Film Review: 28 Days Later (2002)

Release Date: November 1st, 2002 (UK)
Directed by: Danny Boyle
Written by: Alex Garland
Music by: John Murphy
Cast: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Christopher Eccleston, Megan Burns, Brendan Gleeson

British Film Council, DNA Films, Fox Searchlight Pictures, 113 Minutes

Review:

“Have you got any plans, Jim? Do you want us to find a cure and save the world or just fall in love and fuck? Plans are pointless. Staying alive is as good as it gets.” – Selena

28 Days Later is a zombie movie, even though most of the people I say that to start yelling, “No, it’s not you fucking idiot! People were just infected with rage!” Calm down, juice box drinking basement dwellers, it’s a fucking zombie movie and the monsters might as well be undead, as the “rage” works like a virus, which is what causes the zombie outbreak in a fuck ton of zombie flicks anyway.

This is a movie that sort of blew my mind back in 2003, when I first saw it, as it made zombies fast and therefore, a hell of a lot more dangerous. With that take on the genre, this would inspire a lot of zombie films that came after, most notably Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake, as well as World War Z.

As far as zombie movies go, this is one of the best acted. But it’s also well cast between Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Brendan Gleeson and Christopher Eccleston. It’s also got a future Academy Award winning director, Danny Boyle, who does some pretty solid work in the horror genre between this and an underrated gem, Sunshine.

Boyle got the very best out of his cast, here, and this led to them becoming pretty busy actors in the future.

I like the style and look of the film, and was especially impressed with the sequence that saw Jim walking through London, completely devoid of life.

The movie also moves at a good pace but it does fall apart somewhat once the survivors get to the military stronghold and discover that it’s just a compound to attract and rape women in an effort to “repopulate the Earth”, which seemed like a hell of a stretch just a month into this zombie crisis. Although, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t happy as hell to see those scumbags get eaten and ripped apart.

The movie apparently had multiple endings but I’m glad that they chose the ending that gives off a sense of hope, as it would’ve probably been a bit too much seeing any of these characters die or suffer more than they already had.

Rating: 7.5/10

Film Review: Curse of the Demon (1957)

Also known as: Night of the Demon (original title)
Release Date: November 9th, 1957 (Birmingham UK premiere)
Directed by: Jacques Tourneur
Written by: Charles Bennett, Hal E. Chester
Music by: Clifton Parker
Cast: Dana Andrews, Peggy Cummins, Niall MacGinnis

Sabre Film Production, Columbia Pictures, 95 Minutes

Review:

“All good scientists are from Missouri: in other words, they should continually be saying, ‘Show me’.” – Dr. John Holden

This is one of the first classic horror movies I saw that wasn’t either Universal Monsters related, made by Hammer or didn’t star Vincent Price. That being said, I remember seeing it for the first time because it left a hell of impression on me because of it’s incredible, terrifying monster.

Curse of the Demon, also originally called Night of the Demon, still has one of the greatest cinematic monsters of all-time. And while not much is known about the monster, other than it is an evil force of nature, it still looks so f’n cool and intimidating that it’s still an effective scare in spite of the technical limitations of this film’s era.

The monster is just a giant demon that appears from thick fog and chases its victims until it eventually grabs them and crushes them in its demonic grip.

This film might not have been anywhere near as good with a director other than Jacques Tourneur. He’s a director that I consider an underappreciated legend, who started out making great horror pictures, transitioned into film-noir, but then would go back to horror after noir started dying out. I’ve reviewed several of Tourneur’s movies and honestly, I’ve yet to find one that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy.

Curse of the Demon also benefits from the acting talents of Dana Andrews and Peggy Cummins. Andrews starred in some of the best film-noir pictures ever made and Peggy Cummins is actually on the banner to this website due to how great she was in one of my all-time favorite noir pictures, Gun Crazy.

All these years later, this movie still has one of the best openings and closings in horror film history. It actually kind of amazes me that no one has remade this yet. I’m not calling for that, at all, but Hollywood does nothing but remakes, reboots and reimaginings anymore and this movie’s monster is just too cool for someone not to steal and fuck up.

