Sunday, October 31, 2010

Red Eye Reviews on the Way

Hey, guys. I just wanted to drop in with a quick explanation as to why I've fallen behind on the reviews. Plain and simple, work and real life have taken up a good chunk of my time, and while I've watched all the flicks, it's been hard to sit down and write or summon the energy to even start. But I've only a few reviews left to write up, so in the next couple of days, we should be good to go.

Again, thanks for sticking by, and I hope you enjoyed this year's October Horrorthon. If you have any ideas for potential themes for next year's fright fest, feel free to leave a comment below.

Take care, and have a kickass Halloween!

-A.J. Hakari

The Red Eye Report's 2010 October Horrorthon #31: "Rosemary's Baby"

(Review on the way!)

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Red Eye Report's 2010 October Horrorthon #29: "Saw 3D"

Jill Tuck (Betsy Russell) has had enough. She barely put up with ex-husband John (Tobin Bell) being the notorious Jigsaw, but with Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) bent on continuing the game, it's Jill's duty to slam shut this book of blood herself. Unfortunately, Hoffman survived his own trap at the end of Saw VI, and with a fresh scar on his mug, he's after Jill and playing for keeps. In the meantime, former Jigsaw victim Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery) has made a fortune helping others like him come to terms with life after their horrible experiences. But Bobby has a secret that's gotten him into trouble, as he's kidnapped and forced to endure a whole gauntlet of torturous obstacles that ensure Jigsaw's final hours be the goriest of all.

Saw 3D claims it's the last of the series, and ready or not, I'm sure as hell done. It's time for any series to close up shop with the big draw is that you don't have to watch it anymore. Of course, this is hypothetical -- they said the same thing about The Final Destination, but the next one's in production -- so the almighty dollar will ultimately dictate how many more Saws we'll need to slog through. But it sucks that Saw 3D is in such a big hurry to wrap itself up to begin with. Four years ago, I would have been ravenous for another of Jigsaw's twisted tales, but at this point, even the filmmakers feel like they're sick of the routine. Saw 3D displays the most cavalier attitude towards killing off characters that we've seen yet, hoping to Etch-a-Sketch away all its loose ends instead of providing a halfway respectable resolution.

Maybe if Saw 3D actually emphasized Jigsaw's deranged moral code -- you know, the thing that was so fascinating that we got a zillion sequels because of it -- then it might've brought the entire series full circle. But no, this fully bought into the spectacle that viewers have come to expect from the franchise and left whatever was thought-provoking about it behind. There's no love in these frames, just an empty ordeal that hasn't the self-awareness that made The Final Destination a blast when it wasn't even trying to be funny. If anything, the most grotesque death scenes have been saved for last -- heads are crushed, jaws are ripped off, and flesh is peeled before the bloodthirsty public, with the added touch of having all this fly at them in the third dimension. But strangely, the amped-up violence actually makes this feel less like a legit Saw sequel and more like a cash-in, a la Captivity. The fact that Tobin Bell is barely around doesn't help, and while Cary Elwes' character from the 2004 original pops up, the way he's used here is exactly as cheap and unimaginative as I'd feared.

Depending on how you've regarded the series to date, Saw 3D will play to either your dismay or delight. Some will be bummed to see this genre war horse take its final bows (maybe), while this supposedly last chapter will have been a long time coming for others. But even if the box office gods decree that Jigsaw live to slice and dice another day, Saw 3D is a bust on its lonesome, a follow-up that throws in the towel well before its blades whir to a stop.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Red Eye Report's 2010 October Horrorthon #28: "The Pit and the Pendulum" (1961)

Roger Corman cranked out some crap in his time, but those hours spent with Vincent Price were among his most golden. 1961's The Pit and the Pendulum is no exception, starring the diabolic Mr. Price as mentally-unstable nobleman Don Nicholas Medina. Medina's father was a deranged torturer in the Spanish Inquisition, and the basement of his ancestral castle is still packed with all manner of ghastly contraptions. It's this terrible history that Medina suspects drove his wife Elizabeth (Barbara Steele) to her death, but her brother Francis (John Kerr) isn't convinced. Francis is determined to show that the supernatural had nothing to do with his sister's demise, but his ensuing investigation provokes not only outside forces but also a madness brewing within Don Medina that's pushing him closer to picking up where his papa left off.

Team up Corman, Price, and Edgar Allan Poe, and you usually got an American International picture that was not only tolerable but downright awesome. Yeah, War-Gods of the Deep was a bore, and The Haunted Palace was more Lovecraft than Poe, but in any case, this combination still had a solid batting average. The Pit and the Pendulum is arguably the most remembered of the bunch, eclipsing the superior (in my humble opinion) The Fall of the House of Usher thanks to its memorable images and a plot that cannonballs into pure madness. You may not think of it as an epic production today (with only a $200K budget behind it), but it was by Corman standards, and though it's still rough around the edges, the extra effort put into it makes all the difference. The costuming and production design are just fine, but The Pit and the Pendulum really shines through its Richard Matheson script, which isn't meant to frighten on a base level but to suggest deepseated terrors that last forever and rear their heads when least expected.

Corman has a ball playing with Price's character, who comes across as surprisingly complex. Price has played countless kooks over the years, but it's never clear off the bat if Don Medina is a sinister mastermind or victim of a psychological conspiracy. In any case, we get another classic Price performance out of the deal, as he plays "wounded" as well as he plays "off-his-freaking-rocker." The remainder of the cast buckles a bit under Price's weight (especially Kerr's hero, with all the personality of a plastic picnic spoon), but everyone does their jobs well enough, with Steele pulling overtime as the obligatory and quite alluring eye candy). Even the main mystery has a sturdy structure, the intricacies kept from coming together long enough for viewers to get their fill on wondering what in the hell is really going on. Once Corman's made with the revelations, the film just kind of piddles around for the last ten minutes or so, though it's in this chunk that the image of a giant swinging blade edging towards Kerr's stomach forever etches itself in the minds of movie fans.

Showing remarkably few hints of age in the almost 50 years since its release, The Pit and the Pendulum can still unsettle any and all comers. While it has little to do with Poe's original story, the movie does a great job of matching its visuals with those Poe's readers conjure in their own minds. With eerie atmosphere, effective suspense, and a premise exploited to an unusually fascinating degree, The Pit and the Pendulum is one vintage horror great that's far from dated.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Red Eye Report's 2010 October Horrorthon #27: "Zombie Self-Defense Force"

When the first five minutes of your movie include UFOs, radiation, and George Romero references, you know it can't end well. Sure enough, when aliens crash-land in suburban Japan, the ensuing fallout spawns hungry hordes of the walking dead. Any who die for whatever reason rise again as ghouls, and even the old "shoot 'em in the head" stand-by isn't enough to put these suckers down. As the zombie ranks swell, survivors spanning a group of soldiers on maneuvers and a spoiled pop idol come to gather at a secluded country inn. But the situation only grows more dire as the undead continue to congregate, with the gang's only hope of escape resting with an army grunt who has a secret not even she's aware of.

So there's these guys in a house against a zombie apocalypse -- oh, wait, you've heard this one already? Yeah, and it seems like the rest of the world has, too. No matter how versatile the undead have become over the ages, it's the oldest of hats that we see filmmakers don time and again. The best shot at being entertained is if someone plays the formula for goofs, so in this respect, Zombie Self-Defense Force is a step in the right direction. The film is fully aware of how many thrill-seeking hipsters and horror nuts will seek out anything with a whiff of controversy, so it plays its slim 76 minutes to a sensationalized hilt. Everything this movie can do to draw attention to itself, it does, and you know from the start that not a frame is to be taken seriously. But while there isn't a zombie genre cliche that's not addressed here, the trouble is that the flick does jack-all with what it's got.

Zombie Self-Defense Force subscribes to the Friedberg/Seltzer theory that just mentioning things constitutes good satire. Other than merely bringing up that one guy who's clearly hiding a zombie bite or how the most hateful character gets the goriest death scene, the film does nothing funny or observant with its material. It tries to coast on pure crazy, which helped make Monster X Strikes Back go by more quickly but leaves this one gasping for air. And just like Monster X, it chucks in a political angle that goes nowhere, matters little to what plot there is, and comes off as pretty damn vague to begin with. For what positions itself as a silly gorefest, Zombie Self-Defense Force isn't a whole lot of fun, and the uneven special effects don't help much. You'll get an impressive set piece once in a while (such as when the zombies pull a Rhodes on an unfortunate soldier), but most of the blood splatters and gore geysers look like they were drawn with "Mario Paint."

I hate to beat up on Zombie Self-Defense Force for doing what made the likes of Versus so damn awesome, but it goes to show you how vital execution is, especially with horror. It's not enough that you have zombies shuffling about; if you have passion, creativity, and, God forbid, a budget, chances are that you'll have a cult favorite on your hands. But when Zombie Self-Defense Force takes the easy way out, true bloodhounds can smell the dull disinterest from a mile away.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Red Eye Report's 2010 October Horrorthon #26: "You'll Find Out"

Just when you thought you'd seen every old dark house movie -- well, here's another one. But in lieu of Bob Hope or Creighton Hale prowling about a spooky abode, You'll Find Out features Kay Kyser, star of stage, radio, and apparently haunted mansion flicks. On loan from their College of Musical Knowledge, Kay and his ragtag band are hired to play at the 21st birthday gala of pretty young Janis Bellacrest (Helen Parrish). The shindig is being held at her ancestral home, where the spirit of her eccentric father is said to still roam the halls. But the house has attracted some flesh-and-blood terrors, as an old judge (Boris Karloff), a phony psychic (Bela Lugosi), and a gap-toothed mythbuster (Peter Lorre) have teamed up to swindle Janis out of her healthy inheritance. With all the strength a wimpy wisecracker like him can muster, Kay sets out to brave the Bellacrest house of horrors and keep Janis out of harm's way.

