hits its comfortable stride. The producers know the formula, and they aren’t ready to change it. Friday the 13th Part III was supposed to end the franchise, but fans clamored for more and so Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter was created to be a true finale. Tom Savini was even brought in to kill the franchise he helped create. Paramount also wanted a finale as they felt the series tarnished their good name. Director Joseph Zito (Missing in Action, The Prowler) was brought in to helm the Final Chapter.

This is also the film that started to really show the insanity behind the scenes. Actress Judie Aronson (Weird Science, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) was supposed to have a long scene in the cold water, and as Zito kept demanding takes, it was clear she was developing hypothermia. Ted White, who played Jason, actually had to threaten to quit before Zito came to his senses. Then there’s Crispin Glover (Back to the Future, Alice in Wonderland). Damn, this dude is insane. He hadn’t quite gone off the rails at this point in his career but legends from the set arose about his unhinged mental state. That being said, his portrayal of Jimmy is one of the more interesting characters from a Friday the 13th entry. Laurence Monoson (The Last American Virgin, Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation), who plays Jimmy’s asshole friend Ted, had a scene smoking pot, but as Monoson had never done so, he thought the night of his big scene would be the perfect time to partake. Lots of insanity from the Friday the 13th set helped to mold an interesting if messy entry.

But about the film itself, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter is indeed messy. It doesn’t have the same kind of tone that the previous entries had, which would be fine if the film actually had a tone to begin with. It feels like Zito is collecting a check because that’s all he’s doing here. This film just feels like a whole lot of ideas crammed into a movie. For one thing, the character Rob (Erich Anderson, Unfaithful, I Married Who?) is supposed to have been Sandra’s brother from Friday the 13th Part 2. You may remember her as the girl who gets kabob-ed by Jason while with her boyfriend Jeff. Well, Rob is there to exact revenge or find his sister, I’m not entirely sure of his full motivation. But Part 2 took place two days prior. He’s made a lot of ground and learned a lot in two days. Rob shouldn’t be as capable as he is. This is just one of the many problems with the film. I feel like there were good intentions all around, but The Final Chapter is just really weird.

The best thing to come out of this film, though: Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman, Stand By Me, Lost Boys: The Thirst). Tommy Jarvis is an accidentally successful character played nicely by Feldman. The fact that he kept coming back to face Jason is one of the most enjoyable elements of the franchise.

This screenshot was taken from http://www.tepg.se owned by Krister Nielsen (info@wonderworks.se)

As I said before, I really enjoy watching Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. It’s a lot of fun. The formula works and there’s no reason to change it. It just isn’t anything new. Even slapping the tag The Final Chapter on it doesn’t really do anything, and the franchise wouldn’t even skip a beat in order to drop the next film, Friday the 13th V: A New Beginning, the next year. If your a fan of Jason, you’ll find a lot to love here. If not, this probably won’t convince you.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th, click here.

For my review of Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, click here.

For my review of Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part 2, click here.

For my review of Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part III, click here.

[Freddy Krueger Day] A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

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Director: Wes Craven

Cast: Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp, Robert Englund, John Saxon, Ronee Blakley, Amanda Wyss, Jsu Garcia

Screenplay: Wes Craven

91 mins. Rated R.

 

Dammit all, if I’m going to celebrate Freddy Krueger Day, then I’m going to celebrate it with you.

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Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp, Star Trek Into Darkness, Shocker) isn’t sleeping well. Neither is her boyfriend Glen (Johnny Depp, Edward Scissorhands, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) or her best friend Tina (Amanda Wyss, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Shakma), and when a horrific event causes Nancy to realize that she and her friends are in danger from a man who can kill them in their dreams, Nancy must act quickly to stay awake and discover the horrific past of the burned man called Fred Krueger (Robert Englund, Fear Clinic, Lake Placid vs. Anaconda).