Rating: 8.5/10

Film Review: Faust: Love of the Damned (2000)

Also known as: Faust (shortened title)
Release Date: Octoberber 12th, 2000 (Stiges International Fantastic Film Festival)
Directed by: Brian Yuzna
Written by: David Quinn, Miguel Tejada-Flores
Based on: Faust by Tim Vigil, David Quinn
Music by: Xavier Capellas
Cast: Mark Frost, Isabel Brook, Jennifer Rope, Jeffrey Combs, Andrew Divoff, Monica Van Campen

Televisio de Catalunya, Fantastic Factory, Castelao Producciones, 98 Minutes

Review:

“You are the universe. Alpha and Omega. The beast with ten thousand young. Now go forth and mutilate!” – M

So I’ve been aware of the Faust comic for years, as it was one of those legendary things us kids talked about in middle school because we had all heard of it but none of us owned any issues because it was a very adult outlaw comic. I still haven’t read it but I’m more familiar with it now, as many comic book YouTube channels have showcased it.

I didn’t know until more recently that there was a film adaptation of the comic and that it was done by Brian f’n Yuzna of all people, which definitely makes it worth checking out if you are a fan of his better known work like Re-Animator, From Beyond and Society.

Like those films, this one features over-the-top body horror and gore. It’s also full of dark humor and senseless violence, all of which is done in Yuzna’s patented style.

It’s actually cool seeing Yuzna direct a superhero film and using a character that fits so perfectly with his filmmaking style.

Additionally, I also love that Yuzna regular Jeffrey Combs is in this. While he’s not the main character, his role is pretty big and pivotal to the overall film.

This is a pretty bad movie, though, even for Yuzna. Yes, I do like it for all the things I already mentioned but the acting is well below what’s even normal for a Yuzna picture. Also, while some of the effects work, many of them don’t and it feels sloppily thrown together in some sequences and it makes me question how much control Yuzna had or if the production found itself well behind schedule or way over budget.

Regarding the budget, it’s obvious that Yuzna was working with even less money than what he was usually able to muster up.

Faust is a poorly made movie by a guy that can typically make chicken salad with chicken shit. However, maybe this was just too big in scale and way too ambitious of a project to have been approached in the way Yuzna typically makes his movies.

Rating: 3/10

Comic Review: Frankenstein Alive, Alive! – The Complete Collection

Published: October 10th, 2018
Written by: Steve Niles
Art by: Bernie Wrightson, Kelley Jones
Based on: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Marvel Comics, IDW Publishing (reprint), 84 Pages

Review:

Originally released by Marvel Comics in 1983, this version of the Frankenstein story has stood the test of time because of the absolutely astounding art by Bernie Wrightson. In fact, if there were any original comic book art pieces I could own (not counting Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko), it’d be something from this visual masterpiece.

That being said, the story is also damn good and really compelling, as it serves as a sequel to the original Mary Shelley Frankenstein novel. It even exists in a world where that story is known, as more of a legend, and the monster is initially seen as portraying the legendary monster while carnival-goers believe it’s just a show and even point out that he doesn’t resemble the Karloff version of the monster (never mind that the 1931 film wouldn’t have existed in this story’s time).

Anyway, the story sees the monster have a final conversation with his creator before the monster is buried alive. He is eventually found by another doctor, who treats him well and tries to make him feel more human. That is, until this doctor’s wife discovers the monster and her reaction to him makes the monster remember that he’s an abomination and possibly born of evil.

This is a pretty dramatic and emotional character piece that shows the world through the eyes of the monster. It’s a unique and really cool take on the story and it most likely inspired a lot of the Frankenstein stories that came after, whether they were told in other comics, novels, films and television programs.

I love this comic and honestly, I just wish it was longer.

Rating: 9.5/10

Film Review: Vampire Hunter D (1985)

Also known as: Kyûketsuki hantâ D (original Japanese title)
Release Date: December 21st, 1985 (Japan)
Directed by: Toyoo Ashida
Written by: Yasushi Hirano
Based on: Vampire Hunter D: Volume 1 by Hideyuki Kikuchi
Music by: Tetsuya Komuro
Cast: Kaneto Shiozawa, Michie Tomizawa, Seizo Kato, Keiko Toda

Ashi Productions Co., CBS Sony Group, Epic/Sony, Toho Co. Ltd., 80 Minutes

Review:

“I’ve lived for almost ten thousand years. Believe me you have no idea what that means: boredom. Everlasting and hideous boredom. A never ending search for ways to pass the time… and mating with a human female is one of the few I enjoy. Eventually they become tiresome. For in spite of their vitality, they are fundamentally stupid creatures who couldn’t survive without the nobility to rule them. Perhaps now you’ll understand my wanting to have some fun every thousand years or so?” – Count Magnus Lee

Vampire Hunter D is one of the first “not for kids” anime films that I ever saw. My friend Carlos had it and showed it to me when I was in high school. I pretty much fell in love with it, dubbed a copy and watched it a dozen times or more over the next few years. However, I haven’t had a working VCR in at least fifteen years, so I’ve wanted to revisit it for quite some time.

Seeing this, in HD for the first time, I was pretty blown away. Man, the animation really holds up and I forgot how atmospheric this movie was from the visuals, the sound, the music and the talent of the English language dub cast.

I also forgot how many monsters and characters were in this and all of them are pretty cool and interesting in their own way. While there are small sequences in the film that kind of get in the way of the overall flow, they all still features cool creatures and villains for the hero to fight.

Other than the title character, D, I really like the primary villain, Count Magnus Lee, who was a very large, elegant looking vampire. The character was named and somewhat modeled after Christopher Lee, specifically his version of Dracula. The Count was just a damn cool, intimidating villain that you kind of like despite him simply killing and doing evil things out of boredom.

This is just a cool fucking anime film. It really takes you to a cool, unusual world and let’s be honest, here, this obviously was a major influence on the Castlevania video games, as far as aesthetics and designs go.

While there was a second Vampire Hunter D film, as well as a series, years later, this is something that deserves to be a bigger franchise than it is.

Rating: 7.75/10

Film Review: Hannibal Rising (2007)

Also known as: Hannibal 4, Young Hannibal: Behind the Mask, The Lecter Variations (working titles)
Release Date: February 7th, 2007 (France)
Directed by: Peter Webber
Written by: Thomas Harris
Based on: Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris
Music by: Ilan Eshkeri, Shigeru Umebayashi
Cast: Gaspard Ulliel, Gong Li, Rhys Ifans, Dominic West, Kevin McKidd, Richard Brake

Young Hannibal Productions, Carthago Films S.a.r.I., Dino De Laurentiis Company, The Weinstein Company, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 121 Minutes

Review:

“Rudeness is an epidemic” – Hannibal Lecter

One of the Hannibal films has to be the worst and well, this is it.

I thought that it was incredibly boring and really, really underwhelming. So much so, I figured that there was no way that Hannibal Lecter’s creator, Thomas Harris, had anything to do with this. So I was a bit taken aback when I saw that Thomas Harris wrote this script, based off of his own novel.

In his defense, I don’t think that this is particularly bad but it just didn’t feel like it was the same Hannibal Lecter that I’ve now known for decades.

The acting in this was pretty middle of the road but Rhys Ifans was probably the best performer in this, as the story’s primary antagonist. Ifans is always damn good, though, so this should go without saying.

I guess after seeing this, I just realized that we didn’t need a Hannibal origin story. We know he’s fucked up and this actually takes some of the character’s mystery away. Okay, maybe it takes a lot of that mystery away. I liked his background just being casually hinted at and that we, the audience, had to fill in the blanks with our own mind.

I wasn’t a big fan of these characters, their motivations or any of this.

Ugh… there really just isn’t much else to say. This was boring with bland performances and it didn’t feel, at all, connected to the title character.

Rating: 4/10

Film Review: Amityville II: The Possession (1982)

Release Date: September 24th, 1982
Directed by: Damiano Damiani
Written by: Tommy Lee Wallace, Dardano Sacchetti
Based on: Murder In Amityville by Hans Holzer
Music by: Lalo Schifrin
Cast: James Olson, Burt Young, Rutanya Alda, Jack Magner, Diane Franklin, Moses Gunn, Leonardo Cimino, Ted Ross

Media Transactions, Estudios Churubusco Azteca S.A., Dino De Laurentiis Company, Orion Pictures, 104 Minutes

Review:

“If these walls could talk…they would shriek!” – tagline

I think that the original Amityville Horror will always be the best of the films that carry the Amityville name but I have to say that this one, because of how absolutely fucked up it is, is my personal favorite.

