Horror Reviews

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

DVD Review: The 'Burbs

Review by Kristin Battestella

Who hasn't seen The 'burbs, honestly? Tom Hanks' 1989 spooky comedy has laughs, star power, and a few scares to boot. Twenty years after its debut, The 'burbs continues to provide a tongue in cheek look at the horrors or suburbia, and it's entertaining, too.

Unassuming Ray Peterson (Hanks) suspects his new neighbors of foul play. The Klopeks don't mow their lawn and stay out of sight. When fellow neighbor Walter (Gale Gordon) goes missing, neighbors Art (Rick Duccommun) and Rumsfield (Bruce Dern) unite with Ray in investigating the seemingly sinister Klopeks. Of course, Ray's wife Carol (Carrie Fisher) just wants a nice simple vacation.

Hanks is perfect as everyman Ray. Younger fans who know Hanks more for his recent dramatic roles and Oscar winning performances (Philadelphia, Forrest Gump) will delight in his subtle comedy. Bosom Buddies fans, naturally, will love more from Hanks early comic genius.

Although Hanks is clearly the star of the film, the supporting cast completes The 'burbs. Without his fellow Corey Haim, Corey Feldman stands strong as Ricky-the punk of the block who aides the men in their quest. His asides and commentary of events as they unfold are still hysterical after many years and many viewings-partly because of Feldman's delivery, but also due to the sharp writing of Dana Olsen (Hit later with George of the Jungle, missed with Inspector Gadget.)

Post Star Wars Carrie Fisher plays the sardonic straight well with Hanks. As a child, I thought the public's impression of Fisher was incorrect. (My hair was long enough to twist into those God awful buns mind you.) Perhaps, not as successful as fellow Star Wars alum Harrison Ford, Fisher still worked in film through the nineties, and her performance here showcases her comedic range. In recent years, Fisher has become a best selling author and script doctor.

Bruce Dern has several perfect physical comedy moments. His military toys are unique props, as is his young and prissy wife Bonnie (Wendy Schaal). The scene where the two women take control and knock on the Klopek's door is just right, as is our long awaited introduction to the Klopeks. The brownies; the pretty girl that “came vit the frame”; the sardines and pretzels-all classic touches that will have you watching The 'burbs again and again.

Henry Gibson, Brother Theodore, and Courtney Gains play the spooky, un-neighborly Klopeks to a T. Although I've seen them all in other films, I always think, “Oh, He's in The 'burbs!” Their dry humor, innocent send ups, and final come to blows with Ray, Art, and Rumsfield never get old.

As much praise as I have for The'burbs, the film is not without its faults. The clothing and sets are mid eighties textbook-bad hair, wallpaper, and all. Ray's dream sequence has grown tiresome in recent years, and some of Art's dialogue I can do without. Modern audiences nursed on special effects might also find The 'burbs lack of major effects upsetting. For The 'burbs, it's not in the time, the place, or the effects. The movie's subtleties and veiled commentary on suburban life are its strengths.

Director Joe Dante's message that crazy neighbors are everywhere-especially in the seemingly blissful, perfectly mowed suburbs-is unfortunately not that far from the truth. In my own South Jersey community alone crime is on the rise. Today, some upstart filmmaker would tackle The 'burbs as a serious horror film with all the blood and gore our desensitized minds can take. Dante here smartly made The 'burbs an all out comedy-even though it does have a few genuine spooky moments.

Sure I saw it as a kid, but Ray's early glimpses of his crazy neighbors gave me the creeps. The bees nest, the ambiguous trash scene, even the 666 address of the Klopeks and the infamous femur bone. Swift attention to detail keeps The 'burbs smarter and more intelligent that today's sophomoric send ups. Simple uses of music cues, lightning effects, and dark camera shots keep this seemingly inept comedy fresh and in audience's mind long after your last viewing.

The 'burbs is a rare horror comedy (Horrody?) that the entire family can still enjoy and continue to enjoy for years to come. The presentation works on all levels-script, acting, direction-and is an extremely affordable DVD. A quality film that won't break the bank, food for thought, and a few jumps in your chair, who knew these gems could be found in a Corey Feldman movie?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

DVD Review: Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Review by 42nd Street Pete

2008, with Ron Pearlman, Selma Blair & others. Directed by Guillermo De Toro.

