[31 Days of Horror Part V: A New Beginning] Day 8 – Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990)

Director: Mick Garris

Cast: Anthony Perkins, Olivia Hussey, Henry Thomas, CCH Pounder

Screenplay: Joseph Stefano

96 mins. Rated R for violence and sensuality.

 

As I’ve stated before, it doesn’t really make sense for the Psycho franchise to have made it to four films, especially considering the long break between the first two installments. But here we are with a fourth and final chapter, interestingly enough called The Beginning.

Fran Ambrose (CCH Pounder, Avatar, TV’s The Shield) runs a successful radio talk show and her topic today is matricide, the murder of a mother by her child. In the middle of an interview, she receives a call from a man who claims to have killed his own mother, a man who claims that before the end of the night, he will be forced to kill again. As the conversation puts the pieces of this man’s life together, the radio team begins to suspect that the caller is Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins, Friendly Persuasion, Edge of Sanity), the murderer of several people over the past few decades. As Norman recounts what led to the murder of his mother Norma (Olivia Hussey, Romeo and Juliet, Social Suicide), Fran and the team are on a race against the clock to convince him not to kill again.

I’ve enjoyed the entire Psycho franchise up to this point. While the original is impossible to match, the sequels have been engaging little thrillers all on their own while adding to this interesting character and mythology. Psycho IV is probably my least favorite, but I still found it to be quite engaging. I find, at times, the recounting of Norman’s past to be both disturbing and unsurprising. It also doesn’t link to any of the other sequels and serves as a direct follow-up to the original in several ways.

Perkins is great as Bates again, and he is met nicely by Pounder as both an opposite and a helper to his sanity. Her arc is quite interesting as she evolves to have some semblance of a heart. The scenes from his youth are presented with Henry Thomas (E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Ouija: Origin of Evil) as Norman. Again, he does well, but the flashbacks didn’t really give us anything we didn’t already assume except for many the quasi-incestuous nature of his relationship with his mother.

Mick Garris (Critters 2, Bag of Bones) handles the material well, and his direction pushes the narrative along without lagging too much, and the screenplay from original Psycho scribe Joseph Stefano (The Ghost of Sierra Cobre, Two Bits) is structure in an interesting way to not hang out too much with the past, but the film only really shines for me with the content in the present day. That’s what was interesting for me.

Psycho IV: The Beginning is still a strong finale for this franchise, leaving things on an interesting albeit odd tone and in a very strange place. It’s a nice swan song of sorts for Anthony Perkins, who was diagnosed with HIV during filming. The role is his, it always has been, and this franchise is what he will always be known for. Thankfully, Psycho IV doesn’t tarnish the popular Hitchcock film and instead reminded me why I love the original so much.

 

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 my review of Anthony Perkins’s Psycho III, click here.

For my review of Mick Garris’s The Shining, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 30 – Bride of Re-Animator (1990)

Director: Brian Yuzna

Cast: Bruce Abbott, Claude Earl Jones, Fabiana Udenio, David Gale, Kathleen Kinmont, Jeffrey Combs

Screenplay: Rick Fry, Woody Keith, Brian Yuzna

96 mins. Rated R.

 

It took me some time to find a copy of Re-Animator. When I saw it, I loved it. It took me even longer to find a copy of Bride of Re-Animator, so maybe I’ll love it more?

Bride of Re-Animator picks up eight months after its predecessor as doctors Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott, The Prophecy II, Dillinger) and Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs, The Frighteners, Beethoven’s Treasure Tail) are continuing their re-animation experiments. West discovers that he can re-animate individual body parts and begins creating horrifying monstrosities. When he comes across the heart of Dan’s dead fiancée Megan, West convinces him to help craft a new body for her out of parts from the hospital’s morgue. On their trail, though, is Lt. Leslie Chapman (Claude Earl Jones, Dark Night of the Scarecrow, Tonya & Nancy: The Inside Story). Dan himself is torn as well when he becomes enamored by Francesca (Fabiana Udenio, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, The Wedding Planner), a journalist he met in Peru, but he finds it near-impossible to stop West’s madness and obsession over the reagent as dangers close in all around.

Bride of Re-Animator is zany and weird and horrific and funny and very enjoyable, although to a lesser extent than the original. It’s weird that the cult following for this trilogy isn’t as strong as, say, The Evil Dead, as they both embody many of the same trademark horror comedy. Now, this is a continuation of the H.P. Lovecraft tale, although many changes were made. It focuses on what follows with West’s experiments, and they do increase in their disturbing madness. The only issue is that Bride of Re-Animator is essentially the same story. They learn what not to do, they do it, they bring back a bunch of dead things that all come for them. I loved watching it all the same, but it is in the shadow of the original.

