Village of the Damned Review (1995)


My History With the Film:
1995 was my breakout year for horror movies. I was eleven/twelve years old and my dad had already introduced me to Halloween and he wasn’t restricting the films that I rented anymore. If it looked scary, I rented it, and Village of the Damned was one of those films.

At the time, I had no idea who John Carpenter was, nor that he was the same man who directed Halloween, but I was sold on Village of the Damned thanks to Christopher Reeve and cool box art. Village of the Damned is rather tame and feels very much like one of those early-to-mid 90’s horror films with a side of John Carpenter styling/music. 

I rented Village of the Damned and taped it onto another VHS tape which my brother I watched dozens of times from 1996-1998. By then, I was done with Village of the Damned and had moved onto to other newer films. I actually forgot Village of the Damned existed until a couple years ago when I ran across the title and I put it on my list of films to revisit. After a lucky thrift store find, I came home with Village of the Damned and popped it in to see how it held up.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
Everything alive in a small town passes out for a few hours. Nine months later, several women in the town gave birth to children who look similar and seem to share a collective mind.

What I Liked About It:
-Village of the Damned doesn’t feel like a typical John Carpenter movie, but every once in a while it dips into that “John Carpenter world” and I love that. The music also goes from boring but serviceable into badass John Carpenter synth in a matter of moments.

-I admittedly haven’t seen a lot of Christopher Reeve films outside of the Superman movies, but man was he a talented actor. His performance far and away is above everyone else and he really grounds the picture and makes it tragic.

-The children walk a fine line between creepy, haunting, and so annoying you want to strangle. Kudos to the child actors/actresses and the direction they were giving. Watching them march around 2x2 is a very frightening sight.

-There is one truly disturbing moment in the film ::SPOILER:: When Mara forces Barbara to repeatedly stick her hand into the boiling pot of soup really got to me. It’s something about not being able to control your own body and then doing harm to yourself that is unsettling. ::END SPOILER::

-Although there is not much gore in this film, the few times we do see something unsettling it’s well done.

What I Didn't Like About It:
-Growing up I was a big Kristie Alley fan, but while watching this film I felt like they could have casted the role better. Her performance left a lot to be desired and it felt like she was there to pick up a paycheck. She really phoned in her performance.

-It’s hard to categorize this film as a horror film, because it plays out more like a supernatural drama with a couple of horror moments. Then there is an element of science fiction in it, so it’s really impossible to truly place this film into a genre. It also makes watching it a bit strange, because you never know exactly what you are supposed to take from the film.

-When the John Carpenter moments show up (parts of the score, certain cuts, and the horror elements) the film really works, the rest of the time it’s really hit and miss. It feels like a film that John Carpenter made, but the studio got involved with, brought in a different director and then edited themselves.

-It’s hard for me to watch this film and not think of the wonderful Twilight Zone episode, “It’s a Good Life.” Sadly, “It’s a Good Life” is a better story and I think the run time helps. Village of the Damned would be a great entry in a one hour horror anthology series, but I don’t think there is enough substance to truly justify a feature length run-time.

Additional Notes:
-The film was shot in Marin County, California where John Carpenter owned a home. The locals were not happy with the filming and attempted to break into equipment trucks. One person would even crank a chainsaw or turn on a lawn mower during a sound take, and wouldn’t turn it off until he was paid.

-Christopher Reeve’s final feature film before becoming paralyzed.

-John Carpenter filmed Village of the Damned as part of a contractual assignment and it was not a project he was passionate about. I think this is why the film barely resembles a John Carpenter film. 

-Wolf Rilla, the director of the original Village of the Damned visited the set with his wife.

-The poor box office return on Village of the Damned killed The Creature of the Black Lagoon remake John Carpenter was working on with Universal.

Rating:
Rewatching Village of the Damned was an entertaining nostalgic trip for me, but I feel like this was one of those movies that was better left in the past. Had you asked me to review it based off what I remembered, I would have easily said it was four out of five, but having re-watched it, I'm hard pressed to say it's better than two out of five.

I suggest you skip Village of the Damned unless you are a John Carpenter completionist.

A Look at Kevin Smith's Horror Films

It’s wild to think about how far my fandom of Kevin Smith has come and evolved over the years. At one point, his movies were my life. Now, they are fun nostalgic memories that I like to revisit every couple of years.

I don’t follow Mr. Smith and his projects nearly as close as I once did, but whenever a new movie comes along I check it out. Clerks II was the last great Kevin Smith film in my eyes, although as much as I loved that film, I think the pinnacle in my fandom occurred around the time Jersey Girl released. Which, to me, is still one of his better movies and it’s a damn shame he takes every moment to crap on it. But that’s beside the point. Today, I’m here to talk a little about Kevin’s most recent films, a dramatic shift from dick and fart jokes comedy into grotesque horror.

To sum everything up quickly, Kevin said that he always loved horror films and wanted to make the type of movies he enjoyed as a kid. So he created a few strange monster movies that were inspired by the monster films of the 70’s. I guess, the films are inspired, but they don’t feel anything like a 70’s horror film. Sadly most of his horror entries come off more like the mindless ramblings of a stoner who thinks a bad idea is something is funnier and more interesting than it actually is. With that being said, let’s take a quick look at each film.


Red State (2011) – Red State was a movie I avoided for a very long time. The angry teenager in me would be all over a film where teenagers are lured into a crazy Mid-West church under false pretenses. But in my mid-twenties when this came out, I just wasn’t something I interested in. I was sick of hearing about Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church, so seeing a movie inspired by them was not something I rushed out to do.