A Nightmare on Elm Street is a perfect way to showcase how real life events transform into incredible storytelling. Director Wes Craven (Scream, My Soul to Take) took true stories of Khmer refugees who had dreams so terrifying that they died in their sleep. He splashed together elements from the song “Dream Weaver”, a man Craven saw on his street as a child, and his childhood bully experiences to create Fred Krueger, one of the most iconic villains in film history.

Here in the film, Krueger is played perfectly by Robert Englund, a trained actor who proved in his audition that the character of Freddy needed more than just a stuntman. He is joined by young talent in Langenkamp, a notable first film performance by Johnny Depp, and the seasoned work from John Saxon (Enter the Dragon, From Dusk Till Dawn) and Ronee Blakley (Nashville, Murder by Numbers)  as Nancy’s parents.

But it is Craven’s approach, high on mood and tone and noticeably restrained on the villain himself (Krueger scores about seven minutes of screen time across the film) that gives the film that lasting punch. It puts emphasis on the big horrific set pieces and lets the actors embrace their performances. That’s why many scenes, like the notable blood geyser sequence, are just as well-remembered as the man committing the atrocities.

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With A Nightmare on Elm Street, Wes Craven created a franchise without trying or wanting to, one that came with it an incredibly terrifying villain, a beautifully dreamlike score, and some genuinely shocking moments throughout. It is through the staying power of this classic as well as the man behind the makeup that carry the film forward and make it a film series that fanatics go back to again and again. The flaws are few, only in places where the film feels aged, and of those moments, there are few. The universal appeal of the nightmare more than makes up for them as the relatable characters search for answers and fight to stay awake.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th, click here.

For my review of Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part 2, click here.

For my review of Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part III, click here.

For my review of Wes Craven’s Vampire in Brooklyn, click here.

[Happy 30th Birthday!] Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

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Director: Martin Brest

Cast: Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton

Screenplay: Daniel Petrie, Jr.

105 mins. Rated R.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

 

Can you already hear the song? I know I can, because thirty years ago today, the world was introduced to Axel F, and alongside it, Beverly Hills Cop, a rollicking good time at the movies that doubles as a pretty taut thriller.

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Beverly Hills Cop boasts one of the best soundtracks in motion picture history as it tells the story of Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy, Trading Places, A Thousand Words), a Detroit cop who just got forced into vacation after a close friend with a troubling past is killed right in his apartment. He decides to take his vacation in Beverly Hills and, along the way, try to solve the murder. Aiding him, whether they like it or not and whether or not they know it, are Beverly Hills’ Detective Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold, The Santa Clause, Dr. Dolittle: Million Dollar Mutts) and Sargent Taggart (John Ashton, Gone Baby Gone, Middle Men).

Beverly Hills Cop is an early work for major director Martin Brest (Scent of a Woman, Gigli) and boasts some of his craziest attempts at weaving thrilling set pieces with laugh-out-loud, and crazily enough, it works. Murphy is at the top of his game here, absolutely everything he throws at the screen lands perfectly, and he is equally matched by the bumbling (but not over-bumbling) Reinhold and Ashton, a perfect buddy-cop duo if there ever was one.

The screenplay from Daniel Petrie, Jr. (Turner & Hooch, In the Army Now) is a smart and simple one, but never tries too hard to convolute itself. Director Brest is able to work from so many angles here, it is incredible how well it all works together. We believe that Axel Foley is the kind of guy that can weasel his way into the enemy’s office, or into a luxury suite hotel room, or for that matter, evading the arrest and termination of his employment multiple times.

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I have to say that the Beverly Hills Cop grew on me. The first viewing didn’t go as well as I thought it might, but it just sticks with you. The musical work by Harold Faltermeyer and the incredible supporting work from Paul Reiser, Ronny Cox, Steven Berkoff, and Jonathan Banks do not go unnoticed. If you haven’t seen Beverly Hills Cop in its first thirty years, don’t wait another thirty. See it now.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 30th Birthday!] Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

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Director: Charles E. Sellier, Jr.