This features a new family moving into the immensely haunted, demonic house from the first film.

The father is played by Burt Young a.k.a. Paulie from the Rocky movies, which always weirdly fascinated me, as it’s hard to separate him from his most iconic role. And in this, he’s sort of the worst version of Paulie imaginable. Granted, most of that is due to the demonic influence of the house.

There is also the mother, an older brother and sister and a couple really young kids.

The older brother and sister have a weird incestuous vibe from the beginning and it’s actually hard to tell how much of that already existed or how much of it comes from the house. It’s an odd, taboo side plot that is supposed to make viewers feel uncomfortable and it is pretty effective, especially by the time they go full incest, as the brother falls deeper into demonic madness and the sister comes under the evil spell of the forces living inside her.

As religious horror goes, there is also a priest character that wants to save the family but doesn’t have the support of the church, as they find all of this to be too insane to believe.

This movie really goes much further into darkness than the original, as the end of the second act actually sees the oldest brother violently murder his entire family while being fully possessed. It’s an insanely fucked up sequence but it immediately makes the original tame by comparison. I’m sure the critics of the time hated just how gruesome this movie actually got.

The priest, even after the murders, still feels as if he must conquer the demonic energies in the house and with that, he is driven to save the possessed son.

The final showdown is really damn intense and the special effects are pretty fucking incredible for 1982. The effects make the finale work really well and it adds to the agony that both characters have gone through and are going through.

I can’t say that this is well acted or even well directed but it’s still an effective horror film that pushes the bar pretty far and succeeds at that without feeling like it jumped the shark. This could’ve very easily fallen into looking and feeling like cheap exploitation for the sake of shock value but it sort of maintains its humanity and leaves us with a truly heroic character that was willing to throw away his own soul to save a kid from Hell.

Rating: 6/10

Comic Review: The Complete ’90s Cyberfrog: Warts and All

Published: August, 2021
Written by: Ethan Van Sciver
Art by: Ethan Van Sciver, Kyle Ritter (cover colors)

All Caps Comics, 416 Pages

Review:

I’m a big sucker for presentation and that probably has something to do with the fact that I work in marketing and do a lot of packaging design, myself. That being said, when this arrived at my door, I was immediately blown away by just the shipping box not to mention the treasure trove of wonderful shit inside.

Most importantly, though, was the main comic itself, a hardcover omnibus of Van Sciver’s original Cyberfrog stuff from the ’90s. Most of which I haven’t read until now.

I think the thing that I liked most about this was seeing a young Ethan Van Sciver’s work evolving from the beginning-to-end of this collection. Things get more and more fine tuned, as you go from issue-to-issue in this.

I also like that it was presented in its original format, whether that be black and white or with ’90s era coloring.

As far as the stories go, this is a mixed bag but it’s not a bad mixed bag. I enjoyed most of it but it was clear that Van Sciver was searching for his footing with not just this character but the whole mythos around the character.

It’s also pretty clear which comics Van Sciver was inspired by at the time but that’s not too dissimilar from most comic book artists’ earliest work. When I drew comics in the early ’90s, it was very clear that I was pulling from a lot of the stuff created by the original Image Comics partners. It was hard to draw comics in that era and not be inspired by that stuff, especially if you wanted to sell comics.

All in all, this is one hell of an awesome release by Ethan Van Sciver’s All Caps Comics and my favorite thing I’ve gotten other than the first of the modern Cyberfrog releases.

Rating: 9/10

Film Review: Angel Heart (1987)

Release Date: March 6th, 1987
Directed by: Alan Parker
Written by: Alan Parker
Based on: Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg
Music by: Trevor Jones
Cast: Mickey Rourke, Robert De Niro, Lisa Bonet, Charlotte Rampling

Union, Winkast Film Productions, Carolco Pictures, 113 Minutes

Review:

“They say there’s enough religion in the world to make men hate each other, but not enough to make them love.” – Louis Cyphre

I wanted to kickoff my Halloween movie season with something that many consider iconic but that I hadn’t seen, at least in its entirety. I chose Angel Heart, as it isn’t just horror but it’s also neo-noir and stars two elite talents in Mickey Rourke and Robert De Niro.

While I’ve seen segments of this motion picture, over the years, it’s rarely ever been on television and out of the thousands of movies I’ve come to own, this wasn’t one of them.