But one day I was browsing through Best Buy and the Red State DVD was cheap so I picked it up and went home and watched a very well made flick. It’s intense and has some incredible acting by Michael Parks, Anna Gunn, and John Goodman. In fact, Anna Gunn and John Goodman both began a bit of a career upswing after this film, and Ben Affleck cast quite a few of the actors/actresses in Argo. I think the film had more of an impact than most people wanted to admit, but it was just a little too weird to get the critical acclaim an impactful film usually does.

I think some people might have a hard time categorizing Red State as horror, but I think it has enough uncomfortable moments to fall on that thin line between horror and thriller. The whole capturing teenager’s vibe of the film is very reminiscent of the typical 2000’s horror films like Hostel, Wolf Creek, etc.

It’s a onetime watch, but an enjoyable one.


Tusk (2014) – Tusk stars the criminally underrated Justin Long and Michael Parks. The plot of the movie was inspired by a fake ad put in a newspaper about a man wanting to sew another man into a walrus suit. Kevin started outlining the movie as a joke on his podcast, and then got the idea that this would make a great movie.

Great is not how I’d describe this. It’s decent, maybe it even sucks. I didn’t feel like it was a waste of time, but I certainly have had no interest in revisiting it anytime in the future. The suit in the film is pretty awesome, and Michael Parks is fantastic, but the movie lacked any real substance and is quickly forgettable (outside of one scene involving a suit).

The worse scene (and the only other one I remember) involves Johnny Depp in a very strange role. The worst part about his scene is that he is not really edited. It’s almost as if Kevin just put a camera on him and told him to do his thing, and well, it comes off long, strange, and boring as hell.


Holidays (2016) – Holidays is a horror anthology (something I love) and Kevin directed the Halloween short. All the shorts are based on a holiday, and Kevin was seemingly delivered with the easiest one to do. Unfortunately, he bumbled it big time and while being the only known director as part of the anthology, his short is widely considered the worst.

The short plays off like something a high school film student would come up with. It’s a real bad paint-by-numbers Twilight Zone-esque story that isn’t even really a single act, but more or less a transition piece. The less said about this the better.


Yoga Hosers (2016) – I was pretty excited when this film was first announced. I haven’t been thrilled with Harley Quinn Smith’s (Kevin’s daughter) acting, but the film also featured Johnny Depp’s daughter, Lily-Rose Depp, and I hoped the two real life friends would have chemistry. The plot information also hinted at a bit of a Clerks vibe, just with chicks so things were sounding great. Then I heard about the villain. Kevin Smith was going to play mouse sized Nazi sausages, and that is when I immediately stopped following the production of the film.

This sounded like another stoner’s dream picture, and I just have no interest in that.

When Yoga Hosers hit Netflix, I decided to turn it on for ten minutes and see how bad it was. I was shocked, it was actually pretty enjoyable. The acting is pretty subpar, Johnny Depp returns as his character from Tusk and is annoying, and the Nazi sausages are extremely stupid, but the film is fun. It’s dumb fun, but fun. The film really lacks horror, but if you are looking for ninety minutes of what feels like a true indie film, than Yoga Hosers is worth the watch. Just don’t go in expecting the quality of Clerks, Chasing Amy, or Dogma.

While, not an official Kevin Smith horror film, I didn't think I could say this post was complete without mentioning Kevin Smith's cameo in Scream 3. Both he and Jason Mewes appeared as their Jay and Silent Bob personas for a quick cameo. Kevin had a great working relationship with Harvey Weinstein and I guess someone figured having Jay and Silent Bob show up would be a neat gag.


Being such a huge Kevin Smith fan, when I first saw it I squealed with glee. Looking back on it now, it makes me cringe. It doesn't fit the tone of the Scream series and really had no business being in there.

The Michael Myers Connection - A Personal Story

Note: This article was originally published back in October 2015 on a retro themed website. It wasn't written with horror movie fans in mind so it goes out of its way to simplify some statements about Michael Myers. Still, this is a fun story that I thought would make for a good read this Halloween season with the success of the new movie and the upcoming holiday.

I was twelve years old when my father bought me my “first” horror movie, Halloween. It was in October, and Blockbuster had released the film under their own brand label. I remember standing near the registers and seeing the stack of VHS tapes. He picked one up and asked me if I had seen it and when I said no, he smiled and said that I was going to love it. It was strange, not only because my dad was willingly letting me see a horror movie, but he was actually buying it. My dad didn’t believe in buying movies. I believe that was the first and last movie he ever bought.


I had seen a few horror movies prior to that night like Pet Semetery and Popcorn. I wasn’t one of those kids who scared easily, and my parents were extremely lenient on the films that I watched. All the violent 80’s action was allowed, I just had to cover my eyes during sex scenes. But horror movies weren’t watched in my home, so I hadn’t seen very many of them.

I was exploding with excitement when I got home. I was armed with my very first horror film, and I wanted to watch it in style. So I went to my room, turned off the lights, and turned on Halloween. I’m pretty sure I didn’t sleep at all that night.

What I saw was a wonderful yet terrifying film. It had such a simple plot, and it reeked of the 70’s, but it was still scary. The presence that Michael Myers had was brilliant, and the fact that he just kept on coming after Laurie no matter what she did to him was what really sent it over the top. He was just this emotionless beast of a man who could not be reasoned with. He wasn’t satisfied until everyone was dead.


So, not only does the film have the amazing character Michael Myers, the film also has a creepy and memorable score by John Carpenter, amazing use of space in each scene, and a great supporting cast. It was the perfect storm to terrify a young boy. Oh yea, did I mention my last name is Myers?

