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.

Book Review: ‘The Art of Vampirella – The Dynamite Years’ by Various

Like all the other large format art books put out by Dynamite Entertainment, this one if full of spectacular pieces from my favorite artistic medium: comic books.

Plus, it also features one of my favorite indie comics characters of all-time: Vampirella.

While the Warren Years Vampirella art book blew my f’n mind, this one doesn’t quite hit the mark for me in the same way.

Don’t get me wrong, this is still a great book to own for fans of the character and comic art. However, I’m a much bigger fan of the ’60s and ’70s classical