Film Review: The Gate II: Trespassers (1990)

Also known as: Gate 2 (informal title)
Release Date: June, 1990 (Italy)
Directed by: Tibor Takacs
Written by: Michael Nankin
Music by: George Blondheim
Cast: Louis Tripp, Pamela Adlon (as Pamela Segall)

Vision PDG, Alliance Entertainment, Epic Productions, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Who needs chicks when we got demons?” – John

The Gate is a film that I have a lot of love for. I remembered not liking the sequel nearly as much but it had been so long since I’d seen it, that revisiting it was something I’ve wanted to do for quite some time. It’s been a hard movie to track down though, at least in the streaming era.

In fact, I could never find it, even to rent. But within the last month it popped up for free on Amazon Video for people with a Prime membership. So I figured now was my chance to watch it because it could disappear tomorrow and never return.

So seeing it now, I like it better than I did when I saw it circa 1992. It’s not as good as the first movie and it lacks Stephen Dorff but it adds in a more comedic tone and is kind of fun, even if it feels slow at points.

Terry, the heavy metal wizard kid from the first movie is the only cast member to return. He wants to help his dad, who has fallen on very hard times, so he tries to reach out to the demons that plagued the first movie. Apparently, he didn’t learn his lesson the first time.

However, while Terry is calling upon the forces of Hell, his occult ceremony is interrupted by Pamela Adlon, who I love in everything, along with her doofus dickhead boyfriend and his lacky dipshit friend. All four teens get involved in the demonic shenanigans and we get a movie that is actually fairly original and not trying to rehash what we already saw in the first picture.

Overall, this is a pretty enjoyable, cheesy horror film. It has a few slow bits and they probably could’ve lobbed off ten minutes of the film and made it better, even thought it’d just be 80 minutes then.

I thought that the effects were mostly pretty good, especially since this didn’t have a hefty budget. The stop motion animation, while dated, still works really well. There are also some scenes where they had to composite things visually and they did a fantastic job. For example, the bits where the little demon in the cage is a guy in a rubber suit and he’s interacting with regular sized humans in the same shots came out impressively well.

An interesting thing about this film too, is that it was shot almost immediately after the original came out. It was slated for release in 1988 or 1989 but got delayed due to the studio folding. The film was sold off and eventually released in Europe in 1990, finally making it to the U.S. in early 1992, which is when I saw it.

The issues with its release probably hurt its performance and thus, what could have been a nice, low budget horror franchise, never got to live beyond its second chapter.

However, there have been talks of remakes for years. In fact, Alex Winter, at one point, was slated to direct a 3D remake. But that was nearly a decade ago and now Winter is working hard on resurrecting Bill & Ted for the big screen.

The Gate II is a sequel that didn’t need to be made but it does justify its existence by taking things in a fresh direction. A third film could’ve been cool and may have made more money as a straight-to-video release in the ’90s. But alas, The Gate‘s story ended here.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: it’s predecessor, The Gate, as well as Brainscan, Pet Sematary Two and other early ’90s teen demon movies.

Film Review: Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)

Release Date: June 24th, 1983
Directed by: John Landis, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, George Miller
Written by: John Landis, George Clayton Johnson, Richard Matheson, Melissa Mathison, Jerome Bixby
Based on: The Twilight Zone by Rod Sterling
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Dan Aykroyd, Albert Brooks, Scatman Crothers, John Lithgow, Vic Morrow, Kathleen Quinlan, Burgess Meredith (narrator), Dick Miller, Steven Williams, Al Leong, John Larroquette, Selma Diamond, Priscilla Pointer, Nancy Cartwright, Christina Nigra

Amblin Entertainment, Warner Bros., 101 Minutes

Review:

“Hey… you wanna see something really scary?” – Car Passenger

After recently watching the Creepshow television series, as well as revisiting the movies for the umpteenth time, I got the itch to rewatch Twilight Zone: The Movie, as it has a lot of similarities and I hadn’t seen it in at least a decade.

I like the highpoints of this movie almost as much as the Creepshow films. However, Twilight Zone is pretty inconsistent, as the first two segments are weak while the latter two are really good. And maybe it was put in this order in post-production because Steven Spielberg felt the same way, even though one of his segments was one of the crappier ones.

The prologue and the first segment were both directed by John Landis, coming off of An American Werewolf In London, a true horror classic. The prologue was a pretty good setup and I loved it when I was a kid. Landis’ segment, however, plays more like an episode of Amazing Stories.

