Welcome!

If you're just coming here for the first time, uh... you're late. The site is no longer updated daily (see HERE for the story). But it's still kicking 1-2x a week, and it's better late than never! Before reading any of the "reviews", you should read the intro, the FAQ, the MOVIES I HAVE ALREADY SEEN list, and if you want, the glossary of genre terms and "What is Horror?", which explains some of the "that's not horror!" entries. And to keep things clean, all off topic posts are re-dated to be in JANUARY 2007 (which was before I began doing this little project) once they have 'expired' (i.e. are 10 days old).

Due to many people commenting "I have to see this movie!" after a review, I have decided to add Amazon links within the reviews (they are located at the bottom), as well as a few links to the Horror Movie A Day Store around the page, hopefully non-obstructively. Amazon will also automatically link things they find relevant, so there might be a few random links in a review as well. If they become annoying, I'll remove the functionality. Right now I'm just kind of amused what they come up with (for example, they highlighted 'a horror movie' in the middle of one review and it links to, of all things, the 50 Chilling Movies Budget Pack!!!).

Last but not least, some reviews contain spoilers (NOTE - With a few exceptions, anything written on the back of the DVD or that occurs less than halfway through the movie I do NOT consider a spoiler). I will be adding 'spoiler alerts' for these reviews as I go through and re-do the older reviews (longtime readers may notice that there is now a 'show more' which cleaned up the main page, as well as listing the source of the movie I watched, i.e. Theaters, DVD, TV) to reflect the new format. This is time consuming, so bear with me.

Thanks for coming by and be sure to leave comments, play nice, and as always, watch Cathy's Curse.

PLEASE, GO ON...

Satan's Blade (1984)

DECEMBER 8, 2017

GENRE: SLASHER
SOURCE: BLU-RAY (OWN COLLECTION)

Even if I've heard nothing good about it, there is no slasher film from the golden era that I would refuse to see, and it's also the only kind of Blu-ray I will still blind buy, because good or bad I know I'm more likely to revisit something like Satan's Blade than a big budget action movie I enjoyed in theaters but haven't thought about since (that said, I still bought the last Fast & Furious movie even though I know I can't bring myself to see the crew let Jason Statham come to the family BBQ after he killed Han). But my friend Matt gifted me this one last year, because he figured it would be up my alley and shares my passion for seeing/collecting slashers from this particular era - alas I only now got around to finally seeing it, which makes me sad. If I'm not someone who will drop everything to make time for a random early 80s slasher, who am I?

So in a weird way I feel better that I didn't like it all that much; if I had this perfect gem sitting around for a year or so I'd kick myself for all the time I could have spent tweeting my praise (see: Cathy's Curse, which I have been championing before I even had Twitter to do it!). It's not unwatchable or anything, but the lows greatly outnumber the highs, and so it kind of exists in that middle ground where it's not actually good, but it's not insane/inept enough to watch for a laugh (like Sledgehammer) either. You can find more of that sort of thing on the bonus features, like the 30 minute interview with the director where he shows off a few props, the VHS cover, a Fangoria issue the film was covered in, etc. - all while standing up at a camera aimed at the chair he was sitting in when the interview began, so you spend most of the time looking at his mid-section and also his wife (?), who is still seated and looks annoyed. If whoever shot/edited the bonus feature made the film, we might have something for the "WTF" crowd, but alas.