After I recovered from my initial viewing, I proceeded to watch the film three or four more times over the course of the month. I anxiously awaited our next trip to the video store because I wanted to look for sequels. I wasn’t sure there were any, but I vaguely remember seeing a box with a pumpkin on it in the horror section before. If there were sequels, I had to see them all.


I was rewarded on that next trip, since Halloween 2, 3, 4, and 5 were all on the shelf. I rented two and three, and was thrilled to see that Halloween 2 begins just where Halloween ended. I loved the connected story and was really hoping Halloween 3 just kept it all going as one long story.


I sat through an hour of Halloween 3 and it didn’t once mention Michael Myers. I was so upset, I ended up fast forwarding to the end of the tape hoping for a glimpse of the man in the painted white Captain Kirk mask. Sadly, the film had nothing to do with Michael Myers. He wasn’t in it, and it was a completely original story. I was so angry and disappointed, I considered Halloween 3 to be an abomination for years.


On my next trip to the video store I rented Halloween 4 and 5. When I got there I headed straight for the horror section and actually read the back of the boxes to make sure I wasn’t getting screwed again. Once I confirmed Michael’s presence in each film, I rented them both. I went home and had a blast with the new Halloween films, but it wasn’t the same. Halloween was the scariest, two had some great jumps, but four and five were just interesting. They weren’t really scary, and weren’t really all about Michael Myers, but they were still part of the storyline, so I was happy that it continued.

Halloween was my gateway into horror. First it was Halloween, then Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Sleepaway Camp, etc. Once I got in, my fandom ran wild. Every rental I got was spent on horror movies, good or bad. It took about a year, but I finally exhausted our local video stores of their horror films and moved onto other things.

A few months later, I was browsing the movie times in the newspaper when I noticed an advertisement for a midnight showing of Halloween 6. There was no other information, nor show times, so I called the theater to make sure it was Halloween 6, since I didn’t even know another film had come out. The person on the phone told me they only had one showing, because the movie sucked and no one came to see it. That didn’t turn me off, I immediately went into whining pre-teen boy mode and begged my dad to take me. Yeah… it didn’t work.

About a year later, we moved from Orlando, Florida to Dallas, Texas. It was an exciting move for us because for the first time ever, my brother and I were getting our own separate bedrooms. That’s a big step in the life of a child.

We arrived in town early on Tuesday morning, and once we got the truck unloaded my dad took us out for our moving ritual. Once the boxes were in the house, we’d get in the car, find the nearest video store, rent some movies, grab a pizza, and go home and relax. All the unpacking would wait until the next day.

I scanned the new releases of the Videorama when I noticed a familiar face staring back at me emotionless. It was the face of Michael Myers, or I should say, the mask of Michael Myers. It was on the box of the VHS release of Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers. You would have thought I won the lottery from the squeal I let out, and I went sprinting across the store with no regard for my safety or others, just to find my dad to show him.


My dad shrugged, unamused, but he agreed to rent the film. I fidgeted all over the place during dinner. I just couldn’t wait until we ate so I could go watch Halloween 6 and my dad could watch whatever boring film he picked out. Once I finally got excused, my little brother was hot on my heels wanting to watch the movie too. I was excited at the idea of sharing my fandom with him, so we turned off the lights and popped the tape in the VCR.

It took me a minute to realize the grown woman was supposed to be the little girl from Halloween 5 and 6. I tried to explain to my brother who she was but it was useless. The movie was moving so fast, I wasn’t even sure what was going on. The next ninety minutes was a blur. There was the familiar music, the guy from Clueless, some cool deaths, and a confusing storyline about a cult. The only major thing that I took from the film was that Michael Myers was destined to kill off his bloodline. He would stop at nothing until he killed every single Myers out there.

My brother was shaken up after his first experience with Halloween. He was more confused than I was but he got the jest of what a killing machine The Shape was. It’s hard not to be scared by Michael Myers the first time you see him, so being the older brother, I decided to use this to my advantage.

Once the film was over, I turned the lights on and walked over and sat down on the edge of the bed and looked concerned at the floor. My brother was confused and just looked at me. I let a few seconds pass, then I took a deep breath and said quietly, “Now you know why we move so much.”

He looked up at me startled, so I kept going.

“Military families don’t move every three years. They move like once every ten years. We have to stay on the move from Michael.”

My brother had a look of both intense fear and confusion. “You’re just messing with me.”

I managed to keep a straight face, and began “No… I’m not. Michael Myers is our uncle. No one in the family talks about him, because of how bad he is. And you saw the movie, he’s out there attempting to kill off our entire family. He’s coming for us, so Dad keeps moving us so he can’t find us.”

I could tell he wasn’t buying it completely, but the moving statement justified his possible existence which was working in my favor.

“It’s a family secret. When you become ten they’ll explain it all to you. I just thought you should know about it beforehand in case he catches up with us sooner rather than later. Cause know this... he will catch up with us. No one escapes Michael Myers.”

The color left his face with that zinger. He began stammering, “I’m going to go ask Dad right now.”

“Go, but he won’t tell you the truth. He doesn’t think you’re old enough. He wants you to be a kid for as long as you can be before you have to spend every day wondering if that’s the day Michael Myers finds you and kills you.”

“Whatever Brandon. I’m going to my room. You’re a jerk.”

He grabbed the sleeping bag off the floor and walked down the hallway into his room. I heard his TV turn on almost instantly and I had a good laugh. It was evil. I know that, but it was hilarious at the time. Little did I know, he would end up getting the last laugh.

