[31 Days of Horror Part V: A New Beginning] Day 15 – Witchboard (1986)

or “Still a better Ouija movie than the actual Ouija movie”

Director: Kevin Tenney

Cast: Todd Allen, Tawny Kitaen, Stephen Nichols, Kathleen Wilhoite, Burke Byrnes, Rose Marie

Screenplay: Kevin Tenney

96 mins. Rated R.

 

Making a movie about a Ouija board is really tough, everyone. Seriously, it’s must be truly difficult. How does one make a board game scary?

Jim Maror (Todd Allen, Django Unchained, My All-American) is trying his best to mend his relationship with childhood friend Brandon Sinclair (Stephen Nichols, Merchants of Venus, TV’s Days of Our Lives). The biggest problem is that Jim’s girlfriend Linda (Tawny Kitaen, Bachelor Party, TV’s Moms Anonymous) used to date Brandon. At a party one night, Brandon introduces them to a Ouija board and the spirit of a ten-year-old boy named David that Brandon has communicated with many times before. Brandon forgets the Ouija board with Linda, who begins using it pretty regularly. As the same time, danger keeps befalling Jim. Are the two series of events connected or merely coincidence?

Witchboard has a problem that regularly happens in bad movies. I didn’t like Jim or Brandon. I marginally liked Linda, though she was mostly underdeveloped. Naturally, our male leads get better over time as they loosen up a bit, but they play like children fighting over a toy.

Director Kevin Tenney (Night of the Demons, Bigfoot) sets a nice tone for the film. It’s a nice mixture of lightheartedness and downright dread while never folding all the way to one side, but that’s about all it has to give.

All in all there’s problems abound in this movie, but I did enjoy the camp level of it, and I think that’s what you really have to have with a film like Witchboard. This isn’t planned as an Oscar film nor is it meant to please everyone. This is a prime example of a film you have to judge on its own merits. What is it trying to be and is it successful in that way? Witchboard is moderately successful as the cheap low-budget ghost story. There isn’t much for scares here, and the film isn’t as good as Tenney’s better effort Night of the Demons, but it is fun at times. Not very fun, but fun enough.

Witchboard is pretty much exactly what I expected. I was hoping for more effect fun for a film like this. We are dealing with a wacky ghost story trying to make a piece of cardboard scary, so I did want more. The film has fun, and the tone matches what I saw on screen. Witchboard is fine for genre fans, but I’m doubtful it will work for others.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Kevin Tenney’s Night of the Demons, click here.

[Friday the 13th] Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI (1986)

Director: Tom McLoughlin

Cast: Thom Mathews, Jennifer Cooke, David Kagen, Renee Jones, Kerry Noonan, Darcy DeMoss, Tom Fridley

Screenplay: Tom McLoughlin

86 mins. Rated R.

 

How do you continue a slasher franchise when the killer was dead the entire previous installment. Well, you Frankenstein the hell out of him!

Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI makes no question of whether or not Jason Voorhees is back. Tommy Jarvis (Thom Mathews, The Return of the Living Dead, The Peacemaker) killed Jason years ago as a child, and now, as part of his emotional recovery from the past, he returns to Jason’s grave to destroy Jason’s body forever. When he inadvertently causes the resurrection of the masked killer, he finds that no one believes him. Sheriff Garris (David Kagen, Getting Even with Dad, Boris and Natasha) has him arrested, believing him to be just as dangerous as the undead Jason. Thankfully, the sheriff’s attractive teenage daughter Megan (Jennifer Cooke, Covenant, TV’s V) has her eyes on Tommy and believes him. Now, the newly renamed Camp Forest Green has opened, and the youthful campers have arrived at what could be a murderous buffet for Jason, and time is running out.

