1987 / d. Clive Barker
Adapting his short novella THE HELLBOUND HEART into a full-length film, HELLRAISER marks the legendary Clive Barker’s debut into the realm of horror filmmaking. Though the film would be subjected to a slew of mixed sequels, the 1987 original is where it’s at. The raw, unpolished feel which permeates every frame of celluloid, lends itself to a tense and unnerving film experience. The gritty quality, haunting gothic orchestral score, and taboo subject matter create an interesting unpredictability, which thrusts the viewer into a horrifying world of pleasure, pain, beauty, and darkness.
1997 / d. Jim Gillespie
Released one year after Wes Craven’s SCREAM, this adaptation of Lois Duncan’s classic novella is considered a forerunner in the onslaught of teen slashers which characterized the late 90s and 00s (see: URBAN LEGEND, VALENTINE, FINAL DESTINATION, SWIMFAN, DISTURBIA, and others). While many of the above mentioned films have been met with varied degrees of acceptance among horror fans, it is this reviewer’s opinion that I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER belongs in the higher echelon of teen slasher films. Though frequently dismissed for its teen idol cast (Jennifer Love Hewitt, Freddie Prinze Jr, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Ryan Phillipe), the quality of the film boasts surprisingly high production values, and excellent filmmaking techniques from start to finish. Overall, a solid, “teen-friendly” horror flick, followed by incredibly disappointing and very weak sequels.
1974 / d. Larry Cohen
What should Frank and Lenore Davis expect while they’re expecting? If your answer is anything other than “the spawn of Satan”, you’re horribly wrong! After a delivery room massacre, the horrific fruit of Frank’s loins is loosed on the city, and begins carrying out an infantile bloodbath. You’ve heard of the “terrible twos“? Well here’s a case of theterrible two-days-old! IT’S ALIVE, despite hiding under the guise of a ridiculous horror film, tackles important issues like familial rejection, the fear of birthing an unhealthy child, and the pressures which stem from accepting responsibility for the actions of your children. Frank, Lenore, and their non-mutated son are all presented as exaggerated sterotypes as they would have existed in a typical 1970s family hierarchy. Frank is a man’s man, whose obligation is to protect his family above all else, whereas Lenore’s maternal instincts drive her to look past the derangement of the baby, and see it for what it essentially is: her child. Though not overly graphic, Rick Baker’s special effects are a pleasure to watch as always, and the film overall makes for an excellent watch. Highly recommended.
1975 / d. Stephen Speilberg
I’ll admit, I probably went about 12 years in between viewings of JAWS. Not because I dislike the movie by any means, and not because I was too scared of it to watch it a second time; for me, it’s just one of those films that seems to get neglected. So when it was selected as the viewing material for Monster Movie Monday, I was happy to revisit it after all these years and see how it stacked up against my very vague recollection of it. Obviously it’s classic — everything down to the iconic bah-duh… bah-duh… bah-duh bah-duh bah-duh bah-duh — and the quotable dialogue (I too think you’re going to need a bigger boat, Brody). JAWS has a sort of timeless summery feel which makes it familiar and easy to enjoy during the hot months. My problem with JAWS, however, was only reaffirmed after watching it again recently. I can watch the movie and enjoy it, but I can’t pinpoint what genre I’m watching. It’s a weird blend of horror/thriller/drama, and I’ve never personally subscribed to the idea that just because it has a killer shark as its antagonist that we should all-at-once consider it a horror film. It’s not the shark itself that’s scary, it’s the idea of the shark… of something dangerous lurking beneath the water. To me, you could replace the shark with any other monster and the film could be equally tense and unnerving.
All that said, I do like JAWS, even if I do find it genre-confused and silly at times. Would I recommend it for a Monster Movie Monday viewing? Nah. It’s a serious film which demands your attention. Pop in a copy of JAWS 3D if you’re looking for a good group-viewing experience!
1993 / d. Mark Jones
Never — and I mean ever — stand between a Leprechaun and their gold. And that’s pretty much the moral of the story right there. But let’s face it, you know going into this thing that you’re not about to watch another CITIZEN KANE… you’re going to watch a b-movie about a malevolent, miserly Irishman who has no pretense about killing you if you steal his Lucky Char—err, treasure. Jennifer Aniston may take top billing, but Warwick Davis is the true star here. Whether he’s spouting Irish puns, shooting festive green lightning out of his fingertips, or inflicting death-by-pogo-stick, he’s always stealing the show! Oddball writing that seems to me almost reminiscent of KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE, LEPRECHAUN is campy Irish fun. In fact, you could almost say, “it’s cine-magically delicious!”