You'll Find Out is a scary movie that normal people can feel good about watching -- which is to say it isn't scary at all. It's more in tune with The Cat and the Canary, only with even more emphasis on humorous shenanigans. The spooky side of the story is pushed aside a lot, as You'll Find Out was essentially made as a vehicle for the Kay Kyser players. As such, we get a ton of musical interludes that pop up without much rhyme or reason, and this film having been made in 1940, they can be mighty lame (the "Bad Humor Man" number alone sent me into a corniness coma). The only things to fear here are Kay's one-liners and the slapstick set pieces, which make Abbott and Costello's schtick look like Bill Hicks material. Even the main mystery doesn't seem to have been given much thought, considering it's not even really a mystery. The bad guys are revealed not even halfway into the movie, and while it's part of the joke that an oblivious Kay puts his trust in the nogoodniks, it's a reach just to make him look like an even bigger doofus.

But in spite of it all, I'd be lying if I didn't say that You'll Find Out didn't warm up to me at least a little bit. The humor is campy and dated, sure, but neither your intelligence nor the cast's dignity suffers for it. It has an innocent spirit that's hard to hate, and it doesn't treat its thrill-centric side as a total joke. Karloff, Lugosi, and Lorre are all in on the act, and all three give surprisingly wonderful performances. Lugosi was a treat in particular, playing the role of a self-important psychic straight and getting more laughs for it (there's even a silly seance scene with a few freaky tweaks). Plus, for as many cheesy songs there are, some can be extremely charming, especially the Oscar-nominated "I'd Know You Anywhere" -- it hasn't a thing to do with the story, but it's a good tune anyway, dammit. Kay Kyser himself also carries on a fine tradition of film cowards, playing the part of unlikely hero, who's more liable to throw out snarky quips than battle the forces of darkness head-on.

You'll Find Out isn't terrible funny, and it's even less suspenseful, but I can't rag on it too much. The sentimentality seeps from every pore, and despite the best efforts of that cranky old fart in all of us, we can't help but be charmed by the earnestness of the production. You'll Find Out comes in a set with three other Karloff/Lugosi cheese wheels, so if you've got the stomach for some serious saccharine, this well-meaning ditty will be a breeze to watch.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Red Eye Report's 2010 October Horrorthon #25: "X the Unknown"

When there's somethin' strange under British soil, who you gonna call? Well, Quatermass is busy at the moment, so in X the Unknown, Dr. Adam Royston (Dean Jagger) answers the call for Queen and country. An expert in all things atomic, Royston is called to investigate when soldiers on a training exercise experience an earthquake that leaves one dead and others covered in radiation burns. Similar incidents occur throughout the area, always around sources of radiation and leaving behind a melted corpse or two. Though he's as wary of accepting the absurd as his superiors, Royston deduces that a force suppressed over several millennia has once more made its way to the surface. Feeding on the radioactivity mankind has come to fear, it grows larger with every meal, leaving Royston scant time to devise a solution to stop it dead in its tracks.

After slogging through the pseudo-academic dud that Quatermass and the Pit turned out to be, I hoped that Hammer's X the Unknown would pick up its pace. For a while, what actually began life as a Quatermass adventure does pretty well for itself, by way of not saving all its thrills and chills for the end. X the Unknown is the title, and it's the unknown that drives this premise, as viewers are wondering what the deuce is going on from the word go. Director Leslie Norman teases and prods you in just the right ways, preserving the story's mystique while keeping you watching to see what happens next. The level of suspense is just as well-paced, starting with a few minor incidents before working its way up to the Incredible Melting Man (which, for a late '50s sci-fi picture, is a pretty gruesome image). The presence of a valid threat is always there, and you know it isn't going to wait til the last ten minutes to actually do anything.

Now I hate to keep bringing up Quatermass and the Pit, but whereas that film got unnecessarily verbose, X the Unknown can be alarmingly simplistic. If it had been a straight-shooter and gone for the typical B-movie yuks, it'd be another story, but it tries to get all cerebral on us to little effect. The flick attempts a conflict between Royston and his skeptical boss (Edward Chapman) that devolves into one of my least favorite movie cliches: the looming crisis that can't be solved because one character is being an obstinate prick. Oh, and remember that steady progression of suspense that was working so effectively? Well, that's ruined once X the Unknown decides to announce the main monster's identity with no fanfare, and while I dare not spoil it myself, let's say that it's hard to accept so many people running in fear of such a snicker-inducing foe. To top it all off, we end on a cryptic note that might have worked had we known where it came from or what the hell it even meant.

So again, a rendezvous with Hammer cinema lets me down, but vintage horror/sci-fi fans could have fun with X the Unknown. Dean Jagger gives a solid performance, the atmosphere can get durn creepy, and the little graphic content there is works like an unsettling charm. X the Unknown isn't the nadir of '50s science fiction, but that it puts on airs with so much rampant goofiness makes it hard to get into on either level.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Red Eye Report's 2010 October Horrorthon #24: "Werewolf: The Devil's Hound"

What's a guy to do when there's a werewolf in the family? Well, UPS isn't the smartest choice, but overnight delivery is what happens to Christine (Christy Cianci) when her father gets fed up with her lycanthropic freak-outs. But instead of reaching the doorstep of paranormal investigator Kwan (Lance Atrik Hallowell), the crate is delivered to a struggling special effects studio. After breaking free and catching up on her meals, Christine decides to carve a new life and selects the nerdy Kevin (Michael Dionne) as her mate. Once the bite's put on him, Kevin's metamorphosis kicks into overdrive, but with a concerned wife (Tamara Malawitz) at his side and Kwan on his way, Kevin's soul might just be saved before the beast within assumes control.

To be honest, Werewolf: The Devil's Hound wasn't my first choice for the "W" leg of the horrorthon. I wanted to get at least one werewolf flick in, but when I was too late to get Wolfen from Netflix, this was the first one I could get my hands on. Boy, does it suck, but I didn't to tell you that. Its pedigree says it all, having come from the straight-to-DVD horror wing of Lionsgate that's delivered such delights as Open Water 2 and the atrocious Dark Harvest series. But even with its dodgy reputation for horror outside of Saw, I wasn't prepared for the chore Werewolf turned out to be. For one, it's not the gloomy thriller the cover art suggests but an ill-conceived horror/comedy with no idea how to pull off what it wants to do.

As with the Feast movies, Werewolf thinks that being silly gives it free license to flip the genre switch whenever it feels like it. We get aimless skits and lame pratfalls followed instantly by disemboweled hobos, with zero consistency achieved. There's a very amateurish mindset at work, and while I hate to kick sand in the faces of some indie filmmakers who had little to work with, having the desire to make a movie isn't the same as having the ability to. Werewolf has ambition, but it's not used well, which is most evident through the often painful overdirection. Not even the act of opening a door can go without feeling like a Requiem for a Dream audition, and you'd swear the editor was having a seizure whenever the werewolf (who looks like one of the evil Congo apes) attacks.

Werewolf: The Devil's Hound is awful, awful stuff, but it'll pass. For the time it lasts, it's an ordeal, but no midnight movie parties will be held in its ironic honor. But if anything, that's the worst fate Werewolf could suffer -- for a flick that tried way too hard to be the next cult classic, complete and utter obscurity is all that awaits it.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Red Eye Report's 2010 October Horrorthon #23: "Voodoo Man"

If horror films have taught us anything, it's to never trust the open road. In 1944's Voodoo Man, a line-up of lovely ladies learn this the hard way when a phony detour sign leads them right into the hands of the demented Dr. Marlowe (Bela Lugosi). For the last two decades, Dr. Marlowe has been obsessed with resurrecting his dead wife, using the life essence of girls he kidnaps to do so only for very brief periods. The snarky Stella Saunders (Louise Currie) is snatched up en route to her cousin's wedding, but luckily, she has the groom, Ralph Dawson (Michael Ames), as a traveling buddy. A Hollywood screenwriter who's seen it all, Ralph is quick on the case when Stella turns up missing, leading the charge to get to the bottom of Dr. Marlowe's witchery and save Stella from becoming a shell of her former self.

Well, kids, I guess they can't all be winners. Lugosi is as revered as classic horror stars get, his name synonymous with terror and the vampire's image for years -- but man, was he in some real stinkers. Everyone knows about Lugosi's collaborations with the infamous Ed Wood, but the cheapie Voodoo Man popped up a decade before the two crossed paths. It's the sort of picture many horror icons of the time made on the fly (or a speedy seven days, in this case). The production's thriftiness sure shows in the all-around crummy quality, but Voodoo Man doesn't reach the epic awfulness of a Plan 9 or a Manos. In fact, for a B-movie, it's pretty low-key, with little to its name other than some traces of nostalgic cheesiness. It even came out while Lugosi was still doing his best work, hitting theaters close to The Return of the Vampire and a year before he tangled with Boris Karloff in The Body Snatcher. For a man whose career unfortunately became a joke as it progressed, Lugosi made the best of it and delivered a halfway decent performance here.

