Monday, July 28, 2014

Sleepwalkers (1992)

Director: Mick Garris

Writer: Stephen King

Composer: Nicholas Pike

Starring: Brian Krause, Madchen Amick, Alice Krige, Jim Haynie, Cindy Pickett, Ron Perlman, Lyman Ward, Dan Martin, Glenn Shadix, Cynthia Garris, Monty Bane, John Landis, Joe Dante, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Tobe Hooper, Mark Hamill

More info: IMDb

Tagline: They feast on your fear - and it's dinner time.

Plot: A mother-and-son team of strange supernatural creatures come to town to seek out a virgin to feed on.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Is it me or do a lot of Stephen King movies have a great premise, start out well and fall flat by the end?  That's how this one was.  I was into it until the last half hour.  I kept expecting something more.  I loved the Mark Hamill cameo in the beginning and then seeing horror director greats Landis, Dante, Barker and Hooper closer to the end.  That was fun.  The cast does a fine job.  Say, what's the deal with the Sleepwalkers having the ability to change their cars from Cameros to Mustangs?  Am I just supposed to accept it since I'm already going along with their ability to shape shift?  They're already shaving off a couple of layers of my suspension of disbelief.  I can't have 'em taking too much more off because the weekend's coming up and I'm going to need 'em.  This movie isn't that bad but it sounds like I'm bitching a lot but they sure got a lot of mileage out of that Santo & Johnny classic, Sleepwalk, didn't they?  I lost count at how many times they played it but I was starting to get annoyed by it and I love that song.  But I totally dug the Enya tune during the end credits, Boadicea.  I'm a Dead Can Dance man myself and I don't care for much Enya but I really like that song.  Don't get too excited about the Columbia DVD.  You do get both the widescreen and fullscreen versions of the film but you only get 5 trailers for extras (THE TINGLER, JOHNNY MNEMONIC, SCREAMERS, I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD) and text Talent Files on some of the key people who worked on the film.  Shouldn't it be mandatory that if you include ANY trailers, one of them should be for the film on the DVD?  Stupid studios.

Stark Fear (1962)

Directors: Ned Hockman, Skip Homeier

Writer: Dwight V. Swain

Composer: Lawrence V. Fisher

Starring: Beverly Garland, Skip Homeier, Kenneth Tobey, Hannah Stone, George Clow, Paul Scovil, Edna Neuman, John Arville, Bruce Palmer, Carey Mount, Cartez Ewing, Robert Stone, Barbara Freeman, Darlene Dana Reno, Joseph Benton

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A NEW Kind of Suspense

Plot:  A sadistic husband mentally tortures his wife, while eventually planning to murder her. Although no one believes her, she gets help from an unexpected source.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

This is the last film featured in the excellent DVD set from Something Weird Video called WEIRD-NOIR.  It's more drama than noir but it's got something that I think is worth watching for students of film.  It's a rape scene but it's not just the rape scene but more of the several scenes that lead up to it.  And it's not like it's titillating or anything.  It's far from it but it's so well handled that it's truly horrific and one of the most startling rape scenes I've seen and even more so because it's more than fifty years old.  You really feel bad for the gal not only for that but she seems to come across bad men left and right.  Being how it's from the sixties you probably know if it's going to end well or poorly for Ellen (Garland).  I was pleased with the ending although some are going to see it as a cheesy sellout.  I'm OK with it.  The performances are pretty good but the problems with the film stem from getting bogged down into too much melodrama which leads to drag.  Other than that, it's not that bad and it's at least worth a look.  Now that I've finished the two-disc SWV Weird-Noir set, I can say with certainty that it's a solid thumbs up.  You can pick it up for less than fifteen bucks if you look hard enough.  Of the six films, at least half are definite re-watches and alone make the set worth buying.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Opera (1987)

Director: Dario Argento

Writers: Dario Argento, Franco Ferrini

Composers: Brian Eno, Roger Eno, Steel Grave, Claudio Simonetti, Bill Wyman

Starring: Cristina Marsillach, Ian Charleson, Urbano Barberini, Daria Nicolodi, Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni, Antonella Vitale, William McNamara, Barbara Cupisti, Antonino Luorio, Carola Stagnaro

More info: IMDb

Tagline: obsession. murder. madness.

