Wednesday, October 29, 2008

AMC's Fearfest (2008)

Note: This collection of mini-reviews was originally posted on Bridge To Better Days. I am reposting it here for archival purposes. It has been backdated to the date of its original posting.

This year's Monsterfest on AMC is shorter (if memory serves), with a worse lineup (where's my Hellraiser?!), and renamed to Fearfest. What's the tradeoff? We get a celebrity host in the form of Rob Zombie. Which is kinda neat, but I'd rather have more and better movies. Still, it's a whole week of horror titles, and there's bound to be something good in there. Following are some notes about some of the movies I've watched in the past week - mostly the ones I haven't seen before (though not exclusively).

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 (1985) - The first Nightmare on Elm Street movie is undeniably one of the great classics of the horror genre. This sequel, though unsurprisingly, doesn't hold a candle to the first installment. One thing it does have going for it, though, is the kickass rock music - which sounds great despite being very 80's.

Motel Hell (1980) - This movie was so great. The perfect combination of comedy and horror. It was funny without making fun of itself, and without killing the creepiness of the plot. The innocent motorcycle accident victim girl was very alluring throughout, and Farmer Vincent was delightfully demented. The climax involving a pig's head mask and a chainsaw duel was just totally outstanding. Two thumbs up.

Constantine (2005) - This is one I saw back in college a number of years ago. Really more of an action film featuring [supernatural] horror elements rather than a horror film, but entertaining just the same. I think I understood it a bit better this time through.

Panic Room (2002) - And this one's actually a thriller, not a horror. Jodie Foster and her daughter (her movie daughter, that is) hold out against three robbers looking to steal a fortune hidden in their house. Pretty tense, and overall an entertaining movie. Forest Whitaker plays very well the part of a bad guy who has enough morals to make you feel bad for him when things don't work out in the end. I liked it.

Pet Sematary Two (1992) - For once, a sequel that's actually pretty decent. Maybe even as good as the first. The Pet Sematary movies are so sick in that they play on that fear of children losing their pets, and then pervert it by adding a creepy zombie twist. Good stuff, though. I found the fat kid to be pretty easy to sympathize with, and the bully was just a real jackass. He totally has it coming when he gets done in later in the story...

House on Haunted Hill (1999) - Entertaining, and actually manages to sit outside the realm of crappy "no soul" remakes. This one claims to be "faithful" to the original, and while it's totally respectful to the original, and in no way "unfaithful", I just don't know if "faithful" is a word I'd use, since it adds this whole totally supernatural element to the story. Anyway, I love that the one actor totally pulls off the "Vincent Price" persona. It gives the film a whole 'nother layer of authenticity. Anyway, it's a fun ride, and who can say no to Ali Larter? Not I.

Return to House on Haunted Hill (2007) - Crap. Pure, utter crap. I couldn't even watch it. It's just got that whole sleazy, modern direct-to-video feel, meaning a crappy plot, with really crappy actors. Don't bother. (Still better than Pinata: Survival Island, though...)

Bordello of Blood (1996) - Taken for what it is (a Tales From The Crypt movie - and thus, not to be taken seriously), this was a rather entertaining flick about a vampire whorehouse hidden in the basement of a mortuary. Dennis Miller absolutely sells this movie, in the role of a witty private investigator. His quips are without a doubt the main feature (intended or not). By the way, watching another "tale from the crypt" reminds me how much I absolutely despise The Crypt Keeper. It's not just that his puns are absolutely terrible (which, let's face it, is true of most puns), or that you can see them coming from a mile away, but the way in which he hams them up so much just completely kills whatever impact they might otherwise have had... and his laugh is just so damn obnoxious! Moving on...

Jeepers Creepers (2001) - Wow, the first act of this movie is outstanding (by the way, note to Quentin Tarantino: the beginning scene in this movie is how casual chit-chat in a horror movie should be done). If only the rest of it stood up, this would be one of my favorites, but unfortunately the movie sort of descends into mediocre supernatural horror by the 1/3 mark or so. And that's ironic, because I usually say that I prefer a good supernatural monster flick to another run of the mill serial killer story. But this movie starts out as a really good serial killer movie, then drops to the level of a run-of-the-mill devil-on-the-loose story. Still worth seeing, though.

An American Werewolf in London (1981) - A classic of the werewolf subgenre, and, from what I can tell, frequently compared to The Howling, which I saw last year. I have to say, I much prefer the werewolves in The Howling - the ones in An American Werewolf look too much like bears, actually. But, the whole part in the moors, and the Slaughtered Lamb pub, is totally atmospheric and creepy. And the rest of the movie is pretty entertaining. I think I like The Howling better overall, but they're both good lycanthrope classics.

The Dark Half (1993) - Interestingly, a Stephen King novel adapted and directed by George Romero, about a writer (whodathunkit?) whose dark and gritty alter-ego literally comes to life. It's an entertaining story very well-executed, with lots of suspense and mystery, but as far as being strictly scary, I wouldn't necessarily call it a straight horror. The flocking sparrows did seem to channel The Birds just a little bit, though.

Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday (1993) - Mediocre at best. Too much plot, and not enough horny teenagers. Jason just isn't as intimidating hopping from one body to another. It was an interesting surprise to see the mysterious informant "X" from The X-Files (Deepthroat's replacement) playing the part of a bounty hunter who inexplicably knows all the details behind Jason's secret supernatural origin. What the hell was Freddy Krueger doing at the very end there? Was that supposed to be a setup for Freddy vs. Jason? That was weird.

Willard (2003) - A captivating story about a timid man who is driven mad by his jackass of a boss, and seeks revenge after befriending a host of rats he finds in his basement. But not all of the rats are so willing to follow the man's orders. Excellent acting by Crispin Glover in the lead role. Pretty darn good for a movie about rats.

Christine (1983) - Another Stephen King story, about a geek who buys a junk car (named Christine) and then turns into a cool cat practically overnight. Trouble is, the car is possessed, and a pretty jealous lover. Yeah, it sounds kinda silly, but this was actually a very good movie. And hey, it was directed by John Carpenter. I love how Christine always plays these old 50's-style rock n roll songs (she was "born" in 1957), and then the last line in the movie, by one of the survivors, is... "god I hate rock n roll". In most situations, I'd be annoyed by a line like that. But here, it just works.