I was exhausted. We had moved all the furniture and boxes inside, spent the day seeing part of the new town, ate some pizza and watched a movie. It had been a full day, so I cut off my light, and crawled into bed. It was heaven. I was finally free to move around as I please and decorate the entire room. I went to bed smiling knowing that tomorrow was going to be spent decorating.

The next morning I woke up to the sound of snoring. Since I was hearing it, I knew it wasn’t me. I took a glance around the room realizing that I was in my room at our new home, while the snoring continued. As my eyes fully adjusted, I noticed my brother asleep on the floor next to my bed.

I didn’t say a word about him sleeping in my bedroom for the first three nights. I figured it was my punishment for scaring him. After the third night, I sat him down and explained that I really was a jerk and was just messing with him. Michael Myers is fake, Halloween never happened, and yes, military families move every three years. The look he gave me wasn’t too unlike the one he gave when I was first explaining our relation to Michael Myers. He didn’t know whether to believe me or not, so I kept repeating myself in a desperate attempt to get him to believe me and begin sleeping in his own room.

After twenty minutes of my pleading, he finally accepted that I was a jerk and I had made it all up. He agreed to start sleeping in his room, and said I would play some board game he loved and I hated. It was all going great and I was finally getting my room totally to myself, then just as he was walking out the door he stopped and turned around with a very serious look on his face.

“If you made this all up, then why do you have that?”

He pointed toward a Michael Jordan poster that hung right over my bed. It wasn’t the poster that he was pointing to, but instead the Mark of the Thorn I made out of popsicle sticks the day before and hung from a push pin.


The Mark of the Thorn was a simple triangle with a base that extends past the normal dimensions of the triangle. In Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers, the cult that supports Michael Myers all have the mark tattooed on them. I thought it looked neat, and when I saw a box of popsicle sticks, I figured I’d just make one for decoration. What a mistake that was.

My brother assumed that I had the popsicle Mark of the Thorn up to protect myself from Michael Myers. Everything I had been telling him over the past half hour was now bunk in his eyes. He would hear no more of it, as far as he was concerned, Michael Myers was coming for our family.

Eight months… that’s how long he slept in my room every single night. I tried to get my dad to intervene, even if it meant I got in trouble for scaring him. My dad thought it was hilarious and figured the best punishment for me would be having to deal with the monster I had created.

I don’t recall what finally made my brother begin sleeping in his own room. I know over time he watched the other Halloween films, since I had started collecting them, and maybe he realized that they were works of fiction or it was highly unlikely that Michael Myers would ever find us. I don’t really know. Just one night he was gone and I finally, after eight months, got my room to myself.

My brother likes to tell that story to his friends anytime I meet a new one. He loves making me look like a jerk, but more importantly, he loves telling the story of how I terrified him into loving Halloween.

I look back and think, man, I was a jerk and a bully, but there was no harm done. My brother moved on from his fear and instead embraced it as a passion. I know he has no regrets, and loves the story of how he came to love Michael Myers.


Halloween (2018) Review


My History With the Film:
Halloween is my favorite horror movie franchise. I say this not because they are the highest of quality or even the most enjoyable films, but because it’s the franchise that made me love horror movies. I’ve followed it throughout the years and have a lot of fond memories sharing Michael Myers with others.

When a new Halloween (not made by Rob Zombie) was being discussed, I got excited. Then I heard that Danny McBride was writing it and I just assumed it was going to be a parody. I know a lot of people hate Halloween Resurrection, and it’s far from perfect, but Rob Zombie’s films were a step in the wrong direction and a parody would pretty much end the franchise once and for all.

Luckily for us, I was wrong and it was being written as a legit Halloween movie. Not only that, the filmmakers decided to draw inspiration from the original and create a direct sequel to it. Part of me was disappointed, because I’d love to see how they’d try to untangle the mess that is the Halloween franchise, but for the sake of making a good film and bringing in the mainstream audience a simple follow up sounded perfect.

I anxiously awaited the filming and release for the movie for over a year now. I did my best to avoid any spoilers and only watched the first two trailers released. I bought tickets for the 7 PM showing the opening Thursday, October 18, 2018 and tickets for Sunday, October 21, 2018. I needed to see it a second time with my brother, because we bonded over the Halloween franchise growing up, something I’ll post a blog about in the near future.

I had a great time and really enjoyed the film. I liked it even better the second time around.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
After being incarcerated for forty years, Michael Myers escapes to resume his stalking of Haddonfield and Laura Strode.

What I Liked About It:
-John Carpenter came back to score the film and damn does it sound good. There is one piece of music which I’ll link here (be forewarned, the title can be somewhat spoilerish) but I absolutely love it! It sounds so good loud and really was frightening.

-The casting was great all around. There were no major weak links and I really loved the young cast especially Andi Matichak (Allyson) and Virginia Gardner (Vicky). Both Nick Castle and James Jude Courtney were tremendous as Michael Myers and I honestly feel like it was the best performance of the character to date. It probably helped that outfit was good and the mask was beyond perfect.

-The film didn’t rely on jump scares and actually worked to create tension. I loved it. There were some wonderful deaths that went a little beyond what I think we’re used to seeing in slashers recently (say in the past twenty years), but it felt appropriate. I liked that some of the deaths occurred off screen and that really made the ones we saw on screen that much more terrifying.

-There are lots of little nods to the previous films that I think most people will not even realize, but those of us who’ve seen the Halloween films dozens of times are certainly going to notice them. A good way to describe it’s almost like how The Force Awakens paid its respect to A New Hope. Halloween did the same thing, but it was better executed than Star Wars.

-Michael Myers was reestablished as Evil Incarnate. He’s simply a man with no soul, no identity, just evil and that makes him terrifying.

