IT Review (1990)

My History With the Film:
I first saw IT on VHS back in the mid-1990’s. My step-sister had suggested we watch the film one night and after a quick trip to Blockbuster we sat down to watch the beloved Stephen King mini-series. I would never describe IT as a frightening, because it never struck that tone with me, but it’s a film that makes you feel uneasy and tells a fantastic story over three hours. I ended up recording IT onto a VHS tape of my own and I revisited the series quite a few times in my youth.

It’s been at least fifteen years since I last saw IT, but I decided one Saturday night in October 2017 to sit down and see how IT holds up, especially in comparison to the new movie.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
A group of adults are summoned back to their hometown to face down an evil force that they united to face as children.

What I Liked About It:
 -Tim Curry is brilliant. I know that’s something everyone mentions, but it’s true. He creates this Pennywise character and makes him so menacing you believe that he actually exists.

-When I watched the 2017 movie, I loved how they broke up the story of the children and the story of the adults into two movies, instead of bouncing back and forth. After watching the 1990 film, I saw that the flipping back and forth wasn’t as tedious as I remembered and it was well done.

-One of my favorite scenes is when the group gets back together for dinner in Derry. It feels like you are witnessing a true life reunion several decades later.

-The acting is a little all over the place in the film. John Ritter (Problem Child), Seth Green (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Jonathan Brandis (Sidekicks), Tim Reid (Sister, Sister), Tim Curry (The Rocky Horror Picture Show), and Emily Perkins (Ginger Snaps) were real standouts.

-The library scene with the balloons was fantastic and the tension was perfect. IT is at its best when Pennywise is nearby and the effects are kept simple.

-I love the creepy water pumping station and I think it made for a fantastic setting. I hate the new film didn’t retain that element.

-Pennywise as Ben’s dad still sends chills down my back the same as it did when I was a kid. There is just something so screwed up and evil that Pennywise would use the likeness of his father to taunt him.

-Some other scenes that I really enjoyed was Pennywise talking to Ben once he returns to Derry and showing him the graves awaiting his friends. Also, Beverly’s return to her childhood home.

-The scenes featuring blood that the adults seem not to notice are wonderful. It’s creepy and really spoke to me as a child. It was like I had a window into a world that only myself and other kids could see and there is nothing more creepy than that as a child.

What I Didn't Like About It:
 -I consider myself an Annette O’Toole fan, but not in this film. She has a few moments (the very end), but a lot of this film is nothing but cringe for Annette.

-People forget that IT was a television mini-series, which means it didn’t have the production budget of a major motion picture and you can tell. It’s filmed like TV was filmed in the early 90’s, and some of the effects are pretty horrible (stop-motion and spider come to mind.) 

-I’m not a fan of the ending at all and I really hope the next IT movie goes a different route. I understand they were working with a TV budget and the novel’s ending is supposedly difficult to film, but hopefully they can come up with something better for the next film.

-IT is an enjoyable film that has not aged well. I feel like nostalgia fuels my enjoyment of this movie.

Additional Notes:
 -At one point IT was to be directed by George Romero (Dawn of the Dead), but he had to bow out due to scheduling conflicts with the remake of Night of the Living Dead.

-In the novel and the 2017 movie, the group of seven survivors are called The Loser’s Club. In the 1990 film they are called The Lucky Seven.

-Laura Harris (The Faculty) portrayed one of the girls outside of Beverly’s school that insults her.

IT is an essential 90’s horror film, and something that all horror fans need to experience at least once. But I also recognize that in 2017, this twenty-seven year old film has not aged well due to its budget, television origin, and some casting.

Thanks to a strong story, IT is still very watchable. John Ritter and some of the other cast members make the movie feel bigger than it actually is, and I cannot forget to praise Tim Curry who took a character in a book and brought him to life in his own unique way.

But IT is long. It was a mini-series, and it clocks in a little over three hours. Of course, it essentially is two movies in one, so the three hour run-time is understandable and acceptable, but it does drag some. I’m not sure if younger fans who just experience IT for the first time in theaters would be able to sit through this mini-series.