I really dug this movie tonally and aesthetically. It’s also tremendously well acted from the two leads, as well as Lisa Bonet and Charlotte Rampling, both of whom carry themselves fantastically alongside two real heavyweights.

This movie is just so dark and brooding that you feel it in your gut. It’s hard to describe but it reminds me of the feelings I get whenever I revisit The Serpent and the Rainbow. Well done voodoo movies just hit me on a guttural level, I guess. Maybe that’s because I live in southern Florida and have grown up around many Caribbean people, who have effected me over the years.

My only real issue is that sometimes it feels slow or uneventful. I think that the payoff, albeit predictable, is still satisfying and it helps bring everything together.

I actually don’t want to spoil too much about the plot but a private investigator is hired by a mysterious man in New York City. This man is looking for a lost pop singer named Johnny Favorite. The investigation leads the P.I. to New Orleans and the surrounding bayou a.k.a. voodoo country.

While there, and as the story progresses, things get increasingly more fucked up and weird. Eventually, this guy is in really deep and he starts to lose his mind, as bodies start piling up.

The art direction and cinematography in this film are incredible. While I think that was made easier by using the timeless architecture and locations in New Orleans, that doesn’t discount how well that city was captured on film and maximized to its fullest effect.

With that, this movie feels kind of timeless. Sure, it happens in a specific location and era but something about this film feels like it exists in its own special place and time. When you get to the ending, it may actually get you theorizing on why exactly this is.

Angel Heart is an incredibly unique experience and unlike just about anything I can think of. While I can’t call it great, it’s worth checking out at least once, because of that uniqueness. This picture won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but there’s really only one way for a person to find out.

Rating: 7.5/10

Film Review: When A Stranger Calls (1979)

Release Date: August 24th, 1979 (Indianapolis premiere)
Directed by: Fred Walton
Written by: Steve Feke, Fred Walton
Music by: Dana Kaproff
Cast: Charles Durning, Carol Kane, Colleen Dewhurst, Tony Beckley, Rutanya Alda, William Boyett, Ron O’Neal

Melvin Simon Productions, Columbia Pictures, Embassy Pictures (re-release), 97 Minutes

Review:

“[thinking it’s Curt again] Leave me alone!” – Jill Johnson, “Jill, this is Sergeant Sacker. Listen to me. We’ve traced the call… it’s coming from inside the house. Now a squad car’s coming over there right now, just get out of that house!” – Sgt. Sacker

This movie would be a bonafide classic, if it was just the first twenty minutes and the last twenty. It’s bogged down by the stuff in-between but I still love the hell out of this picture and when I was a kid, it was this movie and Scrooged that made me really appreciate Carol Kane, her range and how damn good she is in everything she does.

It also made me appreciate Charles Durning, who has done a slew of great things but he’s always this sort of gruff, cop-type character. Here, he really turns that up though, as he searches for the killer who has murdered children, as well as others.

The opening twenty minutes of this movie is one of the greatest horror segments ever filmed. It’s a version of the classic babysitter horror story about a killer being upstairs. We’ve all heard or read a version of the story, especially those from my generation who loved the Scary Stories books by Alvin Schwartz.

While this takes a famous tale from American folklore, it gives it to us in the best live-action version that has ever existed. It’s stood the test of time and even with a sequel and remake of this specific movie, it’s never been replicated at this level. Sure, the original Black Christmas is a better movie, overall, and predates this but it’s more about the caller/killer being in the house and not specifically about a babysitter, alone with sleeping children.

After the incredible opening, the film switches gears and almost goes from a slasher film to a serial killer crime thriller with some noir vibes. By the final act, though, it goes into high gear and comes full circle back to a slasher-y horror flick. Granted, there isn’t enough onscreen slashing to actually categorize this as a traditional slasher. The psycho in this will just use whatever tools are at his disposal and he seems more focused on fucking with people’s minds than outright murdering them.

This is a really well acted film and it is also made better by its atmosphere and the general creepiness of the killer. However, the pacing is a mess after the first act and it is tough to get through that middle hour or so. Had that portion of the film been more fine tuned or leaned a bit more into either the slasher bits or become neo-noir (or both), I feel like this really would’ve been one of the best horror movies of its day.

Rating: 7.75/10