[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 10 – Fright Night (1985)

 

Director: Tom Holland

Cast: Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Amanda Bearse, Stephen Geoffreys, Roddy McDowall

Screenplay: Tom Holland

106 mins. Rated R.

 

Being a teenager is tough, especially when you aren’t getting any. Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale, Left Behind, TV’s Herman’s Head) gets it. He gets it all too well. He and girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse, Skirtchasers, TV’s Married with Children) have been hot and cold a lot, so Charley’s been searching out other forms of entertainment, like watching his new neighbor Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon, The Nightmare Before Christmas, I Smile Back). But when Charley sees Jerry committing some truly horrific acts next door, there’s really one answer: Vampires. But who will believe him? His annoying friend Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys, 976-EVIL, Lazarus: Apocalypse)? His mother? Not even the famed vampire-hunter-actor Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall, Planet of the Apes, A Bug’s Life) believe Charley. So what does he do?

Fright Night is a classic of 1980s horror film. Writer/Director Tom Holland (Child’s Play, Thinner) weaves together an interesting play on voyeur films like Rear Window and then takes it to somewhere different with the terrific Peter Vincent character. In fact, all the characters are well-rounded, like the lead vampire Jerry. Jerry is incredibly complex and enjoys his hunt as he tracks down Charley.

I think the best element of Fright Night, though, is its fun and inventive effects. This has some of the goriest goofiest effects I’ve seen and they age really well, playing to the silliness of the whole thing.

Fright Night is a rare property in that the original film and its remake are both damn enjoyable and impressive for very different reasons. I think you should give it a try, and I also suggest the hard-to-find sequel Fright Night Part II (the remake has a sequel too but I haven’t ever tried watching it). This is exciting campy horror at its finest, its only flaw being one of pacing in the first act or so.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Tom Holland’s Child’s Play, click here.

For my review of Tom Holland’s Thinner, click here.

[31 Days of Horror 3] Day 28 – Tales from the Crypt presents Bordello of Blood (1996)

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Director: Gilbert Adler

Cast: Dennis Miller, Erika Eleniak, Angie Everhart, Chris Sarandon, Corey Feldman, Aubrey Morris, Phil Fondacaro, Juliet Reagh, John Kassir

Screenplay: AL Katz, Gilbert Adler

87 mins. Rated R for horror violence and gore, sexuality, nudity, and strong language.

 

I grew up on Tales from the Crypt, from watching old episodes of the HBO series, cut for content, on Sci-Fi at 3 in the morning to actually reading old issues when I could get my hands on them at the used book store/comic book shop in my hometown. Horror has always been important to me, and Tales from the Crypt holds an important piece of my childhood. Tonight, we look at the second in a series of Tales from the Crypt films: Bordello of Blood.

Katherine Verdoux (Erika Eleniak, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Dracula 3000) is concerned for the safety of her brother Caleb (Corey Feldman, Stand By Men, Lost Boys: The Thirst), who went missing a few days ago. But the local law enforcement has numerous other missing persons to find, and out of desperation, she hires private detective Rafe Guttman (Dennis Miller, Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser, The Campaign) to help find him. His search leads him to brothel hidden underneath a mortuary inhabited by the undead and led my the mother of all vampires, Lilith (Angie Everhart, Last Action Hero, Take Me Home Tonight), who discovers that Rafe’s blood type is incredibly rare and seeks him out. As the blood and body party start to fly, it is clear that Rafe is in for the fright of his life in a story presented to us by the one and only Crypt Keeper (John Kassir, Pete’s Dragon, The Secret Life of Pets).

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First of all, I’m going to drop a truth bomb: I know that this film isn’t great, but I love it anyway, and I think if you switch off for a bit, you’ll like it too. Each time I view it, I see plot-holes and dialogue that doesn’t really work and moments of sheer stupidity, but it’s the very nature of Tales from the Crypt to be goofy, and in that sense, it comes off no different than the tone and style of much of the HBO series.

Now, for the things I don’t like. As I said before, there are plot-holes about the very nature of the brothel and how it works. The dialogue is very slap-stick and silly. But my biggest issue with the film is the opening Crypt Keeper segment. For fans of the series, this opening is practically identical to an episode of the series entitled “The Assassin” in which William Sadler plays the Grim Reaper from Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey and challenges the Crypt Keeper to a friendly little game. It is recreated, I’m assuming for rights issues, here, for no apparent reason. Could they not have conjured up a more interesting and new opening? It bothers me to no end, and I actually really like the recreated version more, but I wasn’t asking for it.

The things I loved here? First off, let’s talk about the connection to Demon Knight. The key which holds power over Lilith is an actual previous from the previous year’s Demon Knight, the last of seven keys that held the blood of Christ. The idea of this key popping up here again sets up a lot of mythos. For example, is this the same exact key or another of the seven? Does each key have a tale behind it and, if so, what are the stories of the other five? This would’ve been an interesting direction to take this series if this film had done better at the box office. In fact, I’ve always felt that the Tales from the Crypt tales exist in the same world for the most part and should occasionally intersect, and this idea only adds fuel to the fire.