That said, it has its own identity, thankfully. For starters half of the will-be victims are adults (the two men are lawyers, in fact), and there are two groups with minimal intersecting. It mostly takes place at a "ski lodge", where there are the lawyer dudes and their wives, and then five college girls in the adjacent cabin, so the killer is able to take out the group in one cabin while keeping the others from noticing/caring/going into a panic in the other. And when I say cabin I mean "Suburban Townhouse", because that's what it resembles; for a cabin, there's a distinct lack of coziness to the two domiciles - I mean their bedrooms have linoleum flooring and cement walls, which doesn't exactly sell us on the setting. If you fast forward over the exterior establishing shots you'd probably wonder why all of the neighbors didn't hear the ruckus once the killings finally begin in the film's final 30 minutes, as the idea of being isolated never really comes across. Worse, pretty much all of the killings are indoors as well, which not only minimizes the potential for chases (a key part of a slasher film), but their ill-fit makes the climactic scenes awkward where they should be tense. The homes are fairly small, so the actors have to behave unnaturally in certain scenes, like when the killer smashes a window and grabs one of the women and it somehow takes like 20 seconds for her husband to get there when she was only like ten feet away. He also looks puzzled when she screams, as if she was too far away for him to see what was happening, but based on the layout of their two positions, he should be looking right at her! Also, I'm pretty sure they just slightly redressed one cabin to make it look like a second, as the layouts seem identical and they have the same shitty paintings and tapestries on the wall (albeit in different places), so it can be a bit disorienting, while also keeping the film visually flatter than it should be.

(That said, the Blu-ray is presented open matte when it was intended to be masked down to 1.85 or whatever, so you see the boom mic a lot and lots of unnecessary headroom. Use your TV's zoom feature if you can!)

The pacing also hurts it. The killer has very little presence outside of his (again, chase-free) kill scenes, so after the opening scene kills it's like a full 45 minutes of horror-free tedium, save for one of the film's few bonkers highlights, where an old lady with a broken arm tells about some spooky legend. The rest of the time we're just watching people go in and out of their cabin to go fish or ski (we don't see any skiing footage), or drink without doing anything crazy. Hell, the male lead actually rejects the younger ski bunny girl who is hitting on him, prompting a five minute discussion about how much he loves his wife instead of a sex scene that could have resulted in a kill right when the movie could have really used one. This is followed by an endless sequence where the guy goes back to his lodge to have sex with his wife (after another long talk about how much he loves her), intercut with scenes of the spurned ski bunny walking around the woods. And if you're thinking we're watching this because it will end in her death, guess again, as all parties survive the sequence. In fact she's the closest thing the movie has to a Final Girl, making her one of the rare ones whose primary character trait is wanting to bang another woman's husband.

The kills aren't worth the wait, either. They didn't have the money/skill to do anything interesting, so it's mostly like a shot of the killer's knife swinging and then a cut to the victim holding the spot where they got hit, with blood dripping out from a pack they're probably squeezing in their hand. As for the killer himself, due to the (not particularly successful) attempt at a whodunit angle and the fact that no one involved seemed to understand that the cliches of slasher movies were there for a reason, he has no mask or anything, we just see his hand or leg or whatever during the kill scenes. This is probably why the box art promises a demonic thing that kind of looks like a Lego Bionicle (Tahu, specifically), as the titular blade wasn't enough to entice anyone, I'm sure. Final Exam (another maskless killer, though he still had a physical presence) at least had the creep silhouette thing instead of showing off their bland guy and/or lying outright.

Basically the only reason to watch the whole thing is to get to the insane killer reveal. Not his/her identity, because that's kind of obvious, but why they did it, delivered in a speech that appears to be overdubbed from someone's living room even though the scene takes place outside. It's the sort of moment you wish the movie had more of, because it's got that "holy shit what were they THINKING?" appeal that is very much missed from most of the rest of the movie. I even watched it a second time to see if it was just my mood or whatever, but nope, it just didn't work for me. Someday I'll go nuts like Rivers Cuomo did when he tried to find the scientific formula for the perfect pop song, but I will try to solve the mystery of why some of these inept indies delight me so much while others just leave me bored. I don't know if there is a specific thing to pin it on, but I sure as hell know I'll have fun trying to figure it out. Until then, I'll keep this in the collection out of habit, but against the odds described at the top I don't see myself revisiting it again (on the flipside, I'm watching Disconnected again today for the dozenth time), though I might pull it out to show someone the insane interview.

