Film Review: Alligator II: The Mutation (1991)

Also known as: Alligator 2 (UK video title)
Release Date: March 28th, 1991
Directed by: Jon Hess
Written by: Curt Allen
Music by: Jack K. Tillar
Cast: Joseph Bologna, Woody Brown, Harlan Arnold, Nicolas Cowan, Brock Peters, Dee Wallace

Golden Hawk Entertainment, 92 Minutes

Review:

“It was about the size of an Eldorado.” – J.J. Hodges

Man, did this film miss the fucking mark.

How hard is it to make a movie about a killer alligator? Also, by 1991, there were enough killer animal movies to look at and see what works and what doesn’t. Frankly, nothing in this film works. Hell, I don’t even think the actors were working.

The film stars Joseph Bologna, who should have changed his stage name to Joey Bologney. We also get to see Brock Peters in this, who I always enjoyed in Star Trek films, but here he looks like he misses his Starfleet friends. Horror queen Dee Wallace is also in the picture but I think she was just scooping up paychecks by this point. Although, in all seriousness, it is always a delight to see Dee Wallace because she can brighten up the worst movies.

The first Alligator was a badass, fun, killer animal movie. It had great moments with the gator going banana sandwich on people too dumb or too slow to get out of its way. There are so many cool scenes in the original film that one would think that a sequel would try to top them all. But this dud of a motion picture fails… miserably.

Nothing exciting happens over the course of this entire film. Even the gator effects are shit and pale in comparison to some of the coolest gator spots from the previous outing.

I was bored watching this and to be honest, I had some high hopes for it, as I enjoy the first flick and I vaguely remembered enjoying this one as a kid. But maybe I only saw the first one and thought that I saw both of these.

Rating: 2/10
Pairs well with: I guess, Alligator but by comparison it makes that movie look like Jaws.

Film Review: The House of the Devil (2009)

Release Date: April 25th, 2009 (Tribeca Film Festival)
Directed by: Ti West
Written by: Ti West
Music by: Jeff Grace
Cast: Jocelin Donahue, Tom Noonan, Mary Woronov, Greta Gerwig, Dee Wallace, A.J. Bowen, Lena Dunham (voice)

Constructovision, RingTheJig Entertainment, Glass Eye Pix, MPI Media Group, Dark Sky Films, Gorgon Video, 95 Minutes

Review:

“During the 1980s over 70% of American adults believed in the existence of abusive Satanic Cults… Another 30% rationalized the lack of evidence due to government cover ups… The following is based on true unexplained events…” – title card

This was recently featured on Joe Bob Briggs’ The Last Drive-In and he called it one of the best horror films of the last few decades. He’s not wrong.

I hadn’t seen this since it came out and the first time I watched it, it didn’t grab me. The problem though, is that I was drunk at a party with a bunch of other drunk people watching horror movies. Despite loving the fact that this had Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov in it, I never had much urge to revisit it.

I’m glad that I got a second chance to see it though, as I loved it. And I think I loved it for the reasons that most people seem to not like about it.

It’s slow but it’s wonderfully slow. Some people get bored with this old school way of building up suspense but if you just sit through this, uninterrupted by drunk degenerates around you, it pulls you in, tightens its grip and doesn’t let go until its ready to throw the kitchen sink right at your face.

The payoff in this film is well worth the wait and even if Sam, the victim in the film, gets free of her bonds way too easily, the final sequence in this film is pretty damn satisfying. Granted, it does go for a Rosemary’s Baby ending and I thought that was a bit derivative but the movie still has a hell of an effect on the psyche in that final act.

One thing that really is the glue in this picture is the sound. Between the score by Jeff Grace and the little bumps and scratches you hear throughout the creepy house, you can’t help but to be on edge and to feel yourself in Sam’s shoes.

This is one of those cerebral horror movies. Not in a way that makes you think too hard and takes you on a mindfuck of a journey but in a way that takes over your senses and sort of throws you to the wolves right when it is damn good and ready.