Or, perhaps they just wanted to cut costs.

And I would be angry if I missed the chance to talk about the best use of Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz” ever. But I won’t spoil it for you.

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Bordello of Blood is just plain fun. I can understand the detractors; trust me, at this point, I’ve seen them. But this is a rollicking and unique take on the vampire mythos and a damn fun time even if it doesn’t necessarily pack the scares in.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Ernest R. Dickerson’s Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight, click here.

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 10 – Child’s Play (1988)

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Director: Tom Holland

Cast: Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent

Screenplay: Don Mancini, John Lafia, Tom Holland

87 mins. Rated R for adult situations/language, violence.

 

I have a faint memory of being a child and sneaking upstairs in the middle of the night and into the living room. My parents were watching a movie. There was a doll in it that had come to life and was murdering people. The scene was burned into my memory and I was forever terrified and fascinated by the killer doll Chucky.

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In Child’s Play, Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) just wants a Good Guy Doll for his birthday. Unfortuntely, Good Guy Dolls are very expensive and his mother Karen (Catherine Hicks, TV’s 7th Heaven, Poison Ivy: The Secret Society) just can’t afford one. That is, until she comes across a homeless guy near her office who has one. Now Andy has a Good Guy Doll named Chucky. But when people close to Andy start dying, Andy starts to look rather suspicious, but he says Chucky is to blame, but nobody, especially Detective Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Safe) believes him.

The original Child’s Play is, to me, not nearly as good as the follow-up from 1990, but it definitely provides enough chills to keep the story rather engaging and entertaining. In this film, there is a heavy focus on the unbelievability of the tale and a lot of blame gets placed on Andy as being a mentally unstable child.

I really like Alex Vincent’s performance for his age and previous experience, it actually works pretty well. Add in some solid work from Hicks and Sarandon and you have a pretty great cast for this little horror film.

Also, how have I not mentioned Brad Dourif yet? Brad Dourif gives such an inconic voice performance to Chucky as well as his limited screentime as the unhinged Lake Shore Strangler Charles Lee Ray as a human in the film’s opening. Only Brad Dourif could play Chucky this perfectly, making him an incredibly underappreciated actor both in the genre and the visual medium in general.

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Child’s Play is nicely paced, nicely played, and hauntingly memorable. Brad Dourif and director Tom Holland (The Langoliers, Thinner) have crafted an amazing character shepherded by screenwriter Tom Mancini. The original film still stands tall, even if its killer does not.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Halloween, click here.

[12 Days of Christmas] On the First Day… The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

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Director: Henry Selick

Cast: Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara, Ed Ivory, Ken Page

Screenplay: Caroline Thompson

76 mins. Rated PG for some scary images.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Effects, Visual Effects

 

Welcome to the 12 Days of Christmas, a celebration of Christmas and winter-themed films of all shapes and sizes.

We begin this yuletide tradition with The Nightmare Before Christmas, Henry Selick’s feature film adaptation of Tim Burton’s original poem.

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First off, before we start any of this thing up, I want to make a note. I refuse to call this film a Tim Burton film as Tim Burton really didn’t have all that much to do with the production. He was a producer and that is it. So no, I will be referring to this film, if in any capacity, as Henry Selick’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. But I digress…

After another successful holiday in Halloween Town, pumpkin king Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon, The Princess Bride, Safe) is tired of the tradition. He wants to experience something new. He gets the chance when he comes across a mystical forest with a tree that transports him to Christmas Town where he falls in love with a new holiday, though he doesn’t quite understand it. Jack takes it upon himself to bring Christmas to Halloween Town, including impersonating Santa (Ed Ivory, Nine Months) and giving out gifts to the residents of his home world.

I have grown to love this movie. It has everything that a new and engaging film should have. It has a unique story idea that seems wholly goofy yet fully realized. It has an enchanting screenplay by Caroline Thompson (Edward Scissorhands, City of Ember) that makes the magic real. It has terrific voicework from leads Sarandon and Catherine O’Hara (Home Alone, A.C.O.D.) as well as secondary performers Glenn Shadix and Paul Reubens. Let’s not forget Ken Page (Dreamgirls, Cats) as the sadistic and demented Oogie Boogie. Henry Selick (Coraline, Monkeybone) understands the stop-motion medium and knows just what is enough.

The music here as well is catchy, simple, and engaging to even the musically-declined. Each song is more like a taste and doesn’t wear out its welcome, making the film tight and finely-tuned allowing for multiple viewings.

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Now Jack’s story perhaps could have been trimmed a bit more and the secondary characters could have had a bit more to do, but as a completed work, The Nightmare Before Christmas has entombed (see what I did there?) itself as a Christmas classic and a Halloween classic, a feat damn near impossible to pull off.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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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