It was hard to rate IT. Do I rate it how I felt about it in the 90’s or do I rate it how my most recent viewing came across? Do I compare it to the new movie or not? All of these questions entered my mind and I decided to just rate it based off my most recent viewing and forgetting all about the new movie. With that being said, IT is a six out of ten for me and a rental for horror fans. For non-horror fans, I’d just skip this version and move along to the new film.

I have a feeling this viewing will probably be my last and I don’t have a need to revisit the film, especially with the superior new movie having come out. I don’t mean to discredit IT’s place in horror history nor its importance, but I think nostalgia makes this movie out to be way better than it actually is.

IT Review (2017)

My History With the Film:
I plan on posting my review of the original IT tomorrow, but until then let’s talk about the 2017 version.

I went to the drive-in on the opening weekend of IT. After a year's worth of amazing trailers, I just had to be there opening night.

I grew up with IT. The original mini-series aired while I was in elementary school and it was the talk of the school. IT was a terrifying movie about a clown who prayed on children, and what could be more troubling to a young mind than that?

In a way I felt like this remake was made just for me. It was a way for me to see the film again and yet still tap into my own nostalgia. The 1980's setting was great, and I really welcomed the change from the original series.
What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
A group of pre-teens encounter a clown who is seemingly the cause for hundreds of cases of missing children throughout the town.

What I Liked About It:
-The Loser Club. They were amazing. Every single one of them. The only actor I recognized was Finn Wolfhard, from Stranger Things, who wowed me by portraying a child that is nowhere near the same character he played in Stranger Things. Sophia Lillis was amazing as Beverly and blew the original Beverly out of the water.

-Bill Skarsgard brought his own take to IT. It was different and effective. I don’t know if I like it more than Tim Curry’s portrayal, but it worked well within the film.

-The town of Derry felt real and lived in. It reminded me so much of an 80’s movie and really reeked of all things Stephen King.

-The slide projector scene was fantastic.

What I Didn’t Like About It:
-There were a few instances of CGI that I could have done without. Still, they kept it to a minimum and it didn’t ruin anything.

Additional Notes:
-The Duffer Brothers originally wanted to direct IT, but they weren’t well known enough. They went onto make Stranger Things which pays homage to Stephen King.

-The childhood story was set in the 1980’s instead of the 1950’s like the mini-series and book.

-References to the original film include the phrases, “Beep Beep Richie” and “Hi Yo Silver.”

-A Tim Curry original IT style clown shows up in the clown room.

IT lived up to the hype and was a fantastic rendition of the classic Stephen King novel. I was happy they decided to break the movie into two parts, instead of bouncing back and forth between the adult characters and their child counterparts. This film stands on its own and works as a single film, and that is credited to its great script.

The film was no doubt made by its child actors who tore the house down in their performances. It’s going to be difficult to find adult actors who will be able to convey the same emotions and dedications to the roles that these kids had.

IT is a very strong nine out of ten for me, and a must own.

90’s Christmas Horror Review – Jack Frost (1997)

My History With the Film:
My experience with Jack Frost in the 90’s was limited to admiring the awesome lenticular VHS box art. Horror movies really went all out in the 90’s with awesome lenticular covers, and while they looked amazing on the video store shelf, that usually was a sign that the film was absolute garbage.

I’ll admit, I’m picky about my horror comedy and I’m not a fan of the whole “let’s take something wholesome and make it evil” for irony sake. It just comes off too goofy most of the time and I’m not fan of intentionally bad movies. Despite all this, I decided to pick one Christmas horror film from the 90’s to review this year, and Jack Frost is the one I chose. I chose this for a few reasons:

1. It was streaming on Amazon Prime.
2. It has Shannon Elizabeth in it.
3. Mainly because it was streaming on Amazon Prime.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
A freak accident genetically mutates a serial killer with a grudge into a snow man.

What I Liked About It:
-Jack Frost is obviously a low budget film with terrible special effects and acting. However, the cinematography is actually quite good and gives the film way more legitimacy than it deserves.