Needless to say, Voodoo Man still possesses some quirky aspects that make it an amusingly dumb flick. For one, the voodoo man of the title isn't Lugosi's Marlowe but more so George Zucco's character, a henchman who leads a dark ritual meant to sap the souls of young women. Of course, this being the '40s, the film's concept of "voodoo" consists of guys in Snuggies covered in Lucky Charms symbols and chanting gibberish (and don't even ask me how Marlowe's hypnotism experiments are supposed to help out). Also, in addition to Lugosi and Zucco, horror vet John Carradine shows up in what the Netflix disc sleeve claims was his least favorite role. Carradine appeared in worse flicks in his time, but I do see how it'd suck having to play vacant-eyed, bongo-bashing flunkie to Lugosi's stare-happy madman. The "normal" characters are plenty bland but inoffensive, the actors caring enough so as not to come across like they're ready to take their slim paychecks and run.

Voodoo Man isn't a very good film, but it's not the be-all, end-all of B-cinema, either. You can find it in a lot of those sets of 20+ public domain horror movies, or if you're in the mood for a chuckle, Rifftrax sells a version with its own damn funny commentary track. But Voodoo Man is nothing to get worked up over, not rancid enough to make enemies or endeardingly corny enough to win over Lugosi completists.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Red Eye Report's 2010 October Horrorthon #22: "The Unseen" (1945)

As would Jamie Lee Curtis and Carol Kane after her, Gail Russell assumes the role of a babysitter who's really in for it in 1945's The Unseen. Russell plays Elizabeth Howard, a young woman hired by the stern David Fielding (Joel McCrea) as governess for his children (Nona Griffith and Richard Lyon). But she's hardly had time to unpack her things before realizing she's stepped into the nuttiest house since the Femm estate. All manner of strange characters drift about the Fielding residence, including a shifty real estate agent, a handyman who keeps odd working hours, and a former nanny who's not about to move on. From all of this hubub emerges a peculiar mystery, involving a recent string of murders and a figure rooting around the house next door. When she learns the Fielding kids know more than they're admitting, Elizabeth attempts to gain their trust and crack the crimes before her name ends up in the obituaries next.

It was but a few days ago that I ragged on Return of the Living Dead 3 for having bugger-all to do with its namesake series. But now we have The Unseen, a film I like a fair deal more than has even less to do with its own supposed roots. You can see from the poster that The Unseen was billed as a follow-up to 1944's The Uninvited and is accepted as a sequel in certain circles. But not only do none of the latter film's characters show up here, the former completely ditches the supernatural angle in favor of more earthly chills. The only common threads are director Lewis Allen and star Gail Russell, no longer playing an outright victim but a more proactive part this time around. Strangely, though, I didn't mind so flimsy a connection, since the first film's spirit is present here, even if the spirits themselves are not. The set-up is straight out of The Turn of the Screw, wherein the relationship between governess and children provides the film's emotional core, as well as its main source of conflict.

But here's where The Unseen gets a bit murky, kids. The resentment kids have towards any foreign authority figure is natural, and the junior actors here convey this very well. But Griffith and (mostly) Lyon do almost too good a job of exuding brattiness, so much so that the story's flow suffers as a result. With much of the mystery hinging on what the Fielding kids know but won't tell, it gets irritating to see the resolution prolonged because one of them is being a stubborn little demon spawn. As such, The Unseen is often left trying to find stuff to do, and though it only lasts 81 minutes, it's still dishing out red herrings an hour in. It doesn't develop an intricate puzzle so much as it just makes everyone but Russell look guilty as all get-out, resolved whenever's convenient for the culprit. This doesn't give Russell much of a chance to really play detective, but she still delivers a sweet and sympathetic performance, particularly when she puts up with McCrea's crusty ways to an almost saintly degree.

Though I've exhibited more jeers than cheers, The Unseen isn't at all terrible. Again, Allen nails the atmosphere, which is dark, foggy, and teeming with spookiness. Although the supernatural isn't part of the plan, you still find yourself getting nervous over what real-life terrors await Elizabeth in the surrounding mist. Even more hard to find than The Uninvited nowadays, The Unseen isn't worth breaking a sweat over, but should the Turner Classic Movie gods feel generous enough to schedule it, it's worth catching just to say you've seen it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Red Eye Report's 2010 October Horrorthon #21: "Teeth"

Dawn (Jess Weixler) is your standard, factory-issue late bloomer. Still mystified and even scared by the onset of puberty, Dawn channels her energy into spreading the gospel and preaching the values of abstinence. But even she can't resist getting a little curious when a classmate catches her eye, although when the Don Juan DeHorndog makes his move, both parties are in for one bizarre revelation. It turns out that a certain part of Dawn's anatomy comes equipped with its own set of teeth, which her would-be suitor finds out the hard way. Initially horrified, Dawn comes to embrace this discovery and even use it to strike back at any hormonal sleazebag that dares try taking advantage of her.

Feminism is something that's always hung around the horror genre but been nervous about really cutting loose. There's I Spit on Your Grave's crass exploitation dressed up as faux empowerment, and God knows how many Final Girls we've had through the ages, but the special few that nerds like me write essays about run thin beyond these. How fortunate it is, then, that Teeth isn't all hype but a film worthy of sharing the same mantle space as Carrie and Ginger Snaps. Vital to its success is its ability to not only devise an attention-grabbing premise but develop the perfect tone to make it fly, as well. The result is halfway between Grindhouse and the Lifetime Channel, a premise writer/director Mitchell Lichtenstein takes seriously but still plays for comedic effect when appropriate. The outrageousness of the story will bring in the teeny thrill-seekers, but while they're squirming in their La-Z-Boys, Lichtenstein's message cuts through more effectively than any sex ed PSA you had to see in middle school.

To address what's probably your greatest concern, yes, what you think happens in Teeth does happen, and a few times at that. This is where you could say Teeth earns its "horror" stripes, but Dawn remains the object of sympathy. No one gets chomped unless they deserve it (unless you're Josh Pais's gynecologist, in which case it's a darkly gut-busting accident), and Dawn is plenty terrified herself. But as she learns not to fear her own body, Weixler's performance helps to hammer home her character's gradual transformation. Never mind that she's a twentysomething playing a high-schooler to perfection, as Weixler nails both Dawn's naive innocence and the seductive qualities she uses to punish the world's pervs. That said, the narrative doesn't give itself much to work off of and has a tendency to wander, taking what seems like forever to find the meat of the story (no pun intended). Plus, while the symbolism is always engaging, there are some touches (like a recurring image of nuclear smokestacks) that make you wonder if Lichtenstein is just screwing with us.

If all this talk of metaphors and meanings has you scared, fret not, ladies and gents. The beauty of Teeth is that it is engaging on a thematic level but gleefully acknowledges its more lurid roots. Gals get the benefit of feeling better about themselves, and guys will think twice before draping their arm around the shoulder of said significant other. No matter how twisted your palate, Teeth was born and bred to please it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Red Eye Report's 2010 October Horrorthon #20: "Subspecies"

In far-off Transylvania, a truce that's protected man from the vampire scourge is about to be shattered. Exiled bloodsucker Radu (Anders Hove) has returned home to do in his father (Angus Scrimm) and lay claim to the Bloodstone, an artifact housing the blood of all saints. The only thing standing in Radu's way of becoming lord of all undead is his half-brother Stefan (Michael Watson), who doesn't look fondly upon his demonic heritage. But just as their blood feud heats up, into frame wander a trio of friends/students who've come to bone up on their Transylvanian folklore. When one of the girls (Laura Tate) starts crushing on Stefan, however, Radu sees it as all the leverage he needs to turn the fight in his sinister favor.

The Full Moon gang is nothing, if not persistent. The B-movie pioneers churned out what their fans craved on a regular basis, whether or not they had the funds and film stock to do so. It was in Full Moon's heyday that Subspecies came about and made surprisingly decent use of the studio's cost-cutting measures. Charles Band movies having been 80% of Romania's economy in the '90s, it's no biggie that Subspecies was shot there too, but what is surprising is how effectively its locations were used; they wanted a crusty, eastern European setting, and dammit, they got one. The mood fits the scope of the story, which is simple and direct without feeling too lazy. You can tell Full Moon was proud of this one, especially when the credits boast a full orchestra, as opposed to Richard Band slamming his head on a Casio for 90 minutes. Even Radu's devilish minions (the "subspecies" of the title) look kinda cool, a product of Full Moon's fascination with all things small and homicidal.

But this is a Band collaboration we're dealing with, so here's the part where I dish on how straight-up mediocre Subspecies is. There was some effort put into this (being the first chapter of a franchise, there wasn't any stock footage to recycle just yet), but the filmmakers burned through what they did have pretty quickly. Hell, Scrimm (wearing one doozy of a Doc Brown fright wig) is dead in two minutes, so the remaining 80 are spent trailing the Baby-Sitters Club until Radu actually attacks somebody. To his credit, Hove's make-up work makes Radu look fairly imposing, but I couldn't tell you what he hopes to achieve from having the Bloodstone other than having the Bloodstone. The rest of the story moves as expected, from an anemic romance subplot to the standard sequel-establishing finale, turning up no surprises and performing no feats of ambition along the way. As horrible as it was, even The Gingerdead Man gets points for pure crazy.

