Monday, November 13, 2017

BARRACUDA

Barracuda Movie Review

In 1975, the movie Jaws took the world by storm and scared audiences silly. As is often the case with such hits, many cheap imitation movies followed--in the case of Jaws, those movies came for years, and Barracuda is one such film--at least in part. This one came out in 1978, and until yesterday I had not seen it since probably some time in the mid 1980s, so I was looking forward to checking it out again. The movie starts off swell enough--we get lots of barracuda attacks, lots of death scenes, lots of blood--really a lot more than you may expect from a movie rated PG.

There's even a severed head!

So the movie goes along just fine, and we get used to the killer fish, but then the film takes a drastic turn--our fun little horror movie becomes a whodunit of sorts, with government conspiracies, mind control, and the focus of the film goes from the barracudas to humans...and my interest dropped considerably. The bad acting and poor dialogue could be overlooked early on because the attacks were cool and entertaining, but when the plot shifted, these things became painful. From this point on, the movie drags, the story falls apart, and the end, while somewhat surprising, is abrupt and leaves the viewer feeling the entire thing was a waste of time. Watch this one for the first half, but if you plan to watch the rest, be ready to be disappointed.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 4


Barracuda Movie Trailer



Oh okay, because I know it's been stuck in your head...

Sunday, November 12, 2017

STRANGER THINGS (Season 2)

Stranger Things Season 2 Review

WARNING: This review will contain a few Season 2 spoilers, and WILL contain many spoilers from Season 1, so if you have not seen that yet, you might want to check it out before continuing....okay, now that you've been warned, lets get on with this. Season 2 picks up just under a year after the end of Season 1--Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) is back, his mother Joyce (Winona Ryder) is almost normal again and dating Bob (Sean Astin), and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) has survived and is living with Chief Hopper (David Harbour). Of somewhat less importance: Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton) and Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer) are getting closer as Nancy, apparently deciding Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) is just too nice these days, pulls away from her boyfriend; a fella named Sam Owens (Paul Reiser) is now running Hawkins Laboratory; Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) now has his front teeth; there is a new girl, Dig Dug master Max (Sadie Sink), in the boys' group and her step-brother Billy (Dacre Montgomery) is the new high school bully and heartthrob, with a specific hatred for poor Steve.

And a wonderful head of hair

This season seems much more scattered than the first season, as we see the characters not only intertwine in different ways, but also see them sort of grow apart and branch out on their own (more on that soon). Eleven wanders off on her own to find her mother, and eventually her "sister", a chick from the opening scene of the first episode who we know immediately has some sort of connection to El. This girl, who is a bit older than Eleven, is tattooed 008, and heads her own group of troublemakers. 

Here they are now

After the initial scene, the group is practically forgotten about until, much later into the season, Eleven tracks them down, briefly joins them, then leaves soon after to head back to Hawkins.

Complete with a new wave makeover

For as much potential as this part of the story had, it ended up being fairly disappointing--there was a tremendous buildup to what ultimately lead to nothing terribly meaningful--this said, Kali, or 008, or Eight--whatever you want to call her--could lead her gang into Season 3, so we'll have to wait and see on that one. Another outstanding buildup that leaves the viewer disappointed is that of Billy and Max. It is heavily teased throughout the season that these two are not quite as they seem, but at the end of the day, we find Billy is a jerk because his father is a jerk (Henry Bowers anybody?) and Max is just a girl with a crush on Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin). Much like with Eight, I am holding out hope there is more to come from these two in season three. I also felt this season focused way too much on Dustin, a character most effective as a side kick, while featuring way too little of Joyce. All that out of the way, the stuff we loved from season one is still present here--the strong character development, the impressive acting (Harbour in particular really steps up his game), the 80s nostalgia (the boys dress as the Ghostbusters for Halloween and argue because none of them wanted to be poor Winston), the music (though not as good as in the first season), and whatever is happening in, and approaching from, the upside down.

Cloverfield? M.U.T.O.?

Going back to what I said about the characters branching out--the final season closes with the boys each dancing with a different girl, implying that, perhaps, the group is growing up and apart--it will certainly be interesting to see what direction this goes in when we get to the third season. While not quite on the level of the first season, the second season of Stranger Things does not disappoint--a third season is inevitable, and I cannot wait to see it, but a part of me hopes it is so good they end at three...there's nothing worse than seeing a good show die a slow, painful death, and Stranger Things deserves a better fate than that.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 7


Stranger Things Season 2 Trailer

THE DEADLY MANTIS

The Deadly Mantis Movie Review

A giant praying mantis, frozen in ice since prehistoric times, is unleashed to terrorize the world. As is often the case in these 1950s giant insect movies, the United States military is on the job to take down the threat. The movie begins with a long narration explaining locations and everything we are about to see, followed by the introduction of the main characters, followed by a lot of absolutely nothing happening. After what seems an eternity, our mantis friend finally gets his time to shine, and shine he does!