That’s not to say there aren’t original pieces to this puzzle. Director Brian Yuzna (Rottweiler, The Dentist 2) has a keen eye for taking a franchise and mythology and twisting it on a new path, and he does again here. The film is trying to be its own thing, but it keeps falling back on the original for better or worse.

At least it’s fun. Abbott and Combs have great chemistry as they are pulled further and further apart by West’s insane addition to his reagent. Bringing back David Gale (The Guyver, The Brain) as Doctor Carl Hill, the disembodied dead-but-not-dead creature from the first, was a welcome addition, even if it was unneeded.

Bride of Re-Animator isn’t trying to make new friends. It’s purely in existence because people love the first film. And this one is a lot of fun. Mind you, it isn’t as good as the original, but if you are one of the fans of Re-Animator, you should find some love in this horror/comedy sequel.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator, click here.

[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 1 – It (1990)

Director: Tommy Lee Wallace

Cast: Harry Anderson, Dennis Christopher, Richard Masur, Annette O’Toole, Tim Reid, John Ritter, Richard Thomas, Tim Curry

Screenplay: Tommy Lee Wallace, Lawrence D. Cohen

192 mins. Rated TV-14.

 

Ah, another October is here. And so we begin the 31 Days of Horror…come along with me.

The 2017 film It is based on the novel by Stephen King, but twenty-seven years ago, there was a miniseries movie event also based on the novel. A very popular and memorable miniseries, one wonders if it holds up.

It’s 1990, and there’s been another child murder in Derry, Maine. Mike Hanlon (Tim Reid, By the Grace of Bob, TV’s Sister, Sister) arrives on the scene, and he’s now fully aware that It is back. He reaches out to his friends from childhood, some he hasn’t spoken to in 30 years, to see if he can get them to come back to Derry. Richie Tozier (Harry Anderson, A Matter of Faith, TV’s Night Court) has become a successful comedian, but when he speaks to Mike, he knows he must go home. Eddie Kaspbrak (Dennis Christopher, Django Unchained, Queen of the Lot) hasn’t changed much in 30 years, still living with his mother, but he feels compelled to go back to Derry. Beverly Marsh (Annette O’Toole, We Go On, TV’s Smallville) has become a big player in fashion, but her childhood pain has taken a new form in partner and lover Tom. Ben Hanscom (John Ritter, Sling Blade, TV’s Three Company) has lost the weight as well as his self-respect, but his love for Beverly drives him back. Bill Denbrough (Richard Thomas, Anesthesia, TV’s The Waltons) may be a successful novelist, but his regret for the death of his brother Georgie has followed him all his life. Stan Uris (Richard Masur, The Thing, Don’t Think Twice) isn’t sure he’s ready to face It again. The Loser’s Club must all go back to Derry, together, in order to finally put a stop to It, a creature that has inhabited Derry for hundreds of years, often taking the form of a dancing clown named Pennywise (Tim Curry, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Axel: The Biggest Little Hero).

The novel this miniseries is based on is a massive tome, and to fit all of it into a three-hour-runtime is a huge feat, but director Tommy Lee Wallace (Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Vampires: Los Muertos) manages to hit the most important notes on his way to the finish line, but the troubles of a television miniseries movie in the 90s didn’t allow the meat of the novel to be shown. The performances are as good as the script, which again, hits all the plot beats but doesn’t give enough time to any of the characters to really flesh them out. It’s a nice experience if you’ve read the novel, but it just doesn’t give enough to viewers.

Tim Curry’s work as Pennywise is exemplary, however, and is the biggest reason this film has stayed so popular over so many years. His playfulness as Pennywise turns on a dime to become menacing and frightful, and it just works so well. It’s a shame, though, that he just doesn’t have a lot to do in the film.

There’s a lot of talk about both incarnations of It and how the adults are/will be portrayed, and what I don’t get is how much time in the miniseries is given to the adults. For a large amount of the book, the adults are relegated to second-tier status and framing devices to allow for the youth stories to be told. That’s why I don’t understand why the adults get roughly 60% of the screen time in this film. Sure, they are important, but the kids are much more so to the character and plot of the film.

There isn’t anything inherently wrong in It, but the movie is kind of plain. It just isn’t scary. Tim Curry’s terrific performance just can’t save the film, and it just wasn’t going to work as a television presentation. Having seen the 2017 film, I can tell you that it does work as a film (I cannot speak to the 1997 Indian adaptation Woh, but that’s for another time), but on TV, It loses all of its teeth.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Tommy Lee Wallace’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch, click here.