Plot: A young opera star is stalked by a deranged fan bent on killing the people associated with her to claim her for himself.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Probably.

Argento makes beautifully shot and composed films.  There's no arguing that.  And he also knows how to shoot and stage murders.  The best one in this picture is the shooting through the peephole...IN SLOW MOTION!!!


Even though the kills are great as are the mood and music score, it also suffers from something else Argento is known for and that's pacing.  There are some scenes that drag, but Goddamn is this a great looking picture.  I dug the ending which had a few surprises. The Anchor Bay DVD features a gorgeous widescreen print and a few extras with a 36 minute making of featurette called Conducting Dario Argento's Opera with an extensive interview with Argento, a 5 minute music video by Daemonia, and two trailers for the film.  It's a good flick though marred with a few slow spots.  Fans of horror or Argento will likely want this one in their collection.  If you can pick up this DVD on the cheap then it's a no-brainer. 

Supernova (2000)

Director: Walter Hill

Writers: William Malone, Daniel Chuba, David C. Wilson

Composer: David C. Williams

Starring: James Spader, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, Lou Diamond Phillips, Peter Facinelli, Robin Tunney, Wilson Cruz, Eddy Rice Jr., Knox White, Kerrigan Mahan, Vanessa Marshall, Kevin Sizemore

More info: IMDb

Tagline: In the farthest reaches of space, something has gone terribly wrong.

Plot: Supernova chronicles the search and rescue patrol of a medical ship in deep space in the early 22nd century and its six-member crew which includes a Captain and Pilot, a co-pilot, a medical officer, a medical technician, a search and rescue paramedic, and a computer technician. When their vessel, the Nightingale 229, answers an emergency distress signal from a comet mining operation in a distant galaxy, the crew soon finds itself in danger from the mysterious young man they rescue, the alien artifact he's smuggled aboard, and the gravitational pull of a giant star about to supernova. The resulting explosion will be the most massive explosion in the universe.

My rating: 5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

That Walter Hill directed this is all I needed to know.  Just check out the films he's directed and you'll know why.  I can't figure out why he was drawn to this.  There's nothing great about the story.  The special effects are fantastic, though.  The cast is fine I guess but they're wasted on a story that's not all that interesting. A ship answers a distress signal.  The guy who sent it is hiding something that he lies about once it's discovered. Then you find out what it does and the last half hour is that guy trying to get away with the ship while fighting the crew off.  Yawn.  If this were done in the 80s you might have something.  The special effects really are impressive and that's it.  Skip it.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Undead (2003)

Directors: Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig

Writers: Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig

Composer: Cliff Bradley

Starring: Felicity Mason, Mungo McKay, Rob Jenkins, Lisa Cunningham, Dirk Hunter, Emma Randall, Steve Greig, Noel Sheridan, Gaynor Wensley, Eleanor Stillman, Robyn Moore, Robert Jozinovic, Peter Mensforth, Jacob Andriolo, Michele Steel

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Prepare Yourself

Plot: A quaint Australian fishing village is overcome by meteorites that turn its residents into the ravenous undead, leaving a small group of those unharmed to find a way out.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

I hate it when there's a lot to like about a film but it also bores the piss out of you.  There are some outrageously funny bits that had me laughing out loud and hard.  Most of it had to do with the shit that happens to Marion (McKay) and what he does.  Stuff like Marion somersaulting to catch his spurs in an overhang (kind of like the top of a doorway) so he can swing upside down, back and forth, while firing two pistols at the zombies.  Hilarious.  Also funny as shit is the scene where he's on his boat the the fish he caught are flying across the boat to attack him.  That's just two examples of many.  The special effects went from dodgy to fantastic.  I'm all about the storytelling so I can forgive effects when the budget is to blame.