Flying mantis!

I acknowledge the fact we don't watch these 50s sci-fi flicks for the Academy-level acting, but my goodness, the acting in this movie is really bad--to call it wooden would be an insult to many finer performances that have been branded with that label. The dialogue is almost as bad as the acting, there is a ton of stock footage usage, and don't even get me started on the directing. If you can make it through all this, you will be treated to a pretty cool looking giant mantis.

"Aww, shucks!"

Most unfortunately, the damage caused by the mantis is minimal, and his inevitable destruction is fairly disappointing. I have a real life love of praying mantises--one summer, when I was 19 years old, I would often sleep with my bedroom window open, and on many such mornings I would wake up with a praying mantis in my room, frequently on my chest; I have loved them every since--this, coupled with my adoration of 50s sci-fi films, made me very excited to see The Deadly Mantis, but sadly, this one didn't come close to my expectations. 

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 4


The Deadly Mantis Movie Trailer

Saturday, November 11, 2017

FRIGHT NIGHT PART 2

Fright Night Part 2 Movie Review

Three years after killing vampire Jerry Dandridge, Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) is in college, has upgraded his choice in women (now with Alex, played by Traci Lind ), and no longer believes in vampires--the problem is, Jerry's vampire sister Regine (Julie Carmen) and her band of misfits are in town and out for revenge. With Alex not believing in vampires, Evil Ed gone, and Amy...well, we're not quite sure what happened to Amy...there is only one person Charley can turn to for help...

Peter Vincent...Vampire Killer!

As is often the case, the sequel doesn't quite live up to the original, but there is still plenty to enjoy here. Roddy McDowall is once again spectacular in his portrayal of Peter Vincent, the on-screen vampire hunter turned real life--an very hesitant--vampire killer. Ragsdale turns in another decent performance as Charley, but the acting drops off considerably from there. The villains are an interesting crew--we have Regine, the leader,

Jerry's sis

Louie, the Evil Ed wannabe who looks like some strange cross between Top Dollar from The Crow and Michael Westen from Burn Notice,

Party on dude

Belle, the sometimes males, sometimes female, roller skating terror,

Belle on wheels

and Bozworth, the bug eating creep who looks like my old buddy Quasar from my younger days.

With that diet he ought to move to Florida

The basis of the story is somewhat uninspired, but there are some pretty unexpected twists and turns along the way. The horror isn't quite as scary, nor the comedy quite as funny, as in the first film, but this movie certainly has its moments. The makeup and special effects are a step down from the original film as well, but they are still decent for the time. The movie does run a bit long, but the rapid-fire death scenes toward the end make it all worth it. I had always liked Fright Night 2, and was thrilled when my girlfriend got it for me years ago, as it had been years before that since I had watched it--I was very happy to discover I still liked it quite a bit. The movie screams 80s horror awesomeness, and should be watched by any fan of that decade.

As a side note, the story of the movie after its theatrical release is also interesting: the distribution of the film was halted with the murder of Jose Menendez, the head of distribution, and the movie played to a limited number of theaters. While it was released on VHS the following year, it received a very limited DVD release in 2003 from Artisan, and has not been officially released on blu-ray. As a result of this, the Artisan DVD is highly collectible (I have one--thanks Sani!), and many, many illegal copies have been sold. So if you have this film on DVD that is not from Artisan, or you have a blu-ray of any sort, congratulations--you have yourself a bootleg. 

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 7


Fright Night Part 2 Movie Trailer

FRIGHT NIGHT

Fright Night Movie Review

When Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon, The Nightmare Before Christmas), a vampire, moves in next door, teenager Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) enlists the help of his girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse from Married...with Children), his horror-freak pal Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys, 976-Evil) and famous vampire hunter--in films only--Peter Vincent (Hollywood legend Roddy McDowall) to help combat him. There are a handful of horror films that remind me of being a kid--ones that, growing up, I watched more times than I could ever count--and Fright Night is certainly one of them, so it will always hold a sentimental place for me, but looking past that, this really is a fantastic horror film. For as much as I love the other things about the film I will touch on in a moment, my favorite part of the movie is McDowall as Peter Vincent.