Perfect pacing, incredible sound management and the cast was damn good.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: good, old school horror films of the late ’60s through early ’80s: The Changeling, Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen, The Exorcist and The Shining for example.

Film Review: Cujo (1983)

Release Date: August 12th, 1983
Directed by: Lewis Teague
Written by: Don Carlos Dunaway, Lauren Currier
Based on: Cujo by Stephen King
Music by: Charles Bernstein
Cast: Dee Wallace, Daniel Hugh-Kelly, Danny Pintauro, Ed Lauter, Christopher Stone

Taft Entertainment, Sunn Classic Pictures, Warner Bros., 93 Minutes

Review:

“Fuck you, dog.” – Donna Trenton

Let me start by saying that I am not a big Stephen King fan. There are some things he’s done that I’ve liked but in all honesty, I’ve usually liked the film versions of his work better. Yes, even the shitty films. In the case of Cujo however, I think I dislike both equally.

This film sucks, plain and simple. But it isn’t like a normal vacuum suck, it is more like the pierced edge of a space station suck where everyone on board is going to get sucked through the dime-sized hole and shit out into space like human spaghetti.

Basically, there’s this unfaithful wife with her son and her piece of shit car. After spending too much time character-building bad characters no one will ever care about, the piece of shit car breaks down in front of a rabies-afflicted St. Bernard. The last half of the film is mom and kid crying in their vehicle as Cujo the rabid St. Bernard barks incessantly and slobbers all over the windows.

The kid (played by Jonathan from Who’s the Boss) is a giant bitch for such a little guy. He’s also so damn annoying with his crying and whining. I cheered for the dog when it gave him rabies, because at least it shut the kid up. In fact, I started cheering for the dog the whole rest of the movie because the mom was so stupid, she deserved to be eaten.

And yes, I know she is played by Dee Wallace and that Dee Wallace is a horror icon but I don’t care. Everything about Cujo sucks. She should’ve known better than to have signed on to this mess.

This film couldn’t have stunk worse, even if the victims were trapped in an outhouse instead of a car.

I don’t really have much else to say because I want to move on with my life now and pretend that this film doesn’t exist even though, for some reason, some idiots like to bring it up as some sort of classic. It’s not a classic. It’s a pile of crap, plain and simple.

Rating: 2.25/10
Pairs well with: other Stephen King films of the ’70s and ’80s: Maximum OverdriveSalem’s LotCarrieSilver Bullet, etc.

Film Review: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Release Date: May 26th, 1982 (Cannes)
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Melissa Mathison
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote, Henry Thomas, Robert MacNaughton, Drew Barrymore, C. Thomas Howell, Erika Eleniak

Universal Pictures, 114 Minutes

Review:

“It was nothing like that, penis-breath!” – Elliot

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is hands down, one of the greatest films ever made. I just saw this on the big screen, although it is the third time I have seen it in its proper format. This was the first time, however, that I got to see the original version in the theater. The other two times, it was that special edition that had unnecessary bonus scenes and for some stupid reason, removed the cops’ guns and replaced them with walkie talkies. Finally, I got to see the original unaltered version in all its glory.

It doesn’t matter how many times I see E.T., each time it hits me the same way. It is emotional and real and its effectiveness has not worn off in the thirty-five years since it was first released. That is a testament to just how perfect this motion picture is. It is also a testament to how great of an actor Henry Thomas was, as a kid, as he carried the massive weight of this picture on his back.