Should have been called Hellboy Goes to Pan’s Labyrinth. So many damn monsters that’s its overkill and just flatlines the whole thing. Add the fact that Hellboy starts to sound & act like Herman Munster when he’s around Blair. Another potentially great franchise shot to hell.

DVD Review: Pistol Whipped

Review by 42nd Street Pete

2008, starring Steven Segal and Lance Henriksen Directed by Roel Rene
If grind houses still existed, this would be at the bottom end of a triple bill. Former wife beater, now bloated beyond belief action star Segal looks fuckin' horrible in this film. The only reason I picked it up was because Lance Henriksen is in it. He’s only there for about 2 minutes, showing good career sense. Segal has always needed good co stars because he has the charisma of a dead toad.

Why this fat fuck has any fan base is beyond my comprehension. He has been paired with Gary Busey, Tommy Lee Jones, Pam Grier, William Forsythe, and other good actors because he sucks. Just ask William Forsythe what a dick he was to work with. I thought he was out of the business because he rolled over on some real “wise guys” a few years ago. Then he was co starring with a bunch of black rap & hip hop stars because on his own , he could draw flies.

This is your standard ex cop runs up huge gambling debt, mystery mans buys the debt and puts Stevie to work killing bad guys. Did you ever see a fat martial artist , except Sammo Hung, who could move fast? Steve just waddles through his fight scenes while his opponents sell their asses off for him. I bought both of these DVD's pre-viewed for $5 each and that was $9.99 too much.

DVD Review: Monster

Review by 42nd Street Pete

2008, staring Sarah Lynch & Erin Sullivan Directed by Erik Estenberg.
This was supposed to be better than Cloverfield? Sticking that palmcorder up my ass for 90 minutes would have been more entertaining than this piece of shit. Ok, I’ll say it, fuck Cloverfield, Diary of the Dead, and this handycam piece of shit. No more POV films, please. It’s done, the format sucks, we pay to see monsters, not two sisters arguing for 90 minutes. You see a bunch of tentacles at the end of the film. That’s it, your payoff after 90 minutes of tedium. This movie sucks. End of story.

Monday, December 15, 2008

DVD Review: Exorcism of Emily Rose

Review by Kristin Battestella

Exorcism movies are few and far between-I can only think of a handful of films minus the weak Exorcist sequels. 2005’sThe Exorcism of Emily Rose is the most recent theatrical release dealing with possessions by you know who.

Laura Linney (Congo) stars as hot shot lawyer Erin Bruner. She’s won several high profile cases, and her firm promises to make her a partner if she takes on Father Moore’s (Tom Wilkinson) intriguing case. The church doesn’t want any bad publicity, and Erin reluctantly defends the Priest accused of murder during the exorcism of Emily Rose.

The exorcism is uniquely contained entirely in flashbacks and court testimony, a very intriguing concept from director Scott Derrickson (Hellraiser: Inferno). Instead of an opening exorcism movie and a closing court room drama, the two are merged together. As witnesses recount Emily’s experiences, Erin also begins seeing things and having disturbing dreams. The storylines go hand in hand on some points and jar at others. Who is the film for-horror enthusiasts or Law and Order Junkies? Still, I liked the unusual style better than a thinly stretched exorcism movie with a confusing legalese sequel.

Linney holds her own Erin Bruner. The character actress does alright, but the trouble is her jack of all trades performances. She is neither horrible or stand out here, as in The Life of David Gale and The Truman Show. In what film has Laura Linney stolen the show? I don’t mean it as a knock, but any actress could have filled the role, and a bigger name might have given the picture more notice. Perhaps it was Derrickson and his handling of the dual performance? Is Erin a confident lawyer or a jittery and spooked girl?