-I loved the use of classic Christmas songs throughout the score. It was done tastefully and humorously at times. One scene that comes to mind particularly is Shannon Elizabeth’s (13 Ghosts) tease as she slowly unbuttons her shirt to the soft tones of The Twelve Days of Christmas.

What I Didn't Like About It:
-There was no budget for the snow man special effects and for the most part they are portrayed by someone wearing a white snow man arm that looks like it’s made out of fleece.

-I feel like the script started off as a legit horror film and once they realize they didn’t have a budget, they infused comedy into the script in order to shield themselves from any mockery to come. It’s easy to laugh it off and say, “Well it’s not meant to be taken serious” when the film is so absurd.

-Scott MacDonald does the voice of Jack Frost and he seems to be channeling Brad Dourif’s Chucky voice, but a poor man’s version. It’s not good and his one liner’s don’t even come out well.

-The lack of real snow or convincing fake snow hurts the film. They are supposed to be snowed in, but only small patches of snow are around. The fake snow they use for snowballs and the snowmen is so terrible it’s obviously not snow. Also, they started to spray the windows of the cars with that fake frost stuff you see around Christmas time, but as the movie went on they got lazier and lazier about spraying the cars down.

Additional Notes:
-The film was shot in the winter of a drought year, so no real snow existed on the ground. Foam and cotton balls were used to simulate snow.

-One of Shannon Elizabeth’s first acting gigs.

-It was shot in just eighteen days.

-To save money, the film was shot on short ends (left over pieces of film from other projects).

-It was originally slated to be directed by Renny Harlin with a $30 million dollar budget.

-Spawned one sequel: Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman.

Jack Frost was more watchable than I thought it would be. Don’t get wrong, it’s absurd and a bad movie, but it’s not so bad its unwatchable the way Lover’s Lane was. I have no interest in seeing the sequel, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a legit killer snowman movie created by someone who can handle the idea and is able to make practical effects work.

I would rate Jack Frost a three out of ten and say it skip it, unless you love bad movies.

Not The 90's Christmas Edition - Krampus Review (2015)

My History With the Film:
When I first heard that a Krampus movie was coming out I was less than enthused. I had heard Kevin Smith discussing his version of a Krampus movie for at least a year before this Krampus film got made, and it just didn’t sound all that great. The plot from what I could tell was: an evil Santa comes down to punish the wicked.

Around August of this year, I finally got around to watching Trick ‘r Treat, a movie I’d owned for years and didn’t watch because I was afraid it had been overhyped and I would be disappointed with the film. I finally gave the movie a shot and it was fantastic. I loved the anthology aspect of the movie and found it be one of the best modern horror films I’d ever seen. I did a quick IMDB search on the director Michael Dougherty and saw that one of his only other directing credits was Krampus. The film immediately went from an “I doubt I’ll ever watch that” to a “Must see.”

I’ve been on the lookout for the film since August, but hadn’t run across it at a great price until I found it at Walmart in a bin of leftover Black Friday DVDs. I picked up Krampus and watched it the following day and enjoyed it quite a bit, although not nearly as much as Trick ‘r Treat.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
A boy loses his holiday spirit and ends up releasing a demon upon his family and town.

What I Liked About It:
-The design of Krampus, the elves, and his assistants were fantastic. Each of them was unique and creepy in their own way.

-I was initially worried about Adam Scott and David Koechner being cast because I didn’t think this film should be a horror-comedy. It isn’t, although it doesn’t take itself serious at all, and that allows for some over-the-top moments that do come off comical. I’m just glad the actors didn’t play it that way. 

-There is a scene done entirely in stop-motion that is so well done I wanted it to last longer. It made for a brilliant break in the story and gave the movie a special look.

-I thought the final scene was brilliant and an excellent way to end the movie.

-The film definitely pays homage to Christmas Vacation and that worked in making the film feel even more like a Christmas movie.

What I Didn't Like About It:
-The film is definitely a horror movie, but it really lacks the tension and gore a quality horror movie needs. I would have love to have seen this film with an R rating. I think it would have gone down as one of the greatest.

-Some of the CGI could have used a little more polish.