Watching E.T. in the theater, and seeing how today’s kids responded to it, showed that it isn’t a generational thing, it transcends all that, as happy parents got to share something with their kids, who all seemed to be truly effected by it. And while sitting there, unable to stop myself from smiling as soon as the movie kids took to their bicycles to outrun the police, I came to the realization that no matter how hard filmmakers try, no one makes movies like this anymore. Sure, we have strong summer blockbusters, here and there, but nothing that has a lasting impact and carries so much emotion with it.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is truly the measuring stick. Yes, I like other big summer movies more but E.T. did so much more with a lot less, compared to films like Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark and certainly more than The Avengers and Transformers. It didn’t rely on being cool and having over-the-top action, adventure and effects. It has great effects on a smaller scale but it just goes right for the heart and grabs it. In reality, George Lucas inspired countless filmmakers and writers but Star Wars didn’t hit people right in the feels like E.T. did. You certainly won’t feel a tenth of the emotion of this film with Captain America: Civil War.

Some people may just go to big summer movies for endless explosions and robots dancing because they’re too afraid to feel emotional in front of their dude brahs or babes. But when a film can go beyond some simplistic bullshit and find a way to resonate within its audience, there is something really special about it. I didn’t see droves of kids leaving the theater begging for toys. I saw little faces that looked like some sort of switch flipped in their little heads. Did these raging, self-absorbed toddler terrorists somehow experience empathy?

While this is a review of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, I don’t feel like I need to rehash the plot or talk about how amazing ever little piece of the film is. I assume that mostly adults read these reviews and frankly, I have to assume that nearly everyone has seen this film and gone on to understand its greatness and importance. If you haven’t, that is an injustice that needs to be rectified.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is a masterpiece. Well, as long as you don’t watch the stupid special edition.

Film Review: The ‘Critters’ Film Series (1986-1992)

As a kid, I used to love watching the first two Critters films over and over. And since I recently reviewed the Gremlins series, I thought I’d get reacquainted with its best knockoff.

Critters (1986):

Release Date: April 11th, 1986
Directed by: Stephen Herek
Written by: Stephen Herek, Domonic Muir, Don Keith Opper
Music by: David Newman
Cast: Dee Wallace, M. Emmet Walsh, Billy “Green” Bush, Scott Grimes, Nadine Van der Velde, Don Keith Opper, Billy Zane, Terrence Mann

New Line Cinema, 85 Minutes

critters-1Review:

After producing a massive hit with A Nightmare On Elm Street, New Line Cinema joined several other studios in trying to make their own copycat of 1984’s Gremlins. It was a similar trend to what happened after Jaws came out in the 70s and it inspired a ton of copycats through the rest of the decade.

Critters is probably the best of the Gremlins wannabes. The main reason, is that it is still its own film with its own identity. Sure, the two pictures share similarities but Critters is darker, more ferocious and has that great low-budget 80s horror vibe to it. Plus, it establishes the creatures as vicious aliens and brings in two cool alien bounty hunters.

While, from a critical standpoint, Critters is considered the best of its franchise. I do feel that the second one edges it out a bit, which I will explain when I get to that one.

This film is still pretty fantastic though. It is comical, at times, but it does seem like the most serious of the movies. Overall, it might also be the most fun.

Dee Wallace, who was the queen of 80s horror, plays the mom. She doesn’t get as dirty as she has gotten in other films but it is always great to see her embracing the genre of horror. Scott Grimes plays the son, who would also reprise his role in the sequel. Then you have a small part by Billy Zane, before he was well-known.

Most importantly, the film introduces us to Charlie (played by Don Opper) and Ug (played by Terrence Mann). They would go on to be in all four of the films in the series, playing a pair of bounty hunters. Granted, Charlie is a drunk Earthling buffoon in the first movie but he would evolve into a sober bad ass buffoon over time.

The first movie still plays pretty well. The effects are good for the time and mostly hold up. I can see why this is considered the best of the series but let me get into the second picture and why I prefer it.

 

Critters 2: The Main Course (1988):

Release Date: April 29th, 1988
Directed by: Mick Garris
Written by: David Twohy, Mick Garris
Music by: Nicholas Pike
Cast: Scott Grimes, Don Keith Opper, Terrence Mann, Liane Curtis, Barry Corbin, Tom Hodges, Sam Anderson

New Line Cinema, 85 Minutes

critters-2Review:

The reason I like this installment the best, is because it is a lot less confined than the others. The first film takes place primarily on a farm, the third film is mostly set in an urban apartment building while the fourth and final chapter is on a confined space station. Critters 2, on the other hand, encompasses an entire small town and the areas around it. And honestly, it just feels like it has the biggest budget. It utilized what little it had with maximum effects. Plus you get the giant Critters ball at the end of the film, which was just really cool when I was a young kid.