As low-budget vampire outings go, Subspecies is no better or worse than the norm. It's notable for little more than being one of the few times Charles Band was responsible for something that didn't breathe Andre Toulon's name for once. Underwhelming for horror at large and par for Full Moon's course, Subspecies aims to be nondescript and succeeds with flying colors.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Red Eye Report's 2010 October Horrorthon #19: "Return of the Living Dead 3"

Long before Umbrella entered the picture, Uncle Sam had the market cornered on misguided experiments involving the undead. The zombie outbreaks in the first two Return of the Living Deads apparently weren't enough to phase army brass, since number three here begins as they use the dreaded Trioxin to make the ghouls into indestructible soldiers. But even after seeing himself how the stuff tends to inspire cravings for flesh, despondent teen Curt (J. Trevor Edmond) uses the Trioxin to resurrect his gal pal Julie (Mindy Clarke) after she dies in an accident. Come back she does, and with her comes not only a touch of rigor mortis but a love of body modification that keeps her newfound hunger at bay. But a few stray nibbles threatens to unleash a zombie horde in South Central, forcing Curt to choose between staying by Julie's side or saving the world from a Romeroesque fate.

1985's The Return of the Living Dead was a goofy mirror image of the traditional zombie flick. Written with as much dark hilarity in mind as bone-chilling creepiness, it was a truly refreshing movie, and as maligned as the second one continues to be, it was faithful to this semi-serious vein. So what does Return of the Living Dead 3 have in store? How about absolutely nothing its name had come to be known for? Now before you cry fanboy, let me say that I have no problem with movies that deviate from an established formula, given they pull it off. But then there's trying something so different, you might as well strike out on your own instead of clinging desperately to name recognition as a means of finding success. That's not to say Return of the Living Dead 3 couldn't have worked (zombified version of a Roger Corman biker romance? -- sign me up!), but the tone it adopts would be too melodramatic for the Hallmark Channel, let alone for something from the director of Society.

Satire, gallows humor, irreverency -- none of that's in Return of the Living Dead 3. The most it has to do with its forefathers is Mindy Clarke's Julie pulling a Cenobite two-thirds of the way through and turning into the Linnea Quigley-in-training you see on the cover art. Instead, the film opts for a love story it treats far too seriously, so downbeat and dreary in tone that it clashes big-time with the insane effects work. If anything, these are the remnants of the Return of the Living Dead 3 we could've had, one packed to the gills with unrelentingly disgusting zombies made on a budget of what covers Brad Pitt's cheese fries these days. More than any other story in the franchise, this is the one that could've done with living it up and embracing its campy side. But amusing Latino gangster stereotypes aside, the flick is just no fun, and as sweet of a girl Mindy Clarke most likely is, don't be surprised if her hammy performance starts giving you Creedence Leonore Gielgud flashbacks.

I know there's an audience for Return of the Living Dead 3, and hell, anything that gives the ladies a chance at being however brief a horror icon is worth a little something. But whatever good times I hoped for were washed away a depressing plot, a dull sense of pacing, and a cast whose acting skills each achieved their own shade of bland. I've seen worse (like Return of the Living Dead 4 and 5), but this one would've done well by honoring its ancestors over taking the emo way out.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Red Eye Report's 2010 October Horrorthon #18: "Quatermass and the Pit"

Beneath the bustling streets of London lies the greatest terror to face England since S Club 7. While working on extending a subway tunnel at fictional Hobbs End Station, a construction crew uncovers the well-preserved remains of ape men dating back five million years. But as the scientific community jumps for collective joy at this discovery, an even more fantastic find is just a few shovelfuls of mud away. Workers proceed to dig out a strange vessel, which very much intrigues Bernard Quatermass (Andrew Keir), a professor asked to help oversee the excavation. But the more evidence he turns up, the more Quatermass believes that not only is the craft not of this earth but is also the source of an ancient evil. Of course, the military shoots down his theories in order to avoid a panic, but pandemonium is just what runs amok when whatever's in that ship decides to unleash its powers on an unsuspecting populace.

Quatermass and the Pit is among England's most well-known science fiction tales -- though it beats the hell outta me as to why. Perhaps it's a response to how gung-ho America is with its own sci-fi, featuring characters who are scientists in the sense that there are beakers around when they blast little green men to kingdom come. Thus, patience is a virtue in Quatermass and the Pit, as the story hinges on the professor learning exactly what's buried down below before the worst occurs. It's a film in which fools pay the price for rushing in, but while that sounds great on paper, the flick doesn't leave itself much to go on. Hypotheses and experimentation do not a rip-roaring thriller make here, and the story's admittedly cool concepts end up muddled as a result. It's hard to discuss without stopping in spoiler country, but Quatermass and the Pit pulls the "we are the monsters" card with little basis for it, which has much to do with the film's inconsistent stock in the fantastic.

I don't think it's a big shock to learn that we're dealing with aliens here, but just try to dissuade Quatermass and company from presuming otherwise. As the professor delves into the bizarre history of Hobbs End, the possibilities of ghosts, demons, and poltergeists are brought up, but just about anyone who mentions aliens may as well be laughed out of Europe. It's another case of Indiana Jones 4 Syndrome, in which you've figured things out two acts before the story has, and the movie's only response is to plug its ears and go, "Lalalalala!" Plus, while it might just be my lack of familiarity, Quatermass just doesn't seem to be that interesting of a character. This is only the second time I've seen a Quatermass adventure (and I caught the last one three years ago), but there's still nothing about the professor to suggest why he's so hailed of a genre hero. He's your typical scientist trying to convince the world that he's not off his rocker, and though Keir's performance isn't bad by any means, he doesn't do much to deviate from the archetype.

Quatermass and the Pit was a Hammer production, not to mention one that wasn't a Gothicized monster mash. The Hammer touch does come through in the eerie atmosphere, and as chuckle-inducing as the big revelations are, director Roy Ward Baker does a good job of getting you at least a little freaked out by the unknown. But overall, Quatermass and the Pit is a really stiff watch, its ideas too ill-conveyed to fully intrigue and its structure too formal to enjoy as a straight-up fright flick.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Red Eye Report's 2010 October Horrorthon #17: "Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings"

Ah, yes, the 1950s. It was an innocent era, one of soda fountains, Buddy Holly, and premeditated murder. At least that's how it was in the cozy hamlet of Ferren Woods, were some teenage toughs slashed up a deformed mountain boy and made his death look like an accident. Some years later, whispers of the kid still echo throughout Ferren Woods, and they only get louder when a group of 30-year-old highschoolers swing by his gravesite. Through an elaborate and easily-avoidable ritual, the teens end up calling upon the demon Pumpkinhead, who proceeds to go on a bloody, vengeful tear through town on the dead boy's behalf. But after justice has been served, Pumpkinhead gets a hankering for fresh meat, leaving the kids little time to save their skins and send the giant clawed one back to the hell from whence it came.

Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings was one of the first scary movies I remember noticing when my parents buckled down and got HBO. Chances are that if it was late at night, this was on, and the likes of Leprechaun 2 or Ticks were soon to follow. But I never sat down for the whole thing (Killer Klowns from Outer Space was more my speed), and when I finally caught the 1988 original a few years back, it took me till now to summon the interest to explore its sequels. After watching Blood Wings, I could have waited a few more centuries, but to be fair, not a lot of folks dig this one to begin with. Pumpkinheads 3 and 4 have gotten a crummy rap as well, though it's Blood Wings that gets particularly dumped on for departing so much from its cult predecessor. Still, I wasn't a huge fan of the first flick, so I don't really hate its inaugural follow-up out of a sense of allegiance -- not when there are so many other things to hate it for.

No doubt, Pumpkinhead II is a dud, but it's a dud for the usual reasons: paper-thin acting, ho-hum effects work, and a script that chews up and spits out anything mildly creative (which you tend to get with Jeff "Sequel Killer" Burr in the director's chair). But reports of the film's unendurable crappiness have been greatly exaggerated, and I'd be lying if I said it didn't amuse me, at least a little bit. While the acting is indeed terrible, just looking over the casting choices is entertaining on its own. Andrew Robinson (Hellraiser) and Linnea Quigley are no big shock, but then come Soleil Moon Frye, Kane Hodder, and Roger Clinton (of "I'm freaking related to Bill Clinton" fame) to have you eager to see what C-list celebs will pop their heads in next. Also, as horribly executed as Pumpkinhead's kills are (mostly due to an accompanying strobe light that makes them borderline unwatchable), they're fun in their inherent silliness, especially when he takes on a trio of redneck chicken farmers.

Most people can and will go their whole lives without seeing Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings. In fact, horror fans probably can too, save for us masochists, completists, and the compulsive at heart that just have to watch anything and everything. It'll be a while before Pumpkinhead: Ashes to Ashes ends up in my player, but should anyone be foolish enough to question why, one finger pointed in the direction of Blood Wings oughta be enough to say it all.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Red Eye Report's 2010 October Horrorthon #16: "Onibaba"

Japan's "Warring States" period was not a good time to be a peasant. Civil war left the country in ruins, its two highest courts were at each other's throats, and, as always, the lower class paid the price. In a house stationed amidst a vast susuki field live the mother (Nobuko Otowa) and wife (Jitsuko Yoshimura) of a farmer who was called off to battle. It's just been the two of them for a while, squeezing out a living by ambushing the occasional samurai and selling off whatever belongings they can. But out of the blue one day comes Hachi (Kei Sato), a neighbor who finally fled from the bloodshed. Slowly, he integrates himself into the womens' self-enclosed world, spurning the mother's advances while enjoying some splendor in the grass with her daughter-in-law. Emotions are mounting as is, but when a wandering warrior with a demonic mask pays the trio a visit, all of the brewing treachery and betrayal comes to a terrifying boil.