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

Cult of Chucky (2017)

DECEMBER 5, 2017

GENRE: PUPPET, SLASHER
SOURCE: BLU-RAY (OWN COLLECTION)

Universal has a weird knack for keeping series not only going longer than anyone would have guessed, but in some ways IMPROVING as they go on. The Fast & Furious series is only now starting to fall apart (largely due to the real life death of its main character), but in those sorry post-2 Fast days, who would have guessed that part 5 would be the apex of the series and that part 7 would gross over a billion dollars? Or that there would even BE that many sequels? Likewise, when Child's Play 3 came and went without fanfare, it should have been the end of the series, but they revived Chucky seven years later with Bride of Chucky and have continued to make new sequels that people eagerly look forward to (even demand), a far cry from some of its competition where sequels are made only to retain the rights to make more of them (cough, Hellraiser, cough). Cult of Chucky is the newest entry in this consistently surprising series, and while it doesn't quite hit the mark as well as the previous entry (Curse of Chucky), it's a more than worthy addition to the franchise.

Plus, to be fair, Curse was blessed with a bit of a handicap - no one was expecting "Child's Play 6" to be any good, especially when it was going direct to video (the others were all theatrical releases). But it turned out to be a terrific restart for the series, and it did so without "rebooting" or ignoring entries - what appeared to be a largely unrelated entry (or the dreaded "True sequel to the original" approach taken by pretty much every Texas Chainsaw movie) turned out to be very much tied in with the established mythology. When Chucky washed makeup off his face to reveal the scars on his face from his previous injuries, I got downright giddy in a film I was already very much enjoying, as it was a return to the original's suspenseful roots, and director Don Mancini was essentially making an old-school "Old Dark House" movie (complete with a fight over inheritance!) with Chucky standing in for the usual fake ghost or whatever. This time, we KNOW these films can measure up, so the element of surprise is diminished a bit.

At least, when it comes to the overall quality - its narrative is very much on par with the last few sequels, in that you probably wouldn't have guessed where the plot would go. At the end of the last film, Nica (Fiona Dourif, daughter of Brad "as the Voice of Chucky" Dourif) was sent to an institution after being blamed for all of the murders Chucky committed there, while our favorite Good Guy doll got his head blown off by his old nemesis, Andy Barclay. When this one begins, we see Andy going on a disastrous date, then going home to forget his troubles with a beer and a blunt that he shares with... Chucky's disembodied head! Turns out Andy aimed a bit to the side, so while Chucky's looking pretty terrible he's still alive, and the two have a weird co-dependent "friendship" of sorts. Honestly I could have watched a whole movie of this, but before long we're off to catch up with Nica, who was just transferred to a minimum security institute and is seemingly starting to believe that she really did commit the murders, not Chucky. However, her psychiatrist wants to make sure she's really over her fear of the doll, so he buys one (from Hot Topic!) and introduces it to her and her fellow patients. But Chucky's soul is with Andy, so there's no way this one could be alive, right?

Well, if you're wondering what the title was referring to, now you have your answer. Seems Chucky found a way to spread his soul across more than one doll, and once that's established, the movie comes off almost like a Thing variant of sorts, as you're wondering if he's been able to possess any humans along with an increasing number of Good Guy dolls that have found their way to the hospital. Not only does this allow for suspenseful scenes that Chucky isn't even present for (her shrink is seemingly crazier than Chucky, something even the doll notes), but also gives Brad Dourif a chance to have a couple scenes where he talks to himself, as Chuckys argue over who gets to kill someone or whatever. The stuff with the psychiatrist can drag a little in spots, but it's offset by the other patients that he's in charge of, one of whom takes a liking to Chucky because she thinks it's her dead son (leading to what might be the series' first truly horrifying moment). Mancini has a knack for creating characters that are almost automatically interesting, allowing him to quickly get back to Chucky (or Nica, our hero) without having to spend too much time making sure we know/care about these new people. I particularly liked the orderly, Carlos (Zak Santiago), who in one brief scene tells us more about who he is as a person - both with dialogue and actions - than I've ever learned about the main characters in certain Jason or Freddy films. It's testament to both Mancini and the actors that we don't need Chucky on-screen every second to be invested in the story.