The film also features Charlie as an actual bounty hunter. In fact, it features the bounty hunters the most and they are the coolest characters in the series, especially Ug. We are then introduced to Lee, a third bounty hunter, who takes the form of a nude Playboy Playmate. Granted, she acquires clothes after her introduction. But it was great seeing amazing breasts in a PG-13 movie when I was nine.

The film brings back Scott Grimes from the original. It also adds in Liane Curtis, who I was crushing on, back in the day. Barry Corbin joins the cast as the sheriff and I’ve always been a fan of his work. Sam Anderson, who you may know from a slew of television appearances, has a small role as Liane Curtis’ overprotective father.

Critters 2 is the quintessential Critters movie. It has everything you would want from one of these pictures. Although, a bit more gore would have been better. While there are more creatures and more overall destruction, it seriously lacks in showing the audience anything graphic. You get a few bones and skeletons but that is the gist of it.

Critters 3 (1991):

Release Date: December 11th, 1991
Directed by: Kristine Peterson
Written by: David J. Schow, Rupert Harvey, Barry Opper
Music by: David C. Williams
Cast: Aimee Brooks, John Calvin, Katherine Cortez, Leonardo DiCaprio, Geoffrey Blake, Frances Bay, Don Keith Opper, Terrence Mann

New Line Home Video, 85 Minutes

critters-3Review:

Critters 3 is the worst of the films.

While it does feature a very young Leonardo DiCaprio, he isn’t the main character and he has little to do other than hating his dork stepfather and being a romantic interest of the teen girl lead.

Most of the characters in this one are pretty unlikable. Especially Frank. Frank is just an awful and annoying human being. I cherished his death.

Although, Frances Bay’s character was cool. She has always been a great character actor and her meat cleaving bad ass grandma was fun to watch.

This is just a pretty weak film. It doesn’t serve much purpose other than trying to make money without spending any. The creatures weren’t really funny anymore and everything felt like a rehash of things we’ve already seen in the other movies.

And nearly everyone survives, which is a big failure for a movie series that prided itself on eating people.

Critters 4 (1992):

Release Date: October 14th, 1992
Directed by: Rupert Harvey
Written by: David J. Schow, Joseph Lyle, Rupert Harvey, Barry Opper
Music by: Peter Manning Robinson
Cast: Don Keith Opper, Terrence Mann, Paul Whitthorne, Angela Bassett, Andres Hove, Eric Da Re, Brad Dourif

New Line Home Video, 105 Minutes

critters-4Review:

Critters 4 is a step above Critters 3 but not by much.

It is the ugliest film in the series as it utilizes dark and dreary space station sets. Everything in this movie looks 90s and not like something that should represent the 2040s, when it takes place.

The sets look like every other generic horror movie spaceship set of the era. Everything is dark and back lit. The computer screens look outdated, even for the 90s. Nothing about it is imaginative or cool. By comparison, it makes Jason X look like a science fiction masterpiece.

On a positive note, we are back to seeing these creatures devour everyone in sight. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of characters. Most of them die horrifically though.

We also get to see a young Angela Bassett, just before she found fame playing Tina Turner in the biopic What’s Love Got to Do With It. The film also stars Brad Dourif most known as the voice of Chucky in the Child’s Play movies and Grima Wormtongue in The Lord of the Rings films.

Strangely, Ug returns as the villain in this chapter. His turn to the darkside is never really explained and the opportunity to add depth to the story and the relationship between Ug and Charlie was wasted.

Critters 4 is just more of the same. Except it is all acted out on the ugliest sets in the series.