One man, two women, an isolated setting, the air thick with sexual tension -- you'd swear Onibaba was written by Tennessee Williams after a sake bender. But Kaneto Shindo's 1964 picture draws its inspiration from a Buddhist parable, which is enough of an indication that this flick will be playing old-school. Onibaba isn't very steeped in the supernatural (as unlikely as certain scenarios are, they do have basis in reality), but karmic overtones are liberally dispersed throughout. Shindo shows some very bad people doing very bad things, but it's how he goes about displaying his morality that makes the story so fascinating. This isn't so much a battle between good and evil as it one between two different evils -- the farmer's mother doesn't want to lose her partner in crime, and Hachi is just a horny bastard, and in spite of all this, the daughter still grows herself a conscience. It's fair to say Onibaba doesn't sound interesting if a bunch of bickering louts is all we get, but Shindo has us covered by adding a distinctive visual sweep to an otherwise simple story.

While there are several sections in which very little action takes place, Onibaba always has something planned to keep viewers absorbed. The opening scene, which contains no dialogue and lasts around ten minutes, follows two unfortunate samurai who stumble through the susuki reeds and discover the true extent of the dangers war hath wrought. The unknown does present itself when the mother uses her daughter-in-law's fear of religion to scare her away from Hachi, which brings the film's Buddhist origins (not to mention that funky cover art) full circle. These interactions really make the film, thanks in great part to a hell of an on-target ensemble. Otowa projects a hint of innocence (after all, it wasn't her character's first choice to blindside samurai for a living) while she embodies the perfect manipulative spirit. Meanwhile, Sato taps into his inner Toshiro Mifune to play a scoundrel who couldn't be more pleased to be one, and though Yoshimura has a tough time being noticed, she still holds her own and walks away with a solid performance as the closest thing we have to a "good guy."

A bit slow-going at times, Onibaba more than compensates for it with a tale whose emotions draw in your psyche and keep it locked on the action. Emphasis is on art over keeping the plot occupied, but it's to Shindo's credit that he involves you in the proceedings with a minimum of story and many sections that do without spoken words period. The Criterion Collection did well in admitting entrance to Onibaba, a tale whose terrors are no one's fault but our own souls.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Red Eye Report's 2010 October Horrorthon #15: "Noriko's Dinner Table"

Noriko Shimabara (Kazue Fukiishi) is like any other 17-year-old girl. She's pressured to do well in school, isn't that popular, and feels distant from her own family. So what does Noriko do instead of seeking help from a professional counselor? Why, she tags along with an Internet cult, of course. After visiting a site frequented by lonely teens like herself, Noriko is taken under the wing of its creator, Kumiko (Tsugumi). If convincing over 50 schoolgirls to leap to their deaths off of a subway platform wasn't enough, Kumiko introduces Noriko to her specialty business, which provides clients the luxury of surrogate family members on demand. Noriko's sister Yuka (Yuriko Yoshitaka) soon follows suit, but with his family crumbling before him, their father (Ken Mitsuishi) sets out to reclaim his flesh and blood, no matter the cost to what's left of his life and limb.

To be clear, Noriko's Dinner Table isn't a horror film, strictly speaking. Writer/director Sion Sono meant it as a companion piece to his cult favorite Suicide Club, with a number of its events woven throughout this one. It'd probably help if I'd seen Suicide Club before, but give or take a few moments that stand out, I was never all that lost. Noriko's Dinner Table is its own beast, addressing the troubled teen angle not from Suicide Club's sensational perspective but with a somber, low-key touch. Images here are meant to shock but on a different level, by way of Sono challenging viewers with concepts we usually take for granted. Does just being around make you a good parent? How well do you really know your children? What is it like to perform all the functions of a family unit without any of the commitment? Sono has a firm grasp of what he wants to get across and does so without allowing his ideas to fall prey to exploitation.

So with this good of a premise and mature of a philosophy, why do I hate Noriko's Dinner Table with the intensity of a million exploding Kryptons? Well, as much as I hate disliking a film based on one factor alone, it's a real doozy in this case: plain and simple, the characters do not shut up. I'm not talking about a little extra dialogue here or some unnecessary narration there. If Kumiko has suspicions about a customer, she talks about it. If Yuka is writing a story, she details what she's writing while she writes it. If Mr. Shimabara is plotting to get his daughter back, he takes us through every step of doing so. There's rarely one moment on God's green earth in which we the viewers are allowed to study body language, listen to dialogue, and -- GASP -- form our own damn interpretations of what's going on! True, you could see it as an abstract way of commenting on how teens like Noriko constantly confess their turmoils, but it's taken to such an extreme (an agonizing, repetitive, 159-minute extreme) that no matter the intelligence Sono began with, his results feel as emotionally resonant as a Justin Bieber groupie's LiveJournal.

You really have no idea what a chore it was to sit through Noriko's Dinner Table. Decorum dictates that I give it merit for introduction the concepts it does and, in the scant moments where Sono isn't yanking you around by a thematic choke chain, enabling them to come through to a fascinating effect. But the fact that so many characters run so rampant with their internal monologues so often is what makes Noriko's Dinner Table less a slice of social commentary and more a battle not to end up wearing your flatscreen as a wristwatch.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Red Eye Report's 2010 October Horrorthon #14: "Monster X Strikes Back: Attack the G8 Summit"

Another year, another G8 summit, and another chance for world leaders to pretend they're accomplishing something. Heads of state from the U.S., Russia, and elsewhere have gathered at Hokkaido's scenic Lake Toya to brainstorm ways they can save the environment. But the talks have barely begun before a greater threat arrives in the form of a towering monster from outer space. Focus instantly switches to taking down the massive beast, and while all the G8 attendees have their own plans of action, their attempts only egg on the creature's tour of destruction. Luckily, two plucky reporters (Kazuki Kato and Natsuki Kato) are on the case, and with the help of a backwoods cult, they might be able to summon the only force that can destroy this intruder from beyond for good.

Monster X Strikes Back is the second flick I've seen in as many years in which Japan pokes fun at its own kaiju conventions. The other was Big Man Japan, whose approach was very deadpan, so it falls upon Monster X Strikes Back to travel the road more goofy. But no matter how much sentiment was put into them, both features share a very inconsistent sense of humor and satire. It's Japan's answer to The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, as both are pleasant parodies of B-movies whose only gags consist of -- well -- being B-movies. It's affectionate, but it's just not that funny, something the Godzilla-style romps it's spoofing were while actually being honest-to-God entertaining. Monster X Strikes Back is structured like a joke that takes 98 minutes to tell, and at the end, the punchline is that you were told a joke.

But I should mention that kaiju disciples may be disappointed that this film is less monster mash and more political satire. In this respect, Monster X Strikes Back lands its share of zingers, most of which stem from how gleefully stereotypical it portrays the G8 bigwigs. Everyone's looking out for #1, everyone has their own agenda, and everyone has silly names like "Beefstroganoff Puttin" and "Maplesyrup Harris" that are never actually used in the flick but the credits supply regardless. The goofiness of it all is pretty amusing, but the film loses its effectiveness the more it goes for the easy laughs. Topical humor aside, the movie is still a mighty letdown in the monster department. The title titan (who's named Guilala and never referred to as Monster X -- you figure it out) sorta resembles Godzilla with his head stuck in a UFO, but other than catching stray missles and trampling the odd power plant, he's there chiefly to make the G8 crew look like a bunch of dumbasses.

Monster X Strikes Back isn't necessarily bad and might even provide giant monster fans more seasoned than I with a few nice chuckles. I dug the silly tone and shamelessly overt political jabs, but the misses just happened to outweigh the hits by too wide of a margin. Though Monster X Strikes Back is a harmless lark, honest laughs are as hard to come by as a Tokyo skyscraper that the Big G hasn't set aflame.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Red Eye Report's 2010 October Horrorthon #13: "The Last Supper" (2005)

If plastic surgeons were rock stars, Dr. Yuji Kotorida (Masaya Kato) would be at least an Allman brother. A man whose surgical prowess has earned him the nickname of "God-Hand," the doc has made out well for someone who started out as a meek med student. But little does a visiting TV crew know about the true secret behind his good fortune: old-fashioned cannibalism. One bag of fat stolen on impulse kick-started Dr. Yuji's hunger, and from then on, his appetite for the human body grew and grew. Conveniently, Yuji has chronicled his history on an anonymous blog, which he kindly narrates for the viewers at home. From finding his first full meal to attending an underground dinner in Hong Kong, Yuji details how dining on nubile young women has changed his world for the better -- a lifestyle that, with the arrival of a curious cop, is about to become much harder to maintain.

Y'know, The Last Supper is guilty of many things, but false advertising isn't one of them. Twenty minutes in, and that noggin on the cover is staring right back at Yuji as he munches on what was probably her favorite thumb. Just reading the premise had images of The Untold Story dancing in my head, but while it is about as gruesome, The Last Supper lacks the right sense of humor, arresting performances, or anything that might help make it a halfway enjoyable experience. Long story short, the flick is a total bore, and it's a lazy one at that. You might not think that of something that serves up the flesh-eating equivalent of Eyes Wide Shut's orgy scene, but it's incredible how remarkably dull such an odd premise has been rendered. The Last Supper mainly consists of Dr. Yuji narrating blog entries, and what do his reasons for turning to cannibalism amount to? "Because." But don't worry, there's some gratuitous religious imagery that helps give the story a first-class seat on the Pretension Express.