Writer/Director Tom McLoughlin (The Unsaid, At Risk) delivers the most meta and self-aware horror film of the Friday the 13th franchise and perhaps all of horror at that point. McLoughlin infuses his film with all the elements that this franchise needed. First of all, it made Jason a zombie, further explaining his unkillable force at work. He brought actual campers to the scene, a first for the series, adding a level of terror and suspense to the proceedings. The best element, though? He has fun with the material while never truly bastardizing the horror elements for a laugh. This is a tough line to walk, but McLoughlin walks it perfectly. Let’s face it. After six films, this formula would be wearing thin if not for a fresh flavor, and that’s what we get. Jason Lives is the best film in this franchise (there, I said it).

The performances here are serviceable at best, but that’s also something we’ve come to expect. The true star here is C.J. Graham’s Jason. Graham had never acted before, but his background in the military makes Jason an unstoppable killing machine. There’s a scene where Jason brutally murders some paintball-playing adults, and he stops for a moment to realize that he is more powerful than ever. Graham’s stoic performance is subtle enough to never fully steal the show, but he is a worthy addition to the long line of Jasons.

So there we have it. Six films in, and the franchise feels fresher than ever. The formula isn’t going to win a lot of new fans over, but this is a Friday the 13th for the die-hard fans, a celebration of the series. It’s fun while never being too funny, and it’s scary while never trying to over-complicate things. It’s just a fun film to watch, particularly in a large group. Check it out this Friday the 13th if you can.

 

4/5

-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.

For my review of Joseph Zito’s Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, click here.

For my review of Jack Sholder’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, click here.

For my review of Danny Steinmann’s Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 20 – Psycho III (1986)

Director: Anthony Perkins

Cast: Anthony Perkins, Diana Scarwid, Jeff Fahey

Screenplay: Charles Edward Pogue

93 mins. Rated R.

 

A friend of mine once told me that he believes the Psycho franchise to the most underappreciated franchise in horror. When I pined, he told me that while most people regard the original film as a classic, the sequels are mostly dismissed as they started appearing over two decades after the first film. When I saw Psycho II, I got what he meant. No, it isn’t the first film, but it doesn’t try to be. Today, we’ll take a look at the follow-up, directed by Anthony Perkins (Lucky Stiff) himself.

When Maureen (Diana Scarwid, What Lies Beneath, Another Happy Day), a nun, has a horrible accident, she goes on the run, leaving her old life behind. She finally ends up at the Bates Motel, being run by Norman Bates (Perkins). Norman has a new assistant in Duane (Jeff Fahey, Grindhouse, Atomic Shark) and a whole lot of skeletons in his closet after murdering Emma Spool, the woman claiming to be Norman’s true birth mother.

Psycho III isn’t as clean as its predecessors. There are a lot of moving parts here and they don’t hold up as well as what has come before. There is a subplot with the disappearance of Mrs. Spool and the journalist who suspects Norman. There’s the plot with Maureen and her striking resemblance to Marion Crane. Then there’s Duane, who has a plan of his own. Sadly, the multitude of plot points don’t hit as well as they did in Psycho II.

The film does have its merits, though. There are plenty of callbacks and referential material to firmly tie this film to the rest, and it does build on the story without retread. Psycho III takes its own path without falling back on the same story over and over. Sometimes, the film’s connective tissue with the original film helps, sometimes it does not.

Overall, Psycho III works well enough, though it never reaches the heights that it could or should. First-time director Perkins can’t juggle the pieces as well as should, but fans of the first two will find enough to like in this third installment.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, click here.

For my review of Richard Franklin’s Psycho II, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[Happy 30th Birthday!] April Fool’s Day (1986)

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Director: Fred Walton

Cast: Deborah Foreman, Griffin O’Neal, Clayton Rohner, Jay Baker, Deborah Goodrich, Ken Olandt, Leah King Pinsent, Amy Steel, Thomas F. Wilson

Screenplay: Danilo Bach

89 mins. Rated R.

 

Of all the interesting holiday-themed horror films to spring up from the success of films like Halloween, April Fool’s Day is probably the most interesting idea. It’s a film idea that, even on the surface, shouldn’t work very well, but this film created its cult following from its smart plotting and playful attitude. It’s only a question of whether or not it holds up after three decades.