Although, two of these segments play like Amazing Stories episodes and maybe this movie is what inspired Spielberg to create that show just two years later.

Anyway, Landis’ segment is actually incomplete due to an accident involving a helicopter on the set of the film. The accident killed two kids and actor Victor Morrow. It was a pretty controversial event back when it happened (see here) and it forever ruined the working relationship between Steven Spielberg and John Landis.

Moving on to the second segment, it’s the one directed by Spielberg himself and it is also the other segment that feels like an Amazing Stories episode. It’s also really boring and slows the movie to a crawl. But thankfully, Joe Dante’s segment gets the movie back on track.

By the time the third segment rolls around, you might find yourself in a comatose state that even the gentle, kind and always fly Scatman Crothers couldn’t pull you out of during the previous story. But once you get to the midpoint of the film, everything picks up, gets better and the movie delivers.

The third and fourth segments feel almost as good as the best segments from the Creepshow franchise and they save this movie from being a total disaster.

Where the first story dealt with an unlikable, old, racist piece of shit and the second dealt with old people getting to feel young again, the third deals with a young boy with special powers and a nice lady that eventually wants to help him, played by Kathleen Quinlan. It has more energy, it’s a more interesting story and the monster effects that Dante had created for this are superb. I love the third segment and it’s actually a story I would revisit if ever there were a followup to it. Plus, it has Dick Miller in it.

Now the fourth segment is directed by George Miller, the man behind the Mad Max franchise, and it is a remake of the most famous Twilight Zone episode.

The story sees an airplane passenger freak out over a monster on the wing of the plane. It may sound like an odd setup but it is a great segment that builds suspense incredibly well and also benefits from the great talent of John Lithgow. I also really liked the young Christina Nigra in this, as she added some good comedic seasoning at just the right moments. She was also really good in Cloak & Dagger, alongside Henry Thomas, a year later.

The final segment features the best (and only real) monster of the movie. The special effects are outstanding and the payoff in the finale makes the rest of the movie worth sitting through.

In the end, Twilight Zone: The Movie is a good example of what I don’t like about anthologies: consistency. The first half is bogged down by dry, slow, boring stories that one has to suffer through in an effort to get to something better. Thankfully, the second half of the picture is good.

In retrospect, though, it feels like this is almost a movie length pilot to Spielberg’s anthology television series Amazing Stories. If you’ve ever seen that show, this feels like an extension of it more than it feels like it fits within the Twilight Zone franchise. However, this would also lead to the Twilight Zone getting resurrected on television. In fact, it relaunched just a few days before Amazing Stories debuted.

Going back to the Spielberg segment with the old people experiencing their youth again, there are a lot of parallels to it and Ron Howard’s Cocoon. I’m not sure if this was an inspiration for that movie and its sequel but it’s very possible.

In fact, Twilight Zone: The Movie seems to have had quite the impact between launching a new TZ television series, influencing Spielberg’s Amazing Stories and its similarities to Cocoon, all of which came out two years later in 1985.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other horror anthology films of the time: the Creepshow movies and Tales From the Darkside: The Movie, as well as the television shows Amazing Stories and Tales From the Crypt.

TV Review: The World According to Jeff Goldblum (2019- )

Original Run: November 12th, 2019 – current
Created by: National Geographic
Directed by: various
Cast: Jeff Goldblum

National Geographic, Nutopia, Disney+, 12 Episodes (so far), 30 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

While the first season of The World According to Jeff Goldblum isn’t done streaming yet, I didn’t want to wait too long to review it, as it was part of Disney+’s launch two months ago.

Plus, I get the gist of it enough to review it at this point.

The show stars Jeff Goldblum, who also is an executive producer. It’s made by National Geographic and I’m not sure if it was originally intended to be broadcast on Disney+ or if that became part of National Geographic’s deal with the service after production had started.

Needless to say, Goldblum has found a home at Disney, especially after captivating fans with his performance in Disney/Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok.

Goldblum’s special charm, charisma and unique panache is on full display in this show, as he dives into different things that are all a part of Americana. He looks at sneakers, barbecue, cycling, ice cream, tattoos, denim and more.

What makes the show kind of cool, other than it being hosted by Goldblum, is that he didn’t study up on anything and pretty much deep dives into these things blindly and with just the knowledge from his own personal experiences.