Likewise we don’t see much of the film’s titular Emily Rose as played by Jennifer Carpenter. We meet her just before her troubles being-and everything from epilepsy to her evil big city college is blamed for Emily’s horrific episodes. Carpenter (Dexter) is rather run of the mill and thinking back, I’m not sure if she has any considerable dialogue of her own. Others say what Emily said, and her letters are read in court. More should have been given to Emily. The audience waits like the jury onscreen, hearing character witnesses describe Emily’s terrible condition and torturous exorcism. In this instance, the movie’s set up has backfired. We don’t really care about Emily. We can’t sympathize with her because we don’t really even know her.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose’s saving grace is Tom Wilkinson’s Father Moore. He is the character on which the film is rightfully centered. We know enough early on to realize evil bad, priest good. We want him to win the case and prove his exorcism beliefs justified. Based on his position alone, we believe his version of events to be true. Wilkinson perfectly hits the balance between the mission of truth and the anguish this whole sequence of events has caused. I’ve seen him previously in comedic films like The Full Monty. We like him despite the weight of the situation simply because Moore is a likeable guy.

The relationship that develops between Erin and Father Moore is also a highlight. Erin becomes his lone jailhouse parishioner, and when evil makes its presence known to her, Father Moore is there with information and confidence. His claim that 3 a.m. is the devil’s hour, a perversion of Christ’s 3 p.m. crucifixion, is the creepiest piece of info given. Now when I wake up during the night, I refuse to look at the clock.

Relationships could save The Exorcism of Emily Rose, but what little effects are given could have been better. I prefer the ‘what you don’t see’ method best, but Derrickson shows too little and gives us nothing new. Cliché invisible forces crushing and slapping Emily around are too weak compared to any Exorcist film. Now let’s face it, a lot of horror films and especially exorcism films will always be compared to that 360 head spin and split pea soup vomit. The Exorcism of Emily Rose doesn’t measure up.

Again I come back to the split personality nature of the film. Looking at the effects and lack of scares, The Exorcism of Emily Rose isn’t really a horror film. Then again, intelligent law watchers will think the exorcism flashbacks ridiculous. Religious audiences might enjoy the moral and faith debates presented, but the ethical scenes are few and far between. A mature young adult church group might enjoy a good analysis of Emily Rose, but kids and prudes should avoid the naughty possession scenes. The only scene I found scary was Emily’s initial demonic encounter. Alone in a dorm hall at night any number of horrible things can happen. Pseudo rapeage by invisible evil I suspect is the worst.

We picked up the unrated version of The Exorcism of Emily Rose for a fairly affordable price, but the DVD had little to offer beyond one incomplete deleted scene. For exorcism collectors, the set is a must have, otherwise it’s hit or miss for horror or court room audiences.

In the end, smart performances cannot save The Exorcism of Emily Rose, and mainstream audiences are likely to label the film as my mother did, “Stupid.”

Friday, December 5, 2008

Of Darkness

Review by Matt Molloy

Plot Summary:

While cleaning out their recently deceased grandfathers belongings, Brian & Jeff Chaisson inadvertently stumble upon an ancient book; one of mysterious and malevolent origin.

Later that same evening, while entertaining friends during a sleepover, Jeff unveils the recent discovery in an effort to impress the group. Seizing the opportunity, the gang uses the book as a scare tactic against their favorite target and youngest member, Charlie.

Succumbing to peer pressure, and the trusted reassurance of his older brother Tank, Charlie opens the book and unwittingly unleashes a malicious entity. An unseen force that has chosen to target the boys...an evil that has chosen the form 'of Darkness'.

This is by far the best indie film I've seen. A brilliant concept that left me with chills! Of Darkness is proof that a horror film doesn't need a masked killer or tons of gore to be terrifying, the fear of the unkown can be much worse. This is twenty minutes every horror fan should experience. You'll be sleeping with the light on after you see this film!

DVD Review: The Lost Boys

Review by Kristin Battestella

So you have to be an eighties baby to even remember who ‘The Coreys’ are, but the 1987 vampire fest The Lost Boys is worth remembering. Directed by Joel Schumacher and starring Jason Patric, Kiefer Sutherland, Jami Gertz, Diane Wiest, and of course, Corey Haim and Corey Feldman, The Lost Boys strength is not in its stale effects but in its memorable characters.