What I Didn't Like About It:
-There is a plot line involving Michael’s doctor that I wasn’t thrilled about. In fact, there is one scene in the film that during the first viewing I almost lost my mind thinking the filmmakers were going to try and break the mold and change the franchise because of this character. Luckily, it was well handled, but for about three minutes I was worried that the film had jumped the shark. It kind of took me out of the movie it was such a horrible tease, so I enjoyed the second viewing more because I didn’t damn near black out due to anger.

-There is some good humor in the film, but it feels a bit out of place in a Halloween film. I write this off as being a nice way to update the franchise for 2018 and I feel like the humor works 85% of the time. However, there are a few moments where I feel like it hurt the film and it also made it easier for the audience to laugh during serious moments, so watching the film with a sold out theater could be a bit annoying.

-The ending is good, but not great. It has that awesome impactful moment, but then the last few seconds make you wonder if they just couldn’t figure out a good way to end the film. The final scene is just one I’ve seen too many times in horror movies.

-There is still a part of me that wishes they would have attempted the massive (almost impossible task) of explaining the sequels. I’m actually okay with most of them being ignored, but I would have loved for Halloween II and H20 to have remained as part of this canon.

Additional Notes:
-Halloween was originally scheduled to be two films shot back-to-back, but they decided to just do one film and learn from it before starting a sequel.

-Nick Castle, who reprised his role as Michael Myers forty-years later, is seventy years old. Which makes him the oldest actor to play Michael Myers.

-Cameron’s dad Lonnie, was in the original film. He was the bully who harassed Tommy Doyle and was scared by Dr. Loomis while outside of the Myers House.

-The gas station is almost an exact replica of the gas station featured in Halloween 4.

-As of October 22, 2018 – Halloween was the biggest horror movie opening with a female lead, biggest movie opening with a female lead over 55, and the biggest opening for a Halloween film. It has the second biggest opening for a horror movie ever and the second biggest October opening ever.

-The movie playing on the TV when Vicky takes Julian to bed is 1984’s Repo Man.

-PJ Soles, who portrayed Lynda in the original film, was Allyson’s teacher in Halloween 2018.

Rating:
Halloween 2018 is not a perfect film, but it is a damn good one. It’s a wonderful addition to the Halloween franchise and I’m thrilled that mainstream audiences have really embraced it. I’d argue that Michael Myers hasn’t been relevant since Halloween II, so it’s been wonderful hearing people of all walks of life discussing Halloween and talking about how scary Michael Myers is. I feel like the original slasher icon has stepped out of the shadow of Freddy and Jason to reassert himself as the King and this box office just goes to show that.

Having discovered my Halloween fandom right before Halloween 6 came out, I’ve never experienced this hype before. H20 did well, but was lost in the sea of similar horror movies that came out at that time. Resurrection was a bust, and the Rob Zombie films catered to an audience who wasn’t looking for a traditional Michael Myers story. This is the first time I’ve seen this type of reaction, merchandising, and press, and I’m loving it. It feels so good to be a Halloween fan right now.

I hate to try and rank films so soon after they come out, but as of this review, I’d say that Halloween 2018 is my second favorite film in the franchise behind the original. And I say it’s a must see film and would rate it a four out of five.

Popcorn Review (1991) - Splatterflix 2018 Recap

This past Saturday I attended Splatterflix, hosted by the Carolina Theater in Durham, NC. Each October, classic horror films from the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s are shown on the big screen in a weekend long celebration of horror. It’s been on my list of things to do for a few years now and in 2018 I finally made it to a showing: 1991’s Popcorn.


This movie has always had a special place in my heart because it was the first horror film I remember seeing. I recall seeing the amazing poster in the video store late 1991/1992, and shortly thereafter I managed to sit down and watch the film. Being so young and watching a forbidden horror movie was exciting and that experience has always stuck with me. I think its part of what drives me to continue watching horror films to this day.

Last year, I realized that I hadn’t seen Popcorn since that initial viewing. I wanted to see it again, but the blu-ray was selling for $40 on Amazon, so I put it on my Wishlist and decided to wait for a price drop that never came. Popcorn got shuffled back in the pack of films I wanted to watch and review, but when I saw Popcorn pop up in some advertising for Splatterflix, it was a no brainer, I was going to see it. Seeing Popcorn on the big screen was something I couldn’t pass up, and even better, Jill Schoelen who stars as Maggie was going to be in attendance as well!

But before I talk about the film and the experience at Splatterflix, I want to talk a little about a shop I visited a few blocks away from the Carolina Theater called The Little Shop of Horror.



This small store is packed full of horror goodies. There is a giant wall of VHS, DVDs, blu-rays, and horror soundtracks. On the backside of that are all sorts of figures, shirts, leggies, and other various goodies. The back wall has stickers, glasses, candles, cups, and more figures. Plus there are some great homemade stuff like soap and drink coasters. Needless to say I was blown away to find a full fledge horror shop open year round in North Carolina, and even more amazed to see how the prices were reasonable and the service was awesome.





After checking out The Little Shop of Horror I made the way back to The Carolina Theater to get ready for the show. There were vendors set up inside the lobby and there was even a girl dressed up as the nurse from Popcorn handling out cool little cards that said the theater was not responsible for anyone dying of shock. It was an awesome nod to William Castle, and I wish I realized it was from Popcorn because I would have totally got a picture with the girl! (That’s what I get for waiting over twenty-five years to revisit the film.)



The Carolina Theater opened in 1926 and is one of those lovely old theaters. Popcorn was shown in Fletcher Hall, which looks a lot like the theater used in the movie.