Then there's the sci-fi element that finally gets resolved in the final twenty minutes.  That's some great shit...and funny. All of those things I really dug but they weren't enough to save it from the slow parts and they are abundant.  Some shots hung on a second or two too long or there was repetition in the trying to stay alive bits.  It was refreshing as hell when that last twenty minute thing happens.  These two cats that wrote and directed this (their first film) went on to do DAYBREAKERS (2009).  That's impressive.  They sure take their time in between making movies.  6 years between those and 5 from the last one to their newest,  PREDESTINATION (2014).  I'll see it.  The Lionsgate DVD has a few extras - 7 brief behind the scenes featurettes, 3 trailers for this film, 5 extended/alternate scenes, 5 deleted scenes, artwork and design sketches and, sit down for this one, a preview for SAW II (2005).  I'm surprised there's no commentary by the brothers but at least they gave us a good amount of extras to play with.

Fallguy (1962)

Director: Donn Harling

Writers: Richard DeLong, George Mitchell

Composer: Jaime Mendoza-Nava

Starring: Ed Dugan, George Mitchell, Louis Gartner, Don Alderette, Madeline Frances, Rex Anthony, Wes Carlson, Fabian Dean, George DeMoss, Liz DeMoss, Linda Dietrich, Bernard Freedman, James Judge, Robert Levey, Mary Louise Lyons, Dean mcMahon, Dick O'Neill, Tiiu Parli, Stanton Prichard, Robert Stilson Jr., Gregg Stuart, Milton Sussnow, Joan Yarborough, Ben Young

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Syndicate vice traps the innocent and makes him the...Fallguy

Plot: A teenager trying to help an accident victim finds himself enmeshed in political corruption and racketeering and charged with a murder he didn't commit.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

It's alright.  The acting isn't all that great and sometimes poor but it's decently paced and the running time of 62 minutes is a huge plus.  I guess it's no surprise that Ed Dugan, who played the titular character of Sonny, has only one film credit.  The same goes for director/producer, Donn Harling and most everyone else in the picture.  Co-writer DeLong did go on to write the very good picture, THE RED TENT (1969) (WONDERFUL score by Ennio Morricone). The story is OK, too, but there isn't much to wright home about except for Jaime Mendoza-Nava's  great little jazzy score with the jogging low piano keys.  It reminded me of some of Elmer Bernstein's 50s jazz scores like THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM (1955) and countless TV crime shows of the era.  FALLGUY is a minor noir crime picture made on a smaller budget that won't inspire or hurt you for killing an hour some lazy afternoon.  This is one of six off the beaten path crime pictures as part of a DVD set from Something Weird Video called WEIRD-NOIR.  I've got one more to go to finish this excellent set.  Fans of the genre will need to have this in their collection.  It's a neat little set.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Les Diabolique (1955)

Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot

Writers: Pierre Boileau, Thomas Narcejac, Henri-Geroges Clouzot, Jeronimi, Rene Masson, Frederic Grendel

Composer: Georges Van Parys

Starring: Simone Signoret, Vera Clouzot, Paul Meurisse, Charles Vanel, Jean Brochard, Therese Dorny, Michel Serrault, Georges Chamarat, Robert Dalban, Camille Guerini, Jacques Hilling, Jean Lefebvre

More info: IMDb

Tagline: See it, be amazed at it, but... BE QUIET ABOUT IT!

Plot: The wife of a cruel headmaster and his mistress conspire to kill him, but after the murder is committed, his body disappears, and strange events begin to plague the two women.

My rating: 8.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

I've now seen this three times.  The first time I was blown away but I'm finding that it's diminishing with each viewing for some reason.  Sure, the ending is fantastic but it feels like there's something else.  It's a great looking picture and I really dig the performances and the atmosphere Clouzot created.  I'm thinking it's knowing how it's going to play out that does it and then there's Clouzot's parting shot with the kid.  Nice!  It's a great story filled with suspense and the three leads are fantastic in their roles, each as different as the other.  I really dig this film despite the slightly diminishing returns I'm getting.  The IMDb trivia says that Clouzot bought the rights to the novel just hours before Alfred Hitchcock.  This is one case where Hitch's film might not have been as good as this one and I'm OK with that.