But naturally, the film is at its best when it's letting Chucky do his thing. Dourif's as good as ever (his delivery of "I just CAN'T with this guy!" is an all timer in context, which I can't spoil here), and the animation is much improved over the previous film, where Chucky's face seemed to be completely different in some scenes. A behind the scenes clip on the Blu-ray shows that they are still using practical puppets with a number of operators for the facial expressions, so while there might be a few computerized "touch ups" here and there, he's still very much a practical effect and I'm never not appreciative of how well they pull it off (though I think the pre-CG Child's Play 3 remains the best he's ever looked). Since he's not just trying to play "hide the soul" every five seconds he's got more to do here than in many of the other sequels, and is up and about most of the time we see him as opposed to Curse, where the plot dictated that he remain still for a while. After the largely comedy-free Curse, Mancini seems to be dipping back into comedy at times (complete with a meta joke about Hannibal's cancellation - Mancini worked on the show), but the comedy largely works and is still nowhere near the level of the (horror-free) Seed of Chucky.

Chucky also really pops thanks to the film's visual style. As it's set in an institution, you can imagine that you'll be seeing a lot of sterile, nearly color-free environments, so when Chucky scampers down a hallway or someone carries him through the room, you can't help but zero in on him (another reason to be relieved that they do such a great job with the doll work). Mancini also peppers the film with diopter shots and split screens, and it doesn't take much effort to realize he's paying homage to Brian DePalma, which he admits to on the commentary (and in our interview!) and works remarkably well in the context of a Chucky film. As I was saying about the films being surprising, each one has its own flavor and style (remarkably, the three Mancini directed himself are the most varied), so you get a certain kind of film (in this case, the mental institution/psychological thriller movie) but now with Chucky, and so using these specific devices actually has two uses. One, it helps set it apart from the others, but the more important second one is that it gives the audience a bit of a subconscious shorthand to know what kind of movie Chucky is invading this time.

I do wish they had taken another pass at the editing, however. It's actually a few minutes shorter than Curse (the series' longest entry), but it feels a bit sluggish at times, even a bit repetitive in some cases. Indeed, some of the split-screen shots were created in editing (not the original design) in order to speed things along, and I can't help but wonder if that tactic could have been employed elsewhere. The climax is also a bit stiff compared to the others - there's big stuff happening to the characters (particularly in Nica's case), but visually it lacks oomph compared to the others. With Andy back it's easy to remember the big climaxes of CP2 (the toy factory) and 3 (the carnival), and here it mostly just amounts to a few people (and even Chucky) standing around talking. I don't need the hospital to blow up or anything, but a chase or something would have been nice; even if we've seen that sort of thing before it would at least send us off with a bit of an adrenaline rush. It's an unusual film in that the bulk of the "money shot" action occurs in the middle, so that coupled with the slight overlength deflates the movie a bit.

That said, the closing scene (along with the post-credits teaser) suggests a more female-driven followup, which I think would go over like gangbusters. Not to mention, given the current social/political climate, a "woke" Chucky movie might be kind of fascinating as long as Mancini and co. can successfully pair it with whatever new sub-genre they plan to ape next. I'm not a huge fan of Bride or Seed, but I know folks love them, and in turn Tiffany, so I'm sure they'd be happy to see her return after sitting these two out. I just hope they don't go full-blown comedy again; the little asides here were fine (though the shoutouts to earlier kills - "All actual examples!" - were clunky AF) but I'm far more impressed by their ability to make this goofy concept work in the suspense/horror mode. But whatever path they take, I know not to underestimate Mancini (and producer David Kirschner, who has also been around for all of them), so I eagerly await the next one - even if it means my sweet "Complete Collection" boxed set will be obsolete!

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

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