Divorced Mom Lucy (Diane Wiest) moves her sons Michael (Jason Patric) and Sam (Corey Haim) from Phoenix to Santa Carla, where the boys have a tough time adjusting to Grandpa’s (Barnard Hughes) rules. A Comic enthusiast, Sam makes friends with comic store clerks Edgar and Alan Frog (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander). The Frogs insist St. Carla is swarming with vampires, but Sam doesn’t believe them until Michael becomes involved with Star (Jami Gertz). Star, David (Kiefer Sutherland) and their pals sleep all day and party all night, and Michael is deceived into their wicked ways. When Sam tries to tell his Mother, he interferes with her new romance with video store owner Max (Edward Herrmann).

Well, its been twenty years, so I don’t remember what kind of reception The Lost Boys received at the box office, but the cast was at the time all-star. Some like the Coreys have fallen to drugs and the pressures of fame, but in the late eighties and early nineties they were the Tom Cruise of teen flicks. Hits like License To Drive and Dream A Little Dream catapulted the Coreys to fame. Likewise Kiefer Sutherland was making an early mark in films with bad guy roles here and in Stand By Me (One Corey was in that one, Feldman.) The Lost Boys succeeds because its well rounded cast gives a feeling of realism. Unlike pretty vampire films like Interview With The Vampire and Underworld, this teen vampire gang and the boys in its web have parents, jobs, and authority with which to deal.

When summarizing the story, there isn’t much beyond the usual vampire fair. Someone is suspected of being a vampire, someone is a vampire, vampire gets good guy under his spell, conflicted vampire helps in big vampire overthrow finale. Whew. The Lost Boys has all of this, but Schumacher finds the line between taking the film to seriously and being able to laugh at itself. Memorable scenes from all the actors showcase each’s range, and the script offers lovely moments of humor and real life to keep the vampires in perspective. From Corey Haim’s bathtub serenade to pot smoking Grandpa’s insistence that ‘If you have a TV Guide, you don’t need a TV.’, The Lost Boys keeps it light without becoming ridiculously humorous like forgettable eighties vampire flicks Once Bitten or My Best Friend Is A Vampire.

Where its needs to be light, The Lost Boys plays up the Coreys, but when the film turns dark, it can get very dark, even frightening. Naturally, Kiefer Sutherland and his biker brood seem alluring to Michael at first, but after David’s true nature is revealed to him, things become very hazy. The infamous ‘Maggots, Michael. You’re eating maggots’ can be funny, but the ambiguous imagery and haunting pop score add a dark undercurrent to the film. When the vampire killing begins and the blood sucking action goes all out, its very easy for the audience to root for Sam and The Frog Brothers’ rescue of Michael, the tormented vampire Star, and the peculiar child vampire Laddie.

There’s no doubt that in 1987, The Lost Boy’s style and effects were at the forefront of Hollywood. Even with restoration to DVD, today these vampire action scenes can look, well, hokey. The flying vampire scenes seem artsy and avante guarde like other colorful Schumacher films, and the vampire booby traps don’t seem as inventive as they did then. But of course, if anyone else tried filling a bathtub with garlic and holy water, everyone would know it was copied from The Lost Boys. Just like the scene in which Sam and The Frog brothers try and prove Max is a vampire by putting mirrors about the dinner table, many of the hijinks here made a stamp on the vampire genre. It doesn’t mean they are perfect today, but that’s not the point either.

Vampire fans looking for more story than CGI should pick up The Lost Boys on DVD. The single disc is affordable and the more recent Two Disc Special Edition carries its fair share of extras-including the standard deleted scenes, commentaries, and documentary features. Younger fans who enjoy the stylized Underworld type might not like Boys, but if given the chance, new audiences will relate and appreciate what’s trying to be said. Rated R, The Lost Boys has sexuality, violence, and scares that are too heavy for tweens or younger. If you have a spooky youngin, edited airings of The Lost Boys can be found on cable. The important thing is to not let the idea of older production values hinder your viewing experience. The Lost Boys is a must for any budding vampire enthusiast.