-I didn’t buy Max’s remorse towards the end, especially his concern for his cousin.

Additional Notes:
-Krampus is a real part of German/Austrian folklore. He comes to punish children that are bad.

-The “noodle incident” that was mentioned in the film by Max’s mom is most likely a tribute to Calvin and Hobbs who constantly refer to an undefined “noodle incident.”

-The snow was made from the same material that is used to make diapers.

-You can see Sam from Trick ‘r Treat’s lollipop in Max’s page of leftover Halloween candy.

-Almost the entire movie was shot on a soundstage.

Krampus was an entertaining film that offers horror fans a new Christmas film to add to their collection. I thought the atmosphere, set, and character design were good, but ultimately the movie fails at channeling the same energy that made Trick ‘r Treat so great. It’s very worthy of a Christmas watch, but I do not see this film making it into my yearly holiday rotation.

I’d say Krampus is a six out of ten and a rental.

Not the 90's Christmas Edition - Gremlins Review (1984)

My History With the Film:
I honestly cannot remember the first time I saw Gremlins. It came out a year after I was born and was one of those movies I think all kids growing in the 80’s saw over-and-over again. Gizmo was the pet we all wanted and the movie offered enough horror and goo to really keep us coming back to watch the film. 

There is a huge debate on whether Gremlins is actually a horror movie or not. I feel like it’s a family movie with horror elements, as strange as that may sound. It has been several years since I last saw Gremlins and upon my most recent viewing right after Thanksgiving, I found myself a little astonished at how graphic the movie really was. I love that films were made in the 80’s without a specific audience in mind, it made for unique movies that don’t feel like they come from the same cookie-cutter factory that most movies come from nowadays.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
A teenage boy is given a unique pet that comes with a strict set of rules that when no obeyed causes the pet to turn into an aggressive monster.

What I Liked About It:
-The animatronics are great and Howie Mandell knocks it out of the park as Gizmo’s voice.

-The movie just feels like the 80’s and it’s the perfect mixture of both Steven Spielberg and Joe Dante.

 -The music is iconic for a reason. It’s so well used throughout the film and really sticks with you after watching it.

 -As I mentioned earlier, I love that this film wasn’t sent through a dozen filters to make it the most palatable for all audiences. The film has no problem dipping into some really dark stuff and I’m not just referring to a Gremlin being cooked in a microwave. Kate’s monologue about her father’s death was horrifying.

What I Didn't Like About It:
 -It blew my mind when Gizmo first gets wet and is obviously screaming out in pain as the other Gremlin hatchlings are exploding from his back that neither Billy nor Pete seem to care one bit about Gizmo. It was arguably the most disturbing scene in the whole movie.

-The ending was not the happy ending we all wanted, but it was probably the mature and responsible ending which was most realistic considering what happened.

-The movie is about twenty minutes too long. The original cut was 2 hours and 40 minutes, which I could not imagine sitting through.

Additional Notes:
-The set for Kingston Falls is the same one used in Back to the Future.

-Apparently the studio felt the film featured too many Gremlins, and sent a note to Joe Dante and Steven Spielbeg. Spielberg responded with offering to cut them all out of the movie and retitled it “People.”

-This film, along with Red Dawn, and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom are credited with help creating the PG-13 rating. Gremlins was rated PG, which many felt was too tame, but it wasn't hard enough for an R rating.

-All of the Gremlins were animatronic and cost between $30,000 and $40,000 apiece. They were brought onto the set in trunks and guarded by security to make sure they weren’t stolen.

-It was released the same day as Ghostbusters.

-Originally Stripe was going to be Gizmo as he turned into a Gremlin but Steven Spielberg felt that at least one Gremlin should remain good so that the audiences could relate.

-The original script was much darker included several on-screen deaths including Billy’s mom. There was also a scene where the Gremlins were at McDonalds eating people instead of burgers.

-It was the first movie in years to use the Warner Brother’s shield logo. The logo was restored for the movie and there was an attempt to include the Loony Tunes short “Falling Hare” where Bugs Bunny plays a Gremlin. The Loony Tunes deal didn’t work out but the shield logo was used.