"Who...me?"

The character--an obvious nod to horror legends Peter Cushing and Vincent Price--is an over-the-hill horror actor who now hosts a late night horror show--appropriately titled Fright Night--often showing the movies of his prime. Charley, believing that if anybody would know how to help his vampire problem, it would be "Vincent Price--Vampire Killer!", seeks out the assistance of the actor, but when Charley meets Price, he finds him to be less Van Helsing and more Cowardly Lion. McDowall's performance ranks as one of my all time favorites in any sort of movie. The rest of the cast does a good job as well, particularly Sarandon as the vampire and Geoffreys as Evil Ed, another of my favorite characters in horror history. Another outstanding aspect of this film comes from the special effects and makeup departments. As the movie jumps effortlessly between the comedic and the horrific, these departments do a great job delivering the frights.

An oft-used Facebook profile pic for a certain horror blog writer

This one may have given my girlfriend nightmares years ago

As impressive as these visuals are, the best of the film is saved for the scene featuring Ed's fate--the transformation draws comparison to that in An American Werewolf In London, and is just as good in my book--in fact, I prefer the one in Fright Night simply because I find it far more tragic while also being quite disturbing.

Slowly! Oh so slowly

The film moves at a very impressive rate, the story is an interesting one, and writer/director Tom Holland does a great job making the audience care about the characters and what's happening to them. From beginning to end, there is a lot to love about Fright Night. After all these years, it remains a personal favorite, and a movie I try to watch at least once a year.

On A Score Of One To Ten: 9


Fright Night Movie Trailer

Friday, November 3, 2017

OPEN WATER 2: ADRIFT

Open Water 2: Adrift Movie Review

A group of six morons and a baby take a yacht out into an ocean, and amidst their horseplay, they all decide to go for a swim--actually, one girl didn't want to go in, but she was forced to against her will--that's not really important. It's not until they're in the water, however, that they realize nobody bothered to lower the ladder so they could climb back on.

"Damn! We're in a tight spot!"

Other than also featuring people stranded in the ocean, this movie doesn't really tie in to the original, overrated film, and unlike that movie, isn't really based on a true story, though it claims to be. It is kind of, sort of teased that, as in the original film, we may see sharks, but surprisingly, that doesn't happen; instead, we get a lot of attempting to get back on the boat, a lot of whining and blaming, a quick flurry of action that sees one character get stabbed, one die of exhaustion, and another, the one who looks like a young Jeff Brantley, hit his head on the bottom of the boat and suffer a skull fracture.

"Right. Down. Broadway."

Outside that fifteen minutes, and a little in the end, there's not much action in this film, but it certainly does a better job keeping your attention than Open Water does. Strangely, you may actually find yourself caring about a character or two along the way, something you certainly wouldn't expect after the first half hour of the film. The end, and subsequently, who survives, will surprise nobody. The dialogue switches from captivating to mind-numbing with unusual regularity, and the editing leaves a lot to be desired. While not exactly the movie you are expecting it to be, Open Water 2: Adrift has some interesting moments that keep it...ahem...floating in a sea of mediocre sequels. 

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 5


Open Water 2: Adrift Movie Trailer

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA

It Came From Beneath The Sea Movie Review

When a submarine comes in contact with a mysterious object, the Navy enlists the help of Professor Lesley Joyce (Faith Domergue of This Island Earth and Cult of the Cobra fame) and Dr. John Carter (Donald Curtis) to find out what it was. It is soon discovered that the object was a giant, boat-attacking octopus.

It likes attacking buildings too

A lot of this movie's time is spent trying to figure out what the octopus is, convincing the important people it is, in fact, a giant octopus, and thinking of ways to destroy it, while at the same time developing a relationship between Joyce and Commander Pete Mathews (Kenneth Tobey)--of course he eventually wins her over, proving that, even in 1955, hot chicks fell for the biggest jerk in the room.

"Yes, he's a jerk...but he's so handsome!"

This is a lot to sit through to finally get to something actually happening, but when the octopus is revealed, it is 1950s science fiction gold. The miniature models and stop-motion effects of the octopus are outstanding, and it's attack on San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge are the stuff of nightmares (Sani, never watch this one). The acting is fair, and Domergue is as good as ever, but the dialogue is weak and the sub-plots uninteresting. Watch this one for Domergue and the octopus--outside of them, there's not much else to this film

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 5


It Came From Beneath The Sea Movie Trailer