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Eight friends of the heiress Muffy St. John (Deborah Foreman, Valley Girl, Lobster Men from Mars) gather for a weekend at her secluded island cabin to celebrate the last year of college. When secrets start to be uncovered from each of their pasts, a cold-blooded killer begins to do away with each of them in turn, but as April Fool’s Day is upon them, the gang can’t tell who’s pranking who, and who’s killing who.

April Fool’s Day may not be the most illustrious of horror films, but it is damn fun all the same. The campiness of pranks (though many involve murder strangely) combined with the horror aspects create a silly but altogether enjoyable film.

It helps to have genre favorites like Amy Steel (TV’s All My Children, Friday the 13th Part 2), Thomas F. Wilson (Back to the Future, The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water) and Ken Olandt (Leprechaun, Power Play) involved as well.

Again, I should point out, this movie wasn’t going to win any awards, but as far as enjoyable film experiences, I just can’t really fault this one. Sure, the characters are mostly stiff and flat, but the dialogue keeps the tension and tone regular. Sure, director Fred Walton (When a Stranger Calls, The Stepford Husbands) isn’t a good director, but he nails it on this particular project.

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April Fool’s Day is a great film to show your friends. It is a great movie-night movie. It is a fun experience best shared with others. Having your group take guesses at just what’s going on is the most fun, and I think that’s what it’s all been about, right?

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 30th Birthday!] Highlander (1986)

 

Director: Russell Mulcahy

Cast: Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Clancy Brown, Roxanne Hart

Screenplay: Gregory Widen, Peter Bellwood, Larry Ferguson

116 mins. Rated R for strong action violence, a scene of sexuality and some language.

 

Wow, 30 years since Highlander. 30 years since the Princes of the Universe. Damn.

Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert, Mortal Kombat, Hail, Caesar!) is an Immortal, a being destined to live forever in search of the illustrious “Prize.” The only way to die is to be killed by another Immortal. He has lived for hundreds of years, trained by mentor Ramirez (Sean Connery, Dr. No, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), and is being hunted by an Immortal of pure evil called the Kurgan (Clancy Brown, TV’s Spongebob Squarepants, The Shawshank Redemption). Now, a beautiful cop named Brenda (Roxanne Hart, Letters of Iwo Jima, License to Wed) is hot on his trail in an attempt to discover exactly who or what he is.

I really wish I had more time to describe this film.

I absolutely love the lore behind the original Highlander. Christopher Lambert, who learned English just in time to portray Connor, is a terrific and very likable lead. He is matched by the majestic and goofy Sean Connery having a ton of fun as the Egyptian Immortal Ramirez. Clancy Brown is terrifying, oozing creep factor.

This is arguably Russell Mulcahy’s (TV’s Teen Wolf, Resident Evil: Extinction) most visually stunning film. The imagery is filled with gorgeous landscapes, sweeping battle scenes, and beautifully shot moments.

The soundtrack from Queen is intense and wondrous and fits this film so perfectly. Each song matches the tone of the scene just right.

Highlander is just right, and while the film has a few pacing issues early on, overall it is just an absolute blast to watch. It has the ability to pull me in and make me watch it multiple times in one sitting. It is just a fun time, pure and simple.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

31 Days of Horror – Extra Bits: Make some Brundle Juice and Goldblum’ing Onions for your The Fly viewing!

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Hey folks, I’ve been doing a lot of scouring the internet for awesome horror-themed recipes. There is something special about creating a meal that matches the scary movie you are about to watch. I came across a tremendously entertaining website called Slash & Dine, where they are all about creating themed recipes for scary movies. I have tried a few now, and I have to say, damn good food and damn good fun!

I found a page on Slash & Dine’s website that is all The Fly themed! I am going to leave the recipe for Bundle Juice at the bottom of this page, but feel free to check out the site to learn how to make Maggot Sliders and Jeff Goldblum’ing Onions!