-Mushroom, who played Billy’s dog, was also Lance Henrikson’s dog in Pumpkinhead.

-Gremlins was the fourth highest grossing film of 1984. Ahead of it were:
1. Beverly Hills Cop
2. Ghostbusters
3. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Gremlins is a classic. It still looks great and is a fun movie to watch. It features some great voice work and fantastic animatronics, but it does run a little long and has some dry spots in it. I’m attempting to assemble a yearly Christmas watch list and was hoping to add Gremlins to it, but I just don’t see myself watching this film every single year. I think I’ve just seen it too many times in the past.

Everyone should see Gremlins once, and while it isn’t a perfect movie, it’s a fun movie that is well worth your time. I rate it a seven out of ten and say it’s a high priority rental.

Dracula 2000 Review (2000)

My History With the Film:
Dracula 2000 flew right under my radar. I don’t recall seeing a single trailer for the movie or hearing anything about it. My introduction to the film came in the form of a VHS screener that was sent to the Blockbuster I worked at. Back in the video store days, the film companies would occasionally send movies out early for employees to watch. This helped educate the employees and encouraged them to recommend the films to customers.

I was working when the screener came in, and after seeing Wes Craven’s name on the front cover, I immediately put my name on it. I went home and watched the movie that night and really enjoyed it. It was a modern take on the old Dracula story that seemed to work well for the time it was released.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
A group of thieves unknowingly release Count Dracula, who heads to New Orleans to find the daughter of his arch nemesis Van Helsing.

What I Liked About It:
- The movie oozes with late 90’s cool. It captures the fashion, vibe, and even absurd product placement. Did anyone want to visit a Virgin Records after seeing this?

-Vitamin C can act! So, Vitamin C was a two hit wonder in 1999 whose hit song, The Graduation Song which was a very popular in high schools across the country. Horror films from this era loved to cast hip singers/rappers and this was met with mixed results. Vitamin C is one of the ones that actually worked out well and it’s a shame this role didn’t lead to better opportunities.

-I was shocked a few years ago to see that Dracula was played by the then unknown Gerald Butler. I was pleasantly surprised at how good he was and well he plays the dark, mysterious figure. He was a very effective Dracula, something I couldn’t see him playing in 2017.

-I remember loving the Christian storyline in the film and found it to be a fascinating twist, however, this isn’t nearly as impactful when watching now.

-The casting of this movie was insane. They just cast anyone with any sort of popularity and who was available at the time. You had Jeri Ryan from Star Trek Voyager, the before mentioned Vitamin C, and Danny Masterson from That 70’s Show. The remaining cast Omar Epps, Jennifer Esposito, Christopher Plummer, Nathan Fillion, and Sean Patrick Thomas were all well rounded and fit with in the movie.

-Great late 90’s soundtrack featuring the likes of Disturbed and Linkin Park.

What I Didn’t Like About It:
-Surprisingly, the two actors that just didn’t seem to really fit in this movie were the two leads: Jonny Lee Miller and Justine Waddell. This movie could have used one of those big name TV teen actresses that Dimension Films liked to cast.

-The third act actually bogs the film down. Prior to it, the first two acts come across almost like a Buffy The Vampire Slayer episode without the humor. I think this film works best when Dracula is stalking and not actually around in person.

-The CG is a mixed bag. Some of it is really well done and some of it is not (I’m thinking the scene with Danny Masterson and the smoke on the plane as an example of it not working.)

- I actually forgot that this film was not directed by Wes Craven until my most recent viewing. His name was so heavily advertised that you’ll find this movie on Hulu under the “W”s for Wes Craven Presents: Dracula 2000.

Additional Notes:
-One of the writers Joel Soisson, wrote Trick or Treat, the 80’s heavy metal horror flick.

-The Weinstein’s bought this film just for its title Dracula 2000.

-Two sequels were made: Dracula 2 and Dracula 3 which were both directed by Dracula 2000 director Patrick Lussier.