Before the film began, one of the Carolina Theater staff members introduced Jill Schoelen and she came out and said a few words. It was during this introduction that they did an audience poll to see how many people had seen Popcorn before. I’d say 90% of the audience had not seen the film yet. That shocked me, but I think it goes to show how underrated and underappreciated Popcorn truly is. Then again, you can say that about most 90’s horror, but if you are reading this blog then you probably already know that.

My first impression (and final impression) of Jill Schoelen was that she is an amazing, friendly, down-to-Earth actress. She takes her craft very serious, but doesn’t have the ego or attitude you get from so many celebrities. Having gone to so many cons over the years, you can tell when celebrities truly want to be somewhere and when they don’t. Jill seemed like she was enjoying the attention and interacting with the fans which was awesome.

Prior to the movie starting, the theater had an awesome promo reel that discussed the opening weekend of the film and listed off some trivia. It really set the audience up to be taken back in time to that opening weekend on February 1, 1991 and then only solidified those feelings by airing a vintage trailer of Body Parts.

Right before the film began I was a little nervous. I mean, this movie has been put on a pedestal in my head for years now. I knew most of the audience hadn’t seen it before and I could just see the audience turning on the film for being cheesy and making this a terrible experience for me. That may sound a little selfish, but I really wanted to have a good time and try and appreciate this film that began this obsession so many years ago.

Luckily, my worries were unfounded. The crowd seemed to enjoy the film and so did I. It was cheesy in spots, but overall the film was good. It was funny, gory, and just a lot of fun. I didn’t see the twist coming which was great and I walked out of Popcorn a bigger fan than I walked in.

Following the film, Jill did a twenty minute Q & A and discussed all sorts of aspects of the film. Some of the talking points were: the movie was filmed in Jamaica, working with Dee Wallace Stone, what it was like coming into the film halfway through filming, how editing a movie when coming into a movie late works, and how it was working with Robert Englund on The Phantom of the Opera.




Again, I have nothing but great things to say about Jill. She seemed so excited to be there and it was awesome. I regret not hopping in line and getting an autograph after the show.

Overall my experience at Splatterflix was awesome. The crowd was good, the theater was nice, and the movie was fantastic. Next year, I’m going to try and make a day of it and attend several movies in one day or at least a few over the entire weekend.

Now onto the review of Popcorn

My History With the Film:
I think most horror fans that are my age discovered horror through the brilliant VHS boxes in video stores in the 80’s and 90’s. There were so many iconic posters and artwork used to entice people to rent these movies, and Popcorn is one that always stood out to me. I was eight years old in 1991, and I knew I wanted to see that movie, I just wasn’t sure when or how I’d pull that off.

I don’t know if Popcorn was on HBO or if someone rented it and I ran across the tape, but sometime in 1991 or 1992 I finally watched Popcorn. I remember thinking the movie didn’t remind me of the poster (although looking back on it now, it was fitting) but the movie gave me the chills. I realized that day tht I really liked horror movies, and not just because I shouldn’t be watching them. It took me a few more years before I started renting horror films on a regular basis, but it was Popcorn that really put me on track to this fandom.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
A college film class decides to host a marathon of 1950’s horror/science fiction films complete with gimmicks ala William Castle. It’s all fun and games until people start dying for real.

What I Liked About It:
-The twist was great. I didn’t see it coming at all.

-I loved how they played homage to the William Castle gimmicks. I’m a fan of movie theater history and all of the crazy tricks and gimmicks he played in the 1950’s were amazing. Everything from parking ambulances outside of theaters to having ghosts fly through the audience sounds like a lot of fun. And with Popcorn’s plot being a film class is going to re-create those experiences really worked for me. Plus I love old theaters, so the setting was everything I wanted it to be.

-The acting overall was good with Jill Schoelen and Tom Villad really standing out the most. The majority of the characters were clichés, but it all worked within the story and I wasn’t expecting any ground breaking character development out of a movie titled Popcorn.

-The prosthetics, especially in the final scenes, were awesome. They were even impressive by 2018 standards.

-Popcorn is at its heart a slasher film. It’s hard to tell that from the poster or the first thirty minutes of the film, but it’s actually a slasher film and I love slashers!

What I Didn't Like About It:
-There is one supernatural scene that doesn’t quite fit the film. ::SPOILERS:: There is a moment when Suzanne (Dee Wallace-Stone) is pelted with the lettering from the marquee and the word Possessor appears and this is out of place since it turns out the killer is not a supernatural character. To be honest, I forgot about that scene until I did some research for this review, but it really does stick out now that I think about it. I guess you could write off as being a figment of Suzanne’s imagination since she was terrified that the person who killed her sister was back from the dead. That’s at least what I’m going to do in my head canon. ::END SPOILERS::

Additional Notes:
-The film is set in Los Angeles but was actually shot in Kingston, Jamaica. The “Dreamland Theater” is actually The Ward theater.

-Three weeks into shooting, the main actress was replaced by Jill Schoelen. Most of the cast had already shot their scenes, so quick re-shoots were done with Jill to complete the film.

-The original director Alan Ormsby was replaced three weeks by Mark Herrier who is mostly known for playing Billy in Porky’s.

-The original script had an element that dealt with Popcorn, thus the title of the film. However, after this element was cut, the producers and distributor liked the title so much that they kept it.

-The movie was a huge box office failure grossing just $2.5 million dollars on its opening weekend and finishing with $4.2 million dollars total domestic. Some theaters skipped the straight into second run theaters.

-During the opening scene when Maggie wakes up, she was actually woken up by the director who was pulling on her toe off screen. She was awarded the part of Maggie one day after finishing another project and then boarded a plane to Jamaica the following day. When she arrived late that night, she spent the early morning hours in wardrobe and began shooting her scenes the following morning. She had fallen asleep during the scene.