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

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

 nightofthelivingdead1990c

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.

[Happy 25th Birthday!] Total Recall (1990)

 

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Director: Paul Verhoeven

Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside, Ronny Cox

Screenplay: Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon, Gary Goldman

113 mins. Rated R.

  • Academy Award Winner: Special Achievement Award for visual effects
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Sound
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing

 

Each time that I watch 1990’s Total Recall, I find that I enjoy it just a little more. Don’t get me wrong, our relationship didn’t start out that great. Boys hears of Movie. Boy sees Movie. Boy is confused, bewildered, and a little frustrated. Boy is convinced to watch Movie again. Boy remembers enjoying himself, but can’t place why. It’s the same story you’ve heard a thousand times by now.

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In Total Recall, Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator, Maggie) is Douglas Quaid, a normal everyday construction worker with a lovely wife (Sharon Stone, Casino, Fading Gigolo) who dreams of seeing Mars. Oh yeah, this is the future. Quaid decides to take a cheaper route to actually going to Mars and instead chooses to go to Rekall, a company that will implant memories of a fantastical vacation anyone would dream to be a part of. When the Rekall implantation goes awry, Quaid is pursued by the malicious Richter (Michael Ironside, The Machinist, Extraterrestrial) while he starts to wonder if he has a secret past that even he wasn’t aware of, or is it all part of the Rekall?

I happened to truly love watching this movie again this afternoon in honor of its twenty-fifth anniversary. I even got my girlfriend, someone who I’ve been goading towards this film for a long time, to watch it with me. She kept telling me she would hate it, but she admits she was wrong. The effects and the cinematography still look incredible, with the exception of a few shots that have aged (I’m speaking specifically about the space travel to Mars sequence).

Arnold’s portrayal of Douglas Quaid is strangely camptastic, and I enjoyed it even though I admit he wasn’t convincing. The real winner for acting belongs to each of the supporting roles, Rachel Ticotin (Man of Fire, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2) and especially Ironside and Ronny Cox (RoboCop, Beyond the Reach).

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Total Recall is an absolutely fun ride which posits some truly trippy questions. Director Paul Verhoeven (Starship Troopers, Black Book) has proven time and time again he can handle just about any film (Showgirls not included) and his take on the Philip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” is very interesting. What’s even better, it looks great still twenty-five later, so check it out…for the first time or the next time.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[12 Days of Christmas] On the Eighth Day… Home Alone (1990)

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Director: Chris Columbus

Cast: Macauley Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard, Catherine O’Hara

Screenplay: John Hughes

103 mins. Rated PG.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Music, Original Song “Somewhere in My Memory”
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Music, Original Score

 

Growing up, I was not a major fan of Home Alone. I can’t really say why, but perhaps I feel like the film was oversaturated and existed in such a wide capacity that it was just too much. Every year with this film, and I often confused the events of the first film with those of the second which was very jarring.

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At the behest of my mother, who adores the film, I took a look back on it a few years back. My feelings were very different that time around.

Kevin McAllister (Macauley Culkin, Richie Rich, Sex and Breakfast) doesn’t connect with his family. In fact, he wishes he never had a family. When he awakens one morning to discover that his family is gone, he is overjoyed that his wish came true. Kevin’s family has gone to France without him, but now he is home alone while two criminals named Harry (Joe Pesci, GoodFellas, The Good Shepherd) and Marv (Daniel Stern, TV’s Manhattan, City Slickers), known as the Wet Bandits, try to break into his home. It is up to Kevin to protect his home and himself while his mother (Catherine O’Hara, The Nightmare Before Christmas, A.C.O.D.) attempts to get back home to spend Christmas with her son.

I like this movie much more as an adult. There is something about returning to the imagination like a situation like this actually happening. I didn’t have the growing up experience where I wanted to get rid of my family. I enjoyed Macauley Culkin’s ability to carry this movie and the great supporting work from Pesci and Stern certainly help. John Hughes (Vacation, The Breakfast Club) knows how to write a screenplay, and this is one drastically different from his 1980’s teen comedy work. Then there’s Chris Columbus (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone), who isn’t so much a good director as he is a capable one. He does fine work here assisted by a powerful and unsettling score from John Williams.

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Looking back, Home Alone was a fun time to watch a movie. It has the insane premise which amazingly works quite well, it isn’t derailed by a less-than-amazing Chris Columbus or the bumbling thieves or even the quite rude family members. Still a fun time; still a Christmas miracle.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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