-Cast members with roles in other notable horror films:
  • Jennifer Esposito (I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, Don’t Say a Word)
  • Omar Epps (Scream 2)
  • Danny Masterson (The Faculty)
I was a little intimidated going back in to watch Dracula 2000 here in 2017. The film surprised me though; it didn’t come off too hokey and for the most part is a decent flick. I think the Weinstein’s knew they put together a ho-hum film and that’s why they attached Wes Craven’s name to the box, just to try and give it some credibility.

I like the opening scene and the middle of the movie, but I think the biggest flaw of the film is the lead actress Justine Waddell who is just not sympathetic. As she begins to dominate the screen time towards the end of the flick, I feel the movie stops being as effective and ends much weaker than it began.

I think fans of Dracula who don’t mind something a little different will enjoy this flick. Fans of the late 90’s teen horror (although this is very debatable on whether or not it’s a teen horror film) should also find a few things to enjoy. However, as a film, I’d say this is a 5.5 out of 10 and a low priority rental.

Idle Hands Review (1999)

My History With the Film:
Idle Hands was the type of movie that I was “too cool” in high school to watch. It was hip, over-the-top, and a lot of fun, but I was too busy brooding and praising the cinematic work of real horror directors like Carpenter, Craven, and Romero. I sometimes wish I could go back in time and slap myself and tell me to lighten up and enjoy what the present has to offer. I missed out on so many good things by keeping my head buried in the past and dismissing all the present had to offer.

I ended up seeing Idle Hands around 2001 when I started working for Blockbuster. We got free movie rentals and I saw Jessica Alba on the back cover and figured it was worth a watch just for her. Jessica Alba led me to rent the movie, but the movie itself kept me entertained. It was a fun, fascinating flick that reminded me a lot of The Frighteners in parts. It kept that goofball 90’s teen vibe, while walking a fine line between horror in comedy that so many films fail at doing. I really enjoyed Idle Hands and have revisited a couple of times since that first viewing and it still holds up quite well.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
A stoner’s right hand is possessed by the spirit of a serial killer.

What I Liked About It:
-Devon Sawa (Final Destination), Seth Green (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and Elden Henson (The Mighty Ducks) make a hilarious trio of stoners. In fact, I’d argue that Seth Green and Elden Henson steal the show anytime they are on the screen. They remind me a lot of the ghosts in The Frighteners.

-The movie is a third stoner film, a third horror, and a third teen comedy. It’s such a strange hodgepodge of genres that doesn’t try and operate tongue in cheek nor does it take itself too serious. It’s just a fun, goofy movie, about a possessed hand.

-Vivica A Fox (Independence Day) goes in with a crazy over-the-top performance that works in this film. It reminds me of Lucy Lawless (Xena) in Ash vs The Evil Dead.

-The soundtrack is fantastic. The Offspring make an appearance in the film and of course contribute to the film’s soundtrack. Sublime, Motley Crue, and 2 Live Krew have songs peppered throughout the film.

What I Didn’t Like About It:
-I actually forgot how much stoner humor was in this film. I’ve never been a fan of stoner films, but this film has enough teen movie in it that I can tolerate it.

-Jack Noseworthy’s character Randy really serves no purpose in this film. It also bothers me that they call him Randy because he looks like a grown up Jonathan Taylor-Thomas, who went by the name Randy on Home Improvement.

-This film is a comedy first that has some horror elements. I would have liked a little more horror since not once did I ever feel that anyone was in jeopardy.

Additional Notes:
-The magician Christopher Hart played the hand. He also portrayed Thing in The Addams Family.

-The school gym where the Halloween dance takes place was also used in the Buffy The Vampire Slayer movie and Jawbreaker.

-Idle Hands was a massive box office flop, earning only 4 million of its 25 million dollar budget back.

Idle Hands is a fun movie and a worthy watch if you enjoy late 90’s teen horror flicks. It’s full of humor, a very attractive love interest, lovable losers, and a demonic hand. I wouldn’t say it’s a priority to see, but if you are looking for something a little different and something with a little humor, Idle Hands is a worthy watch especially for Seth Green and Elden Henson.

I rate Idle Hands a six and a half out of ten and say it’s a low priority rental.