I don’t think that this is a show that’s going to make or break Disney+ but Jeff Goldblum really gives it his all and entertains while informing the viewer. It’s a cool show that’s charming and amusing with a host whose energy and curiosity are infectious.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: Operation Double 007 (1967)

Also known as: O.K. Connery (original title), Operation Kid Brother (US), Kid Brother (US informal title), Divided Evil (alternative title), Secret Agent 00 (Germany)
Release Date: April 20th, 1967 (Italy)
Directed by: Alberto De Martino
Written by: Paolo Levi, Frank Walker, Stanley Wright, Stefano Canzio
Music by: Ennio Morricone, Bruno Nicolai
Cast: Neil Connery, Daniela Bianchi, Adolfo Celi, Agata Flori, Bernard Lee, Anthony Dawson, Lois Maxwell, Yachuco Yama

Produzione D.S. (Dario Sabatello), 104 Minutes

Review:

“It’s going to blow up soon. Maybe even tomorrow. With you on board.” – Dr. Neil Connery, “You read too many novels by Fleming.” – Maya

As I’m getting close to finishing my quest of reviewing all the movies showcased on Mystery Science Theater 3000, I saved one of the best pictures for last. That was partially by design, as I remembered seeing this years ago, was somewhat captivated by it and wanted to save something I liked (or was at least interested in) for the tail end of my long journey.

Since the Italians don’t give a crap about copyright law and make unofficial sequels to anything that made more than five lira at the box office, this film “borrows” pretty heavily from the James Bond franchise, which was super popular at the time.

While this film is parody and not a “sequel” it features some of the iconic actors from the early Bond films: Bernard Lee (M), Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny) and Adolfo Celi (Emilio Largo, the main antagonist from Thunderball). Even nuttier than that, it features Sean Connery’s younger brother Neil, as the super spy hero.

It’s alluded to that he is the younger brother of the more famous spy but the similarities between the two men end there, as Neil doesn’t look the part nearly as well as Sean does and he kind of stumbles through the film without the confidence and panache of any of the actors that played legitimate James Bonds.

In fact, the younger Connery is completely overshadowed by the other actors on the screen, especially the ones that were in actual Bond movies. Celi steals the scenes he’s in and it’s cool seeing Lee and Maxwell here too but none of them can make this a salvageable picture.

The only real high point, apart from how bizarre this is, are the dozens of hot Italian women thrown onscreen simply because this is Italian schlock that is ripping off a franchise that puts a high emphasis on the tried and true ideology that sex sells. You should certainly be pleased with the amount of eye candy here and even if no one is really acting like they care, most of the women heavy scenes are playful, fun and lighthearted.

Comparing this to the typical films that were riffed on MST3K, this is actually one of the better ones even though it’s still a bit shit. It’s that good kind of shit though, especially for fans of the early years of the James Bond franchise.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: other ’60s spy parody films.

Film Review: Frankenweenie (1984)

Release Date: December 14th, 1984 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: Lenny Ripps, Tim Burton
Music by: Michael Convertino, David Newman
Cast: Barret Oliver, Shelley Duvall, Daniel Stern, Joseph Maher, Paul Bartel, Sofia Coppola, Jason Hervey

Walt Disney Productions, 29 Minutes

Review:

“I guess we can’t punish Victor for bringing Sparky back from the dead.” – Ben Frankenstein

There was a time when Tim Burton was my favorite director. That was mainly due to a string of movies from the mid-’80s through 1999’s Sleepy Hollow. Things went a bit sideways in the ’00s but I still have a lot of love for his first few decades as a director, especially his two early short films: Vincent and this one, Frankenweenie.

This would go on to be remade by Burton, years later, into a feature length animated film. While I’ve never seen that one, I can’t imagine it captured the magic and charm of this original live action short film. I’ll probably give it a watch in the near future though, as I’ve been meaning to for quite some time.

Focusing back on this film though, it’s a lighthearted and heartwarming piece that showcases how damn good Barret Oliver was as a child actor. While he doesn’t get as much time in this as he did in The NeverEnding Story and D.A.R.Y.L., this is my favorite performance of his and he’s definitely the glue that keeps this movie together, even though Shelley Duvall and Daniel Stern are also wonderful in this.

The story is an homage of the classic Frankenstein story by Mary Shelley. However, in this, Frankenstein is a boy and he uses the power of lightning to resurrect his bull terrier, who was hit by a car in the opening of the film.

Initially, this was made to be paired up with the theatrical re-release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs but upon seeing it, Disney executives thought it was too dark for little kids. They were wrong, as I would have loved this as a kid just as I had loved Gremlins earlier that same year. I was five years-old at the time but I think us ’80s kids weren’t total pussies like the kids today… but I digress.