-The gimmicks in the movie theater (the flying mosquito, the electrified seats, and scent-o-rama) were inspired by the gimmicks that William Castle made so popular in the 1950’s.

-Jill Schoelen (Maggie) also starred in other notable horror/thriller films: The Stepfather, Cutting Class, and When a Stranger Calls Back.

-Kelly Jo Minter (Cheryl) had parts in A Nightmare on Elm Street 5, The People Under the Stairs, and The Lost Boys.

-The film crew in Jamaica were inexperienced and none of the sound was useable. Following production, looping was done in Canada.

Rating:
Popcorn exceeded my expectations. Horror films released between 1988-1992 tend to be hit and miss and with Popcorn falling right in-between those years I was prepared for it to be a terrible film. I was delightfully surprised to find a coherent, fun movie that didn’t take itself too serious, but also didn’t play itself up too much either. The film definitely has some comedy in it, and some cheesy moments, but the horror is real and you really get to see that in the final act.

I liked Popcorn a lot and I’m so glad I got to revisit it on the big screen. In all honesty, it’s a flawed, cheesy 90’s horror film that is not for everybody. But for me, between the nostalgia, the movie theater setting, and my fondness of films from this decade, it really worked.

I’d rate Popcorn a 4 out of 5 and say it’s a rental.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch Review (1982)

 

My History With the Film:
I've told the story about discovering my love of horror films through Halloween several times over the years. It was my first true introduction into the genre and it's a franchise I hold near and dear. If I had to make a guess, I'd say I've seen the first film at least 30 times, the second film 15 times, and the rest of the films somewhere between 5-10 times (excluding Rob Zombie's). In all these watches over all these years, I've never once sat down to watch Halloween 3.

When I first got into horror movies in the mid-90's, I heard nothing but bad things about Halloween 3 online. It was still relatively fresh in the minds of people who were disappointed that it didn't include Michael Myers, and I could understand why. I had no interest in seeing a Halloween film without Michael Myers. So, I just skipped it and pretended like it didn't exist.

Over the past ten years or so, I've noticed a change in the horror fanbase's feelings regarding Halloween 3. The tone has changed from "Halloween 3 is a disgrace" to "It's one of the better Halloween films" or "It's great as long as you don't expect Michael Myers to show up." Upon purchasing the Halloween blu-ray boxset last year, I decided that it was time to give Halloween 3 a shot, and on one dreary, rainy Sunday afternoon, I closed the curtains and got comfortable and gave Halloween 3 a fair shot.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
A doctor discovers that a Halloween mask company is planning to turn kids into real monsters on Halloween.

What I Liked About It:
-John Carpenter did the score for Halloween 3 and its wonderful. From the opening credits I knew I was listening to something special. His distinct synth sound is always a joy and sets the mood for the film. This soundtrack is quickly going into my spooky playlist rotation.

-John Atkins is a fantastic actor and this film was made for him to shine. He carries the film and provides the audience with a great "every man" to relate to.

-The special effects were top notch. There is a scene in a hotel room involving a minor character discovering a micro chip that was truly haunting. It takes a lot to give me the creeps, but this scene managed to do it, thanks in part by a very adventurous bug.

-The town (Lolita, California) that was used for Santa Mira has a very distinct look and feel to it. It's not quite abandoned mining town, but not quite strange small town. It feels like it exists in-between those two realms in some fantasy world.

-I loved the ending. Those last two minutes were perfect and I love the ambiguity of the ending.

-Although unnecessary, I enjoyed the nods to the original Halloween movies. I won't spoil them, but there are several scenes and actresses that pop up.

-The film is broken down into days that are leading up to Halloween and I really like when films use this chronological filmmaking technique. It helps the viewer build up to the big ending/reveal.

What I Didn't Like About It:
-::SPOILER:: You'll see me write this over and over again, but I hate body snatcher type movies and I hate robots. They do nothing for me and as much as I loved the first half of this film, once it turned into a robot story I began to lose interest in the story. Sadly, I love the idea of witchcraft in the computer age, especially of the early 80's, I just hate the use of animatronics.::END SPOILERS::

-I really liked almost everything about this movie, except for a certain part of the plot. You'll have to see the spoiler above, but I highly recommend you watch the movie before doing so.

-I'm good never hearing "London Bridge" again for the rest of my life.

Additional Notes:
-This is an interesting look at the original concept of having the Halloween franchise become an anthology series. Halloween 3 wasn't as strong of a movie compared to the first two Halloweens, but I really liked the concept. In a fantasy world I could see Trick R Treat being part of the Halloween anthology franchise and I like that thought.

-The idea behind turning the Halloween franchise into an anthology series was created by John Carpenter following the death of Michael Myers in Halloween 2. However, Halloween 3 under-performed and that plan was dropped.

-The gas station featured at the beginning and end of the film can also be seen in The Fog.

-The novelization of Halloween 3 went onto become a best seller, despite the critical failure of the film.

-The filmmakers used "London Bridge" as Silver Shamrock's jingle because it was in the public domain.

-The town name Santa Mira is the same town used in 1956's Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

-Joe Dante was the original director for Halloween 3, but dropped out to pursue another project.

Rating:
It's taken me over twenty years to finally get around to watching Halloween 3. In that time span I've heard a lot of good things and a lot of bad things about the film. I went in with an open mind and made no comparisons to the rest of the Halloween films. This was a standalone 80's horror movie as far as I was concerned.