 

Brundle Juice

Ingredients:

-6 kiwis, sliced

-4 oz pineapple juice

-4 oz vodka

Directions:

  1. Muddle kiwi in cocktail shaker. Add pineapple juice and vodka. Stir and pour into glasses. Serves 2

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“Mmmmm…delicious.”

 

This recipe was published by Nicole & Megan over at Slash & Dine. For Maggot Sliders, Jeff Goldblum’ing Onions and more awesome recipes, click here.

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

31 Days of Horror: Day 13 – The Fly (1986)

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Director: David Cronenberg

Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz

Screenplay: Charles Edward Pogue, David Cronenberg

96 mins. Rated R.

 

I’m so happy that I am able to include this film on the 31 Days of Horror this year. David Cronenberg’s The Fly is and will always be one of my favorite horror films. I love the cautionary tale mixed with genetic experimentation and the effect of playing God on human sanity.

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The Fly, a remake of a 1958 Vincent Price horror gem, is the story of Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum, Jurassic Park, The Grand Budapest Hotel), a brilliant man of science who has just invented a teleportation device, but due to a horrific accident in which a fly gets into the teleportation pod with him, his DNA is forever altered. Seth chooses to document and study his terrifying metamorphosis into a creature he calls “Brundlefly” as his relationship with the beautiful reporter Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis, Beetlejuice, In a World…) is forever scarred.

I’m not the greatest Cronenberg fan. I don’t love everything he touches. I wasn’t really a fan of Scanners, and Eastern Promises made me very bored. On the other hand, I absolutely loved A History of Violence and find his adaptation of Stephen King with The Dead Zone to be particularly creepy. So I went into The Fly with mixed possible feelings. I didn’t know much about the film, except that funnyman Mel Brooks produced it, which was odd. I later read that Brooks tried to not discuss his involvement in the film due to its genre being something he isn’t usually associated with. When fans discovered he produced the film, he thought “to hell with it” and showed up the premier with fly antennas to give out to fans.

When I saw the film, it shocked me. But more than that, it broke my heart. I was so terribly saddened by the emotional journey between Seth and Veronica throughout the film that as I exited the theater, I couldn’t even speak. I had to words. The film just destroyed me.

From a physical aspect, the film is gorgeously oozing with feeling and ambience. The creature effects by Chris Walas are so good that I was happy to see his name first in the credits due to his excellent work in the film. I’m not surprised by his Oscar win for the either.

The film bothered me, and I suppose that it because of how perfect it is. I sometimes wonder how the film would have turned out under the steady hand of master-of-oddity Tim Burton, who the project was originally envisioned for. I just think that Cronenberg understood the cerebral which was inlaid with all the fantastic out pain. He injected this film with plenty of inner pain. I also think about The Fly: The Musical, a stage musical version of the film, and wonder how this movie would translate in such a way.

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From the opening titles (I love the fly vision as the film comes into focus at its intro) to the heart-wrenching finale, The Fly is a masterpiece, a wholly realized vision of terror that few could ever berth. David Cronenberg was definitely not the choice I would’ve had for director, but I can honestly admit I would have wrong in that decision. This film is perfect.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

31 Days of Horror – Extra Bits: [Take 5] Horror Musicals!

Hey everyone, well, October is well upon us, and for my first entry in the 31 Days of Horror, I talked about a horror musical called The Devil’s Carnival. As you might recall, I didn’t love it, but it got me intrigued about horror musicals. I know they can be pulled off, I have seen some pretty fierce ones and they can ride that line of camp or darkness or sometimes both. So, today, I’m starting a new feature called Take 5, where I give you a list of five movies that are horror musicals. Now, this is not a list of the only five horror musicals ever. It is also not a countdown, but merely five movies that I’m trying to bring to public knowledge more. The idea came from a casual reader that asked me about marathoning movies for Halloween, and I thought back to a weekly movie night I hosted at my home, and one night we did a horror musical night, and all the horror musicals listed here were up for contention. So, I’m not going to drag that out much longer and just present you with this week’s Take 5!