Frankenweenie plays like an episode of an anthology television series; Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories immediately comes to mind. It’s a really good length, covers a lot of ground but also has enough time to develop these characters in a way that makes you care for them.

Tim Burton showed tremendous talent with this short film and I’m sure it played a big part in him getting his first feature film gig, directing the original Pee-wee Herman movie, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the feature length animated remake, as well as the Tim Burton short film Vincent and his animated feature The Corpse Bride.

Film Review: Creepshow 2 (1987)

Also known as: Dead and Undead: Creepshow 2 (alternative title)
Release Date: May 1st, 1987
Directed by: Michael Gornick
Written by: George A. Romero, Lucille Fletcher (uncredited)
Based on: stories by Stephen King
Music by: Les Reed, Rick Wakeman
Cast: Lois Chiles, George Kennedy, Dorothy Lamour, Tom Savini, Frank Salsedo, Holt McCallany, Don Harvey, Will Sampson, Paul Satterfield, Jeremy Green, Daniel Beer, Page Hannah, Tom Wright, Stephen King (cameo)

New World Pictures, Laurel Entertainment Inc., 92 Minutes, 85 Minutes (UK video)

Review:

“Ooooh, mucho ecological, Poncho! Mucho ecological!” – Deke

While this doesn’t get as much fanfare as the original movie, I like it just as much if not slightly better.

Something about these stories just stuck with me.

To start, the first story about the wooden Indian is fantastic and my second favorite of all the Creepshow tales. It’s surprisingly well acted and chilling and by the time the wooden Indian comes to life, you’re so ready to watch the scumbags get murdered in horrible ways.

I’ve got to especially give props to Holt McCallany for playing the shitty, sadistic gang leader. The guy has had a good career but he showed he had real acting chops here, in only his second role, as he was so good at making you hate him. While the script is written to obviously make you dislike him, McCallany took it to a deeper more convincing level.

I also loved the dynamic between George Kennedy and Dorothy Lamour.

But most importantly, the effects of the wooden Indian were spectacular. Especially for the era and the small budget that this film had.

The second story is the one Creepshow tale that has stuck with me the most over the years and it actually creeped me out as a kid. It’s about these party teens trapped on a raft in the middle of a lake, as a sludge monster is waiting to devour them. Once the creature gets ahold of its human victims, it literally digests them alive as they scream in pain and horror, dissolving before your eyes.

This sequence does a great job of building tension and terror with very little.

I think that it stuck with me the most because I grew up in and around the Everglades. So as I kid, I used to swim in swamp rivers and lakes fairly regularly. And while I wasn’t afraid of alligators or snakes, I was always on the look out for some sort of demon sludge in the water that might show any sign of sentience.

The last story is my least favorite but it is still damn enjoyable.

A woman accidentally kills a hitchiker and then her entire trip is comprised of the ghostly, zombie-like hitchhiker haunting her at every turn. It’s a simple setup with a simple story but it’s still entertaining and I love the practical effects used in this sequence.

Overall, Creepshow 2 is better than I remembered and it probably deserves as much respect and admiration as the original film.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: everything else under the Creepshow banner, as well as other horror anthologies from the same era like Twilight Zone: The Movie and Tales From the Darkside: The Movie.

Comic Review: Creepshow

Published: July, 1982
Written by: Stephen King
Art by: Bernie Wrightson, Michele Wrightson, Jack Kamen (cover)
Based on: Creepshow by Stephen King, George A. Romero

Plume, 64 Pages

Review:

I’ve wanted the original Creepshow comic book since I was a little kid. I never quite tracked one down and I still want an original copy. However, they recently did a reprint of it, as the television show just came out a few months back.

So I finally got to read this and I liked that I had a fresh, crisp copy, simply so that I could see the superb art of Bernie Wrightson without age, wear and tear.

This follows the plot of the movie pretty much beat-for-beat but it is really a cool companion piece to have for fans of that film. It feels consistent to the movie and its use of comic book styled art, lighting and effects.

Ultimately, this is just beautiful to look at, as Wrightson just had a real talent for drawing the macabre. He was the perfect guy to illustrate these stories and a lot of it reminds me of his Swamp Thing work, as well as his House of Mystery, House of Secrets and Frankenstein stuff.

Hands down, this is one of the coolest horror movie comic book adaptations. It does just about everything right and represents the intellectual property it’s tied to perfectly. I kind of just wish this was longer or that it had opened the door for a regular Creepshow comic book series.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: old EC Comics horror stuff, as well as the Creepshow movies and TV series.