With that being said, I liked a lot of the film. I like the cast, the music, the setting, and even the story. What I didn't like was an intricate part of the plot that I don't think would bother many others. In trying to keep things spoiler free, I can't dive into that too deeply (you can see what I'm talking about behind the spoiler tag above). I guess, I would say I enjoy 70% of what Halloween 3 is and despite having a great final minutes, I lost a lot of my interest during the last twenty minutes.

Overall I enjoyed what I saw and I'll definitely be listening to the soundtrack in the years to come, but I don't see myself revisiting this film anytime soon. I'd rate Halloween 3 a three out of five and say it's a rental.

99 Fear Street: The House of Evil - The Second Horror Review (1994-Book)

 

A couple of months ago I reviewed my first book here on 90’s Horror Review called The Reading Buddy. I had a lot of fun discussing the 90’s homage, and thought it would be interesting to go back and pick up an actual 90’s teen horror book. So, I took a trip to the used book store and ran across some Fear Street books, and like a mature adult, I picked out the one with the best looking cover. I took it home and dived right in, and let me tell you… I had a ton of fun. I don’t know why I skipped over these books as a teenager, but at least in this case, the book feels like a more mature version of a Goosebumps book and I like that. It’s easy to read, short, and just something fun to flip through when you got a few moments. I went back to the bookstore and picked up several more, along with some Point Horror books that I plan on reviewing in the future. Until then, enjoy my review of my first Fear Street book, The Second Horror from the 99 Fear Street: The House of Evil series.

My History with the Book:
I remember loving the front covers of the Fear Street books, but I never actually popped one open and read it. I believe that I felt like they were a little beneath my reading level and I just preferred to read Stephen King if I was going to read horror. My stupid arrogance caused me to miss out on a fun series of books during a time when they were mass produced and available everywhere. As I mentioned earlier, this is my first Fear Street book and I read it over the course of a week in March 2018.

What The Book is About:
Brandt McCloy and his folks move into a house on Fear Street with a troubling past. Things seem to go well for Brandt after he catches the attention of three young women in town, but what he doesn’t realize is that he’s caught the attention of a fourth: Cally Fraiser a ghost who haunts his new home and is insistent on destroying him and everyone close to him.

What I Liked About It:
-This book is actually the second book in a series of three books. Despite picking up the second book without having read the first, I was able to pick right up and enjoy the story. I’m not sure if the first book would have enriched the story for me, but I never once felt lost or out of touch with what was going on. 

-Brandt’s a likeable average guy. It’s strange because usually when dealing with teen entertainment, you see things from the perspective of a nerd or the school hero. In this book, Brandt is very normal. My reaction to him and what he does at times is very neutral. For example: when he begins garnering the attention of several ladies, Brandt isn’t overly impressed nor is thanking his lucky stars. He’s just very neutral about the whole thing, which is strange to see, but refreshing.

-The book starts off with an act of “accidental” violence that is damn graphic and was unexpected, especially when reading the book with my cat napping next to me. It helped me realize that Fear Street wasn’t Goosebumps and this RL Stine was less restricted in how he approached horror.

-Technologically we are in an age where most of our gadgets can help prevent horror from happening, or at least can get us help when it starts occurring. This is an issue that everyone working in horror has to deal with by either finding a way to disable technology or acknowledging it and working it into the narrative. It’s refreshing to read a horror book that doesn’t mention texting and where you feel like the characters are really cut off from one another unless they are in the same room.

-The story had a twist at the end that I didn’t 100% see coming. I knew something was up by the constant teasing of something being wrong with Brandt, but I really thought the twist worked and was a lot of fun. It kinda gives you a Tales from the Crypt type vibe.

-I’ve noticed over the past several years that my attention span has grown smaller when it comes to reading. I’m great with short stories and small novels, but I rarely bother with anything over 400 pages anymore. Fear Street books clock in a little over 100 pages and they are a fast, easy read. Many of the chapters end mid-scene as a sort of mini-cliff hanger that keeps you reading. This isn’t so much a review of the book itself, but of the format and I absolute love it.

-When you write a 120 pages book, you don’t have a lot of room for character development. I’m actually okay with that. I would prefer to read 120 pages of shallowly defined characters than 300 pages of masterfully written backstories and motives when it comes to a horror story. 

What I Didn’t Like About It:
-Horror, especially teen horror (well any teen entertainment in the 90’s), tends to be a bit cliché at times. You have the nerds, jocks, pretty girls, pretty girls who think they are ugly, etc. etc. Outside of Brandt, The Second Horror does nothing to break this tradition. I’m not saying it’s needed, but it would be nice to read a character that didn’t act exactly the way you expected them to act.

-I’ve never been a fan of island/indigenous folklore when it comes to horror and while this worked as a great vehicle for some of the plot, I’m just not a fan. 

Rating:
To properly review The Second Horror, I have to looked at the book and story from a proper point of view, that of a 90’s teenager. It would be easy to look at this book and criticize it for being short, lacking true development, and not bringing enough horror, but you must look at the audience this book was written for and the time that it was written. With that being said, if you are a grown adult with no nostalgic memories of these type of books or someone who prides themselves on only written “intellectual” type books, then this is a definite skip for you.

For someone like me, who loves 90’s horror and missed out on these books, this is a goldmine. It’s an untapped resource of 90’s horror for me to experience for the first time all over. This wasn’t Stephen King and I know that and I’m okay with that. The Second Horror was a quick, easy read that gave me some small frights and entertained me quite a bit. It reminded me a lot of Are You Afraid of the Dark, just a little darker. I rate 99 Fear Street: The Second Horror as a seven out of ten and say it’s worthy of picking up for a buck or so if you want something different to read.