 

Take 5 Horror Musicals:

 

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

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(Dir: Henry Selick)

Nominated for Best Visual Effects (1994 Academy Awards)

Now, I want to exclaim this right now. I haven’t seen this movie in a number of years. To be honest, I have always respected it, but it just never got me like it got so many.

The Nightmare Before Christmas is the story of Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon) who lives in “Halloween Town” and ends up finding his way out through a doorway leading to a mystical forest of sorts. Spotting another doorway and entering through it, Jack finds himself in “Christmas Town” and decides to celebrate this newly discovered world. It features some absolutely powerful music (this is music that gets stuck in your head, even when you don’t know any of the lyrics, and you just can’t stop singing them) as well as some wholly terrifying voice work from the stop-motion characters. I want to point out that Tim Burton did not primarily direct this picture, but it has his look all around it.

 

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

(Dir: Tim Burton)

Awarded Best Achievement in Art Direction (2008 Academy Awards)

Nominated for Best Actor (Johnny Depp) and Best Costume Design (2008 Academy Awards)

Now, Tim Burton did direct this feature, based on the musical theater production from Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler. It tells the tale Sweeney Todd (Depp) and his slow descent into madness following the loss of his wife and child. He decides to hone his skills as a barber in order to lure men into his home and murder them before sending the bodies to Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter) to make into meat pies. His main target is Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman), the man behind the inciting treachery. This movie was released right at the time where Tim Burton wasn’t really holding my love, but I was in a musical renaissance where musicals were big for me. Maybe it was the emotional pain of youth, but I had to see this movie. I loved it, and it was one of my favorite movies from 2007, which was a pretty great year for movies already.

 

Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

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(Dir: Frank Oz)

Nominated for Best Visual Effects and Best Original Song (“Mean Green Mother from Outer Space) (1987 Academy Awards)

Another fan and critical favorite is this 80s classic, which has an interesting backstory. I actually studied this movie in college and it holds a special spot in my heart. So, it is based on a stage musical which in turn is based on a Roger Corman anti-classic B-movie from 1960. It stars Rick Moranis as Seymour Krelborn, an unlucky slumper who comes across a very unusual plant while walking the back streets of New York City during a “Total Eclipse of the Sun!” and decides to name it Audrey II after the woman he loves (played by Ellen Greene). Things get complicated when he finds that Audrey II talks and only enjoys blood and flesh. Morbid, campy and all things terrific, this is a movie that I have to watch regularly and I dare you to watch it and try not to sing.

 

Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008)

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(Dir: Darren Lynn Bousman)

I highly recommend this one to anyone who is curious about The Devil’s Carnival or someone who has already seen it and needs to wash the taste out. Repo! is set in the future where the one thing on everyone’s mind is surgery: make yourself better, look hotter, and live longer. Shilo (Alexa Vega) is stuck with a blood disease which is slowly killing her, and her relationship with her father (Anthony Stewart Head) is dying from his wanting to protect her from further harm. But father has secrets of his own and Shilo won’t follow his directions any longer, as she gets more and more into the mystery surrounding the death of her mother Marni. A gruesome and violent rock opera, Repo! is an addiction all its own, and features Anthony Stewart Head belting out the music in some his most powerful work to date.

 

The Rocky Horror Picture Shown (1975)

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(Dir: Jim Sharman)

Celebrating its 40th Anniversary next year, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a film that everyone needs to see, though most picture will not like or understand it. The film is a send-up to the horror films of back in the day, a campy but lovable triumph of fun and music, and also a satire of many heavy themes about politics and gender and sex and, well, the movie is about so many things that it’s hard not to take something new away every time you see it. My advice, watch this movie once in your home, then head to a midnight shadow cast (you’ll learn more when you go), preferably on Halloween. I have seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show Live for the past seven years in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and if able, this year will be number eight.

 

Take-aways:

All five films here are winners, and I suggest them to you for your Halloween pleasure. Little Shop goes together well with Rocky Horror, as do Sweeney Todd and Repo!, and will make for a grand marathoning. Happy singing!

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

 

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