Yuji just isn't that fascinating of a character, neither as anti-hero or target of satire, which he easily could've been. A guy paid to carve up women takes his job to the extreme when he's off-duty? The Last Supper could've ripped the likes of Dr. 90210 a new one, but instead, it pulls the character study card, which, in this case, means Yuji moping around and giving hollow excuses as to why Mrs. Yoshita is missing a torso. Kato's performance isn't the worst, but he definitely needs a charisma transfusion, and between those consumed by Yuji and those who appear whenever they damn well please, it's not worth getting attached to the supporting cast either. Not even the gore scenes provide any satisfaction, as you're either too grossed out by organs being flat-out shoved at the camea or laughing too hard at the many amusingly fake decapitations.

Don't be fooled by the lurid cover; The Last Supper is just another feckless attempt to cash in on horror buffs in search of the next big shock. Japanese hottie on a bed of lettuce aside, it's a pretty boring affair, not diabolical enough to make the gore fly or intelligent enough for what it calls "observations" to hold any water. Maybe this is a sign of how jaded a genre fan I've become, but The Last Supper goes to show that if you've seen one cannibal chef on the loose, you've sure as hell seen 'em all.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Red Eye Report's 2010 October Horrorthon #12: "Kaidan"

Set in the days of Edo old, Kaidan centers on the relationship between young tobacconist Shinkichi (Kikunosuke Onoe) and singing instructor Toyoshiga (Hitomi Kuroki). When the two meet, their attraction is undeniable, though both are unaware of the sordid ties that bind them. As children, their fathers were involved in a spat that left Toyoshiga's pop slain and Shinkichi's damned to a life of misery. Sure enough, the curse works its magic on the two lovers, fanned by Shinkichi's penchant for young women and Toyoshiga's searing jealousy. Ultimately, the latter passes on, but not before declaring a curse of her own, swearing to wreak havoc not only on Shinkichi's life but also that of whoever dares bat eyes at him next.

Consider Kaidan a glimpse at J-horror's very roots, courtesy of Hideo Nakata's Wayback Machine. Although known best for the modern chillers Ringu and Dark Water, Nakata's picture harkens back to when Japan's ghost stories were treated as sagas and art forms unto themselves, rather than a means to put little Toshiro to bed. This respect is evident throughout Kaidan, from the stylized pre-credits sequence to the bittersweet finale. Shinkichi is no schmoe haunted by a cursed Cuisinart but the hapless victim of his father's sins, gradually driven mad by his inability to find peace in this world and seeing only torment to come in the next one. If horrible things occur, they truly are out of his control, and for as much as she spends the film in Sadako mode, Toyoshiga's own issues allow her more dimension beyond the usual vengeful ghost stereotype. Knowing the shared history they remain oblivious to paves the way for a good deal of characterization and dramatic weight that horror flicks generally shirk in favor of getting to the gore as soon as possible.

Nakata has the right tone in mind for Kaidan, but nailing it is one tale that doesn't have a happy ending. For one, in terms of the leads being dragged to hell and back, Nakata doesn't seem to know when enough is enough; Shinkichi is mostly innocent, but all the hardships he endures makes you wonder if the story really does regard him as an outright villain. Similarly, Toyoshiga is so vicious and relentless, it becomes hard to view her just as a wronged woman seeing that her memory is served justice. The ambiguity needed to pull it all off just ain't here, and while Nakata set out to pay homage to the past, he can't help but fall back on tired tricks from the derivative thrillers he helped inspire. He remains honorable and never outright cheap, but with random love scenes and babies farting out dozens of snakes, one gets the feeling much of the film was spiced up to appeal to Western perceptions of Asia Extreme. Plus, the flick looks pretty damn flat overall, a shame considering how nifty and alluring its intro scene turned out to be.

If there's an audience for Kaidan, it's more for the Snake Woman's Curse crowd than for Grudge groupies. Its reverence to the past and commitment to building up characters are what get us to care about the proceedings beyond who'll be dispatched next and how. You don't have to be Nobuo Nakagawa to tell that Kaidan isn't a total artistic success, but I'll take something that makes it halfway there over something that accepts mediocrity with open arms.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Red Eye Report's 2010 October Horrorthon #11: "Ju-On: The Curse"

Before Sony saw fit to give him a budget, Takashi Shimizu cut his teeth in the world of shot-on-video with Ju-On: The Curse. A prototype of his J-horror hit-to-be, this Ju-On also centers on a house that's been damned to the nth degree. A tragic event took place there some time ago, leaving behind a festering evil that claims the lives of those who dwell within its walls. As with the others in the series, the seemingly harmless abode's story is chronicled through nonlinear vignettes, ranging from three to ten minutes in length and focusing on one particular soul that comes in contact with the house. From a concerned teacher to a worried girlfriend, many fall prey to the wrath a croaking spirit that comes to scare them into an early grave. But when the curse finds its way to a frightened real estate agent, she resolves to warn potential buyers of the two stories of terror that await them.

I like to think that Takashi Shimizu is a smart guy. His work impressed and scared the hell out of Sam Raimi, who brought him to the attention of stateside horror fans and kept the Asia shock boom truckin' in The Ring's wake. Shimizu knows what's expected of him and delivers nothing less, which is why the idealist inside me wants to believe that he made six Ju-On features (counting The Grudge and its first sequel) to prove how much the premise just doesn't work. There's no other way to explain why anyone rational would regurgitate entire characters and story threads so many times, when it's been made clear that everyone in these flicks is boned from the word go (turns out there's not much suspense in nihilist horror stories). Maybe Ju-On is meant to be enjoyed in fragments; take a random frame from any ghost sequence, find the right sound effect, and boom, you have Internet screamer gold. But trying to follow an actual story or sympathize with anyone not currently undead here is as worthwhile as watching a Ringu print that's being fed through a woodchipper.

Speaking of choppy structures, let's talk about the one Ju-On: The Curse has to share with the class. To Shimizu's credit, it works better here than in some of his other movies, but it still reeks of cheating to have the turn of events jumbled around for the sake of Shimizu feeling good about bamboozling you in the easiest way possible. Plus, for a film built on the element of surprise and ghosts that appear out of nowhere, nothing really shocks you here. Even forgetting that its fellow Ju-Ons exist, you know exactly what will come to pass here (that its climactic plot twist is telegraphed by the freaking opening title card is kind of a downer, as well). Hell, I thought being video-based would help Shimizu here, since it added a lot to the film's flawed but intermittently spooky comrade Ju-Rei: The Uncanny, but no dice. The effects are crummy, the dramatic zooms are hilarious, and let's say it's not all that horrible that actors this stiff don't last long onscreen.

I want to say I read somewhere that much of Japanese cinema is based on a foundation of emotion over storytelling perfection. The ultimate goal gets more attention than the journey there, which I can totally see going on with Ju-On: The Curse. When all's said and done, it'll freak out its share of folks, but if 70 minutes of near-silence and household busywork are the best it can serve up along the way, you're better off having a grand old time doing your own damned chores.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Red Eye Report's 2010 October Horrorthon #10: "Isola"

In the wake of a 1995 earthquake that rocked central Japan, Yukari (Yoshino Kimura) has come all the way from Tokyo to pitch in with the clean-up. Once there, she learns that she has the ability to read the minds of others and starts using it to help relieve their various traumas. But one girl Yukari encounters proves to be quite the enigma: Chihiro (Yu Kurosawa), who seems to be a perfectly average high schooler. The reality is that she possesses thirteen different personalities, including a suicidal junkie and a five-year-old reliving a car accident. But the most dangerous personality of all is Isola, a wraith who can actually cause harm to those who antagonize Chihiro. Still trying to get a grip on her own abilities, Yukari sets out to uncover Isola's origins and stop her from hurting Chihiro or those around her.

Films ask their viewers to accept the impossible on a constant basis, but in a few cases, the demands can seriously pile up. Not only does Isola ask the world of you, it unloads everything it has in one sluggish, eye-rolling load without even waiting for an answer. Not only that, but it's very flippant towards itself, casually acknowledging elements and events that would barely fly in Hideo Nakata movies. There's a lot to go through here, what with Yukari's psychic powers, Chihiro's multiple personalities, and science experiments that kinda, sorta attempt to tie the fine mess together. But nothing comes close to gelling, and that's mostly because Isola hasn't a hint of logic to its name. I'm all for flicks tapping into their bizarre sides (hell, that's pretty much why I have a Netflix account), but there has to be some structure for me to accept any of this without the words "Pabst," "Blue," and "Ribbon" being involved.

Take, for instance, Yukari. She's a bit of a wild card, since we see her have the occasional freak-out in between popping antipsychotics throughout the film. Fair enough, and at the beginning, she seems surprised that she can hear what those around her are thinking, but towards the end, she gives the impression that she's been living as a psychic for some time. Then there's Chihiro, who the movie goes out of its way to say has thirteen personalities. Even the film's technical subtitle is Persona 13, but the most we ever get to know are three or four, and that's including Isola. On top of that, if Chihiro is so troubled to begin with, why isn't she being cared for professionally? Sure, she has an adoptive father who couldn't care less about her, but when Yukari proposes medicating Chihiro later on, she acts like it's the breakthrough of the century. There's no consistency whatsoever, just plot twists that duck their heads in because the drama of the moment dictates that something happen.