Cast: Robert Brian Wilson, Lilyan Chauvin, Gilmer McCormick, Toni Nero, Linnea Quigley

Screenplay: Michael Hickey

79 mins. Rated R.

 

Today, the horror community celebrates two major 30th Anniversary milestones. One has been heralded as one of the greatest horror films of all time. The other is Silent Night, Deadly Night. Yes, A Nightmare on Elm Street came out on this day in 1984, but today we are going to examine Silent Night, Deadly Night instead. I’d never seen this movie before today, so I needed to explore it for the first time.

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Silent Night, Deadly Night is just bad. It exists in that realm of so bad it’s good, and that’s something. Right? Right? Please? Okay, not so much. I can see the cult status of it. There’s a lot of moments here when I giggled. There’s a lot of raunchy partial violence and partial nudity and partial oddity. Yes, Silent Night, Deadly Night exists in a vacuum of awful, and I can live with that.

It is the story of a tragic Christmas Eve many years ago, when Billy witnesses the murder of his parents at the hands of a psycho killer dressed as Santa. Instead of becoming Batman, he chose to go insane. Through a series of devastating series of very unfortunate and detrimental events, Billy goes batshit crazy and on Christmas Eve years later, an eighteen-year-old Billy (Robert Brian Wilson) goes on a killing spree leading towards the woman who helped make him the monster he became, the Mother Superior (Lilyan Chauvin, Catch Me If You Can, The Man Who Wasn’t There) of the nunnery he grew up in.

That is literally the plot. Somewhere, Linnea Quigley shows up too. She gets naked and murdered. Standard Linnea Quigley performance (not hating).

None of these actors are really actor. The screenplay isn’t good enough to ask anything of them. In fact, most of the elements of this film are too underwhelming to enjoy. Even the director Charles E. Sellier, Jr. couldn’t handle the gore aspects, so editor Michael Spence stepped in.

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Bad movies can breed fun movie times, and Silent Night, Deadly Night does, at least for some. I can’t guarantee you’ll have a good time, but it is pretty stupidly Grindhouse-y. Worth a viewing, but not worth much.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

31 Days of Horror: Day 20 – Children of the Corn (1984)

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Director: Fritz Kiersch

Cast: Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton, R.G. Armstrong, John Franklin, Courtney Gains

Screenplay: George Goldsmith

92 mins. Rated R.

 

I love Stephen King. I do. He has been one of the few authors in my lifetime that have inspired me to do what I do. I am currently reading his entire library of work chronologically, and I just find his writing fascinating. I was a big fan of the short story Children of the Corn from his collection Night Shift. It was terrifying at the core. The story, about a bunch of children in the town of Gatlin who turn on their parents and slaughter the adults of the town before forming their own society to serve the mythical deity He Who Walks Behind the Rows, is just so eerie and yet told in such a way that it becomes believable, which in turn makes it more horrifying. The film version is an inverse. It tells the story in such a way that it becomes wholly unrealistic and sometimes laughable.

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It stars Peter Horton (TV’s thirtysomething, The Baby-Sitters Club) as Burt and Linda Hamilton (Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Dante’s Peak) as his wife Vicky. Of the children performing, the only two who warrant any such fear are Isaac (John Franklin, The Addams Family, Python) and his servant Malachai (Courtney Gains, Back to the Future, Faster).

Horton’s portrayal of Burt is totally fallable and silly. He comes across as not even believing himself when he reads lines. Hamilton as well is given next to nothing in terms of character arc (her entire character stripped down to being Daphne in any episode of Scooby-Doo). The children cannot control their scenes and the film ultimately falls apart before any supernatural elements, like a rotoscoped demonic shade deity, enter the field. It is no wonder that director Fritz Kiersch and screenwriter George Goldsmith have gotten nothing back from Hollywood, but that’s what you get when you completely throw out the original script from the source material’s creator.

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It is disappointing to see such terrific source material mangled in such a way, but the film is just not all that good. Well, I guess when compared to the sequels…Oscar anyone?

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

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