…leave me alone, I tried.
2008 / d. Tomas Alfredson
Poetic, haunting; a horror film which transcends the (quite often) tired banality of vampire movies, and becomes something greater: a work of fine art. Set against the backdrop of a quiet, Swedish winter, it presents us with the story of a lonely adolescent boy (Oskar) who falls in love with the girl-next-door: Eli the vampire. At the very heart of it, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN is a compelling and tragic romance: two characters functioning independent of morality or ethics, driven only by desires and needs, and made all the more disturbing by their youth. There are no heroes, only people doing terrible things out of the sense of duty which comes from loving another person unconditionally. This, coupled with the stark examination of betrayal, loneliness, and corruption are what truly make this film disturbing and memorable. The title itself serves as a warning to us, the viewer: LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. More than just an admonition against granting vampires permission into our homes, we are also challenged to be careful about who we invite into our lives. Let the right one in. Advice worth heeding.
2012/ d. Steven Kostanski
It’s a very rare occasion that I give a perfect score to a film. Very few movies are perfect and being the cynical, picky bastard that I am, I can usually find something to complain about. And to give such a high rating to a Canadian film made for less than $2000 and shot in a garage on borrowed high school equipment, well… I suppose you deserve an explanation.
Manborg opens with an epic battle scene where we learn that humanity is rapidly losing the war against the nazi-like denizens of Hell, led by the supremely evil Count Draculon (Adam Brooks, Father’s Day). One human soldier, in a futile act of bravery, faces the Count in an attempt to save his brother. He is shot full of lasers for his trouble and is dragged away, presumably to his death. An opening credits montage complete with a pulsing 80’s electronic score brings us into the future using a Robocop-meets-Universal Soldier-esque transformation scene. Humanity has lost to Count Draculon and the remaining citizens are rounded up for experimentation, torture and gladiator style death matches. Our titular hero (Matthew Kennedy, Father’s Day) bursts out of a crate, confused and seeking answers. He quickly runs afoul of the Hellspawn and is captured (after a chase with laser hover boards!) along with #1 Man (Ludwig Lee), a mix of Liu Kang and Chong-Li, complete with a badly dubbed voice (Kyle Hebert). The two are thrown in a prison with laser bars where they meet 80’s Australian stereotype Justice (Conor Sweeney, Father’s Day (noticing a trend yet?)) and his inexplicably accent-free, anime-style ass kicking sister Mina (Meredith Sweeney, yup, she’s in Father’s Day too). The group is sent to the arena and handily dispatches a group of demons in hover cars with help from Manborg’s arsenal of hidden weaponry. The plot is fairly easy to predict from this point with escape and eventual revolt against the oppressing forces but depth isn’t really the point.
Originally conceived as a sort of demo reel for aspiring filmmaker (and Astron-6 alum) Steven Kostanski, the sheer scope of Manborg is something to behold. Shot almost entirely on green screen with miniature sets and some brilliant stop-motion animation to help flesh things out, this movie looks, sounds and feels far bigger than its nearly non-existent budget. Full Moon Video, even in their heyday, would have been hard pressed to create a world so convincing with so little. One of Manborg’s greatest strengths is its absolute refusal to let anything get too serious. Where camp was simply a by product of low-budget filmmaking for Full Moon and other 80’s straight to video producers, Kostanski (much like Lloyd Kaufman) revels in it. Gore is plentiful and the fight choreography (by Ludwig Lee) is excellent. The gags are nearly constant, from the aforementioned badly dubbed #1 Man to the evil Baron and his awkward crush on Mina. The nods to 80’s movies are just as frequent with references spanning sci-fi, horror and action genres but Manborg never feels like pastiche. The references are presented with a wink and a nod, acknowledging influence and taking the viewer back to a time when manual tracking controls and worn out tapes were a greater concern than plot or cinematography. If none of this appeals to you than perhaps my rating might seem extreme. But if, like me, you’re thoroughly enjoying the recent “rewindhouse” revival of 80’s movies that never were, you won’t find a more satisfying film than Manborg. Given Kostanski’s recent makeup effects work on Resident Evil: Retribution, Silent Hill: Revelation and Guillermo Del Toro’s upcoming Pacific Rim, we may not see another movie like this from him for a while. I sincerely hope that isn’t the case.