I didn't mean for this review to turn into a total bitchfest, but one of my benchmarks for a bad movie is that I think more about the nagging details than I end up enjoying the action. I dug some aspects of Isola, especially Kurosawa's sympathetic acting and a creepy look that you'd swear didn't belong to a ten-year-old flick. But as Isola demonstrates in the latter's favor, there's a big difference between a thriller that grabs you by the balls and one that pounds them into baking soda.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Red Eye Report's 2010 October Horrorthon #9: "Horror of Dracula"

Bela Lugosi and Frank Langella had similar debuts as the king of all vampires, but leave it to Christopher Lee to change things up a bit. Horror of Dracula starts off as Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen) arrives at the Count's humble abode not to sell him Carfax Abbey but to send his bloodsucking ass to the great beyond. When Harker's hunt hits a snag, good ol' Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) picks up the trail, only to find that his partner has met an unfortunate end. What's worse is that Dracula, driven by revenge, has targeted Harker's fiance Lucy (Carol Marsh) for assimilation into his undead fold. Van Helsing is prepared to combat Dracula with all his might, but in a society that's shunned old myths like that of the vampire, stopping the Count's evil influence from spreading is easier said than accomplished.

Though I pride myself on being a classic horror nerd, the Hammer pictures are ones that I've spent embarrassingly scant time exploring. I guess I've been on bended knee at Universal's altar too long to catch much beyond 1959's atmospheric but dull take on The Mummy and the blood-soaked gender politics of Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde. But I can get why Horror of Dracula came to be; the titans of horror needed to retrieve their lost luster, and if Universal wasn't going to answer the call, then dammit, Hammer would. For its time, Horror of Dracula probably was a little intense, even with but a fraction of the violence and titillation the Hammer flicks would become famous for. But nowadays, the film is harmless and borderline quaint at times, which would be fine, had it not embraced the brisk pacing of a molasses avalanche. It clocks in at a little over 80 minutes but feels eternal, especially when Van Helsing and crew painstakingly track down Dracula in scenes better left to line the Count's parakeet cages.

This brings me to what is arguably Horror of Dracula's greatest flaw: Dracula himself. The man is one of the most-performed characters in the history of the arts, a figure recognized by millions, and, as far as the horror genre is concerned, a freaking rock star. So outside of having Omar Epps in the cast, how can you possibly ruin a Dracula movie? Well, as Horror of Dracula demonstrates, barely including the guy is a good start. You could say Lee chose to make Dracula more animal than man, only emerging to strike fast and vanish just as quickly, and you'd be right. The Count is a straight-up monster here, making no effort to feign nobility, but feeling truly threatened is difficult when he's mainly seen dashing off to his coffin. This leaves us to follow Van Helsing, and bless Cushing's droll heart, but without being featured less so than Dracula or at least depicted on equal terms, Van Helsing's pious monologues fall on deaf ears and weary eyes. If anything, this flick goes to show you why Dracula is nobody's opening act.

Horror of Dracula has its place in fright film history, and I'm inclined to forgive it certain flaws. The set design is really fantastic, and compared to other versions of the Bram Stoker tale, be they Coppola or Browning, this one has an identity all its own. Lee's Dracula left an impression on monster fans, and I look forward to catching his other outings behind the cape, but it's unfortunate that the one to start it all holds up about as well as the Count would in sunny San Diego.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Red Eye Report's 2010 October Horrorthon #8: "Goth"

On a sunny, nondescript day, a woman's body is found propped up in a public park and her left hand completely severed. As another corpse was found in a similar state months prior, the police ponder the possibility of a serial killer, though they're not the only ones following the case. A fascination with all things morbid has brought together two teenagers from otherwise different background: Morino (Rin Takanashi), who's since given into her outcast status, and Kamiyama (Kanata Hongo), a cheery kid who harbors a secret obsession with death. Once they catch wind of the murders, the teens team up to track down the culprit and uncover his true motives. But when they stumble upon the killer's own journal, Morino and Kamiyama are forced to choose between going to the authorities or risk allowing potential deaths for the sake of understanding their own wounded psyches.

As in real life, it's hard to distinguish true adolescent angst from abject whining. But Goth isn't here to dissect subcultures; it's just a moody mystery, which is all jake with me. Hell, it doesn't even seem overtly mopey -- until you realize it's precisely that, just not from an aural standpoint. As Goth's characters suffer in silence, so does the viewer, who bears witness to a 96-minute pout-off that probably could've taken half an hour if its leads got the anchors out of their pants. This movie buys its dramatic pauses from the same Sam's Club as the Twilight franchise, and it's even more cavalier about using them to create the illusion that, no really, we're totally sad, you guys. There's feeling numb towards the world, and then there's catatonia, and from how blase Morino and Kamiyama react to the horrors they encounter, one wonders behind what plants their life support machines are tucked.

But as much as I'd love to fully condemn Goth as emo twaddle, here's where I have to pump the brakes. I hate to say it, but Goth isn't altogether uninteresting; the false emotions stem more from a director who's allergic to editing than from a flawed story. There are times when the plot is quite absorbing and not prone to beating us over the head as high school melodramas have before. For the most part, the sadness Morino and Kamiyama feel is genuine; it never seems like a vapid call for attention, and in Morino's case, it's even a form of penance. Kamiyama isn't as well-defined, but I dig the idea of a social butterfly hiding his dark side with disturbing ease. But again, their nonchalant nature returns to bite them in the aft end, sapping all the oomph from erstwhile challenging scenes, such as when Morino dresses as a murder victim to feel the sensation of being stalked. The climax is its own beast, one that bum-rushes story threads it should be resolving and prolonging ones that beg for the Old Yeller treatment.

A few years back, the Pang Brothers, those masters of inconsistency, made a minor masterpiece about dwelling on death. The film is called Ab-Normal Beauty, and it's a lurid, seedy, and whip-smart riff on everything Goth tries to do. Respectable as the filmmakers are towards characters often thrown to the stereotype wolves, real insight is in short supply, while the greatest terror comes from realizing you put money towards something scraped off the side of J-horror's aquarium.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Red Eye Report's 2010 October Horrorthon #7: "Flesh for Frankenstein"

Baron Frankenstein (Udo Kier) views the world as a five-year-old would an ant farm. Within the bowels of a secluded mansion, he obsesses over purifying the human race and creating life as he sees fit -- by way, naturally, of stitching together only the finest body parts. As our story begins, the Baron has chosen a farmhand (Srdjan Zelenovic) to provide the head topping the culmination of his life's work. Unfortunately, he's missing the sex drive required to propogate the Baron's master race with a female creation he also has stashed away. That belongs to a local stableboy (Joe Dallesandro), who's currently using his gift to service the frigid Baroness Frankenstein (Monique van Vooren). But after the servant discovers what happened to his friend, he sets out to railroad the Baron's experiments and end his madness for good.

You have to wonder what frame of mind was used in making Flesh for Frankenstein. Considering Andy Warhol's involvement (which was reportedly very thin), being confused could just as well be the point, but this intensely sexualised take on a classic horror story has an agenda that rings quite clearly. The film is on a mission to challenge you, and challenge it does, reminding viewers of the true terrors of a tale that had at the time been rendered innocuous by kiddie monster shows. In fact, Flesh for Frankenstein could have the strongest moral code of any Frankenstein adaptation. While so many other versions inevitably cast their doctors as erstwhile noble men falling under the spell of scientific progress, Kier's Baron is a bastard to the bitter end. Blunt and open about his desire for racial purity, the Baron not only gave into insanity long ago but couldn't care less who knows it.

Yet as Wikipedia is so kind to include in its summary, Flesh for Frankenstein pays as much stylish tribute to the mad scientist classics as it satirizes and sensationalizes them to the extreme. The decaying laboratory, the various apparatuses, monologuing about life and death every three minutes -- there's enough common ground for monster fans to get comfy before being plunged into a psychosexual clustercuss. But the flick's on-the-fly approach does have its drawbacks, namely in the acting (or lack of acting) department. Although we know and love Udo Kier as the cult icon he is today, you can tell this is one of his first big gigs, so don't be surprised to catch a whiff of Tommy Wiseau in his performance. But he's still bugnuts crazy enough to let pass, as opposed to Dallesandro's wooden American accent leaving his scenes with the profundity of a cabbage belch.

Notorious for a reason and not for the faint of heart (or those who value joy in the world), Flesh for Frankenstein is rough around the edges but undeniably fascinating. Even if Warhol didn't have much to do with the production, his presence is there, persisting in writer/director Paul Morrissey's quest to show audiences what true horror is. Driven equally by ideas and exploitation, Flesh for Frankenstein is one tawdry little creation with plenty of life in it.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Red Eye Report's 2010 October Horrorthon #6: "The Entity"

Carla Moran (Barbara Hershey) is an independent woman and proud of it. She's a single mother of three, works all day, and attends typing school at night, all with her sanity intact. But on a night no different than any other, the unspeakable begins to take place in Carla's home. An invisible force barges in and violates Carla in the worst ways, before disappearing as quickly as it arrived. Overcome with distress as is, she's further angered when it seems that there's no logical solution to what's happening. The more well-meaning psychiatrist Dr. Sneiderman (Ron Silver) delves into Carla's past, the more frequent and intense her attacks before. Whoever or whatever Carla's assailant is, it's real, though it'll take something special to bring it down in our world.

Schindler's List. United 93. The Passion of the Christ. These are very admirable films, from artistic and thematic standpoints, though it's a little weird to say I "like" them. They reached their respective aims as effectively as they could have, but it'll be a long time before I pop any of them in on a rainy afternoon. As much of a sore thumb as it looks stacked against these pictures, The Entity is just the same, ostensibly a mainstream creepfest that deals in unexpectedly mature and very disturbing concepts. Just as startling is that the film, having been released when most moviegoers based their image of the supernatural off of the Amityville clunkers, makes it to the end without a scratch on its overall dignity. The Entity is a tough sit, but it survives by servicing its characters more so than the gorehound crowd. There are images of sexual assault that are difficult to watch, but the absence of some simplistic objective on which to hang these sequences spares the film the ravages of crass exploitation.

From shocking beginning to harrowing end, The Entity is firmly focused on Carla and never once wavers. Psychologically and physically, she's put through the mother of all wringers, savaged by a demonic aggressor and tortured by the fact that there's sound way to deal with it. A wrenching scene in which Carla breaks down and ponders submitting to her assailant is as riveting as the more showy attack sequences, both of which are still tastefully handled. Things do start to come apart in the third act, when the story edges away from mimicking its real-life basis and throws in a climax with Carla being pursued by a possessed freeze gun. It's never skipping hand-in-hand through a field of silly alongside The Manitou, but it definitely shows how the biggest pyrotechnics show you can muster is no match for a performance like Hershey's that encapsulates all manner of torment most of us can only imagine.

I hadn't known The Entity was such a hot commodity before I hit it up, with new discs on Amazon beginning at $110 as of this posting. I tracked my copy through the library, so unless you have a chum who's up on his '80s horror collection or a dusty VHS of your own laying somewhere, chances are you've seen the last of this ditty for some time. In any case, I'm dying for a current viewer's take on The Entity -- after so many films have instructed us when to be scared like good little puppies, I'd like to see how they do with something that actually has a reason.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Red Eye Report's 2010 October Horrorthon #5: "Dying Breed"

If Dying Breed is to be believed, Australia in the early 1800s resembled a primeval version of Escape from New York. Once a penal colony housing England's undesirable, the most notorious of them all was the Pieman, a criminal who fed on human flesh to survive. Centuries after his death, the Pieman's legend lives on in a remote area of Tasmania, where a group of pals have come to in search of a rare tiger. What they instead run into is the set of The Aussie Chainsaw Massacre and a village that swears by the Pieman's cannibalistic cookbook. The locals take to hunting down the tourists in short order, but having reached the bottom of the gene pool some time ago, the residents plan to replenish their bloodline before the feast truly begins.

Few horror movies concern themselves with surprising viewers anymore. We know what to expect, as do they, so nine times out of ten, it's a matter of the inevitable being delayed. But how a flick passes that time before the foregone conclusion is what separates a fan's ecstatic elation from their profanity-laden dismay. I'm not so disappointed that Dying Breed falls into this line so easily (which I am, but that's another story) as I am in it providing nothing to really watch in the meantime. It's a film that lays down all its cards from the word go, foreshadows everything you could possibly expect from a premise like this, and still expects you to be gobsmacked when its world turns exactly as planned. What was I supposed to carry away from this? That cannibalism is icky? Thanks, movie, I never would've guessed. Excuse me while I fill in the cast of Alive.

Dying Breed isn't big on creating tension, sustaining it as the narrative progresses, and upping the suspense ante when necessary -- it's all about characters learning things the audience figured out twenty minutes in, until the movie feels like stopping. The mood is dour enough (as cannibal stories that don't involve dudes named Raoul tend to be), so waiting for Dying Breed to finish having its way with you makes you more hostage than paying customer. Adding further drudgery to the proceedings are characters who go endure routines their respective archetypes have dictated they go through since the dawn of time. But Nathan Phillips as the king of the douchebags aside, the lead performers, which include Saw screenwriter Leigh Whannell, do turn out fairly appealing performances. Plus, as dark as the overall tone gets, the few hints of self-aware exploitation help it feel less bleak and hopeless than fellow Aussie fright flick Wolf Creek.

Would I go so far as to call Dying Breed stupid? Well, it's not good at all, but it's less constructive with its time than it is outright idiotic. It has the makings of a taut survival thriller, one that could make good use out of Australia's urban legends. But just as the film's characters have consigned themselves to biting the dust by the final reel, viewers can anticipate an abysmal ride out of Dying Breed before the Pieman's first big bite.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Red Eye Report's 2010 October Horrorthon #4: "Cold Prey"

In the terrifying tradition of Extreme Ops and Ski Patrol, Cold Prey takes place during a wintry jaunt gone decidedly awry. Norway's picturesque mountains are the order of the day, and despite a small whiff of sexual tension in the group, five farm-fresh stereotypes are prepared to party themselves purple. But the good times are cut short when the token nerd (Rolf Kristian Larsen) takes a dive a busts up his leg somethin' awful. The gang finds shelter in an abandoned ski lodge, where they discover that their ordeal is just beginning. Someone's been watching these kids ever since they took to the slopes, and while they wait out the bad weather before searching for help, this cunning killer plans on serving as their own personal tour guide to hell and back.

Cold Prey's back cover comes adorned with promises of intelligence, intensity, and other terms that are hard to come by in the horror genre. Lord knows how many mainstream movies get the hell hyped out of them just for not sucking, so imagine what happens when horror fans wheel out the pedestal. But since Cold Prey is particularly ballsy and insistent that it's not typical slasher fodder, the fact that it totally freaking is comes as even less of a shock. I've previously mentioned how I always assume that other countries know better and avoid the mistakes America's movies are built on making. But with some Japanese ghost movies tailored to fit our perceptions of the genre, I guess it's no surprise that Cold Prey is extra careful that it never develop something as silly as an actual identity.

That's not to say there's no audience for Cold Prey, as its accolades and two follow-up features have demonstrated there is. But even Prom Night made a profit, and while Cold Prey is cut from less neutered, intelligence-insulting cloth, there's almost zero entertainment value here. The film is minimalist to a fault and cuts corners wherever possible, be they in the location or dialogue departments. Characters milling around is mistaken for tension, grumbled rants about one's love life is what passes for character development, and a half-assed wraparound twist is meant to leave us with one last surprise (which it might have, were it relevant to the story in any shape or form). There's just nothing here that other, superior horror movies haven't executed with more style, imagination, and energy. This doesn't even have the self-referential edge of a Dead Snow (which was shallow, yes, but it was there).

I'm not mad that Cold Prey didn't live up to Ain't It Cool News' claims of perfection; I'm mad that it didn't even try. Sure, the self-promotion didn't help, but the lack of a drive to do anything except C+ its way through Slashers 101 did even more damage. Like the countless other thrillers that shooting dark hallways is a one-way ticket to suspense, Cold Prey is dull, derivative, and, worst of all, sorely mistaken.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Red Eye Report's 2010 October Horrorthon #3: "The Boogie Man Will Get You"

When Winnie Slade (Miss Jeff Donnell) bought a dusty old country house, she thought a few creaky floorboards were the worst she'd have to deal with. Sure, the farmhands are a bit nutty, and weird Professor Billings (Boris Karloff) carries on some funny business in the basement, but they're just some harmless eccentrics. But little does Winnie know that the professor's experiments in turning men into super-powered beings have left her with a few well-preserved corpses tucked in the cellar. Not only that, but some shady houseguests check in, there's a mad bomber on the loose, and a killer has taken to stalking the premises. The Slade estate is getting screwier by the minute, and Winnie's ex-husband Bill (Larry Parks) is the only one sane enough to try and figure out what's going on.

Anyone who says that old movies are boring can put The Boogie Man Will Get You in their pipe and smoke it. A surplus of subplots is tough for any movie to handle, but this one clocks in at 66 minutes and still whips itself into entertaining shape. But it should be said that this isn't a true horror movie. There's no ordained "Boogie Man" to speak of, and that Mothman guy on the poster is nowhere to be seen either (what, did the artist think the flick wasn't busy enough?). We have Peter Lorre gussied up like the Reverend Harry Powell, but even he gets in on the goofiness pretty quickly. Nah, Boogie Man isn't an official fright film but rather a farce with a cheerfully diabolical sense of humor. In tone, it's closer to Arsenic and Old Lace than Frankenstein, with Karloff's nutty professor humorously lamenting many a human guinea pig lost in the name of science.

Still, the light approach works best for Boogie Man; with a workload like the one it takes on, truly sinister overtones would've killed its charm. As it, the movie has some trouble keeping up with itself, occasionally dishing out gags and side bits for the sake of having something to do. But with its short running time, Boogie Man wraps up long before it has the chance to really wear out its welcome. It's too cheery to hate, especially when you see the actors having just as much fun. Karloff has a blast defying God's will any chance he gets, but I was even more impressed with Lorre's performance. To be honest, I'm not as up on my Lorre as I should be, but he was wry comic gold here, playing the town jack-of-all-trades who joins up with Billings to make a few quick bucks. Donnell and Parks are just fine as the prototypical bickering lovers, and Maxie Rosenbloom enjoys some good-natured goofs as a particularly dimwitted shuckster.

The Boogie Man Will Get You comes packaged with Boris Karloff's Icons of Horror set, where it's easily the least frightening of the bunch. It's not the first time this has happened, but it's of more respectable quality than Karloff's lighter material tends to be. Sunny and amusing over campy and intolerable, The Boogie Man Will Get You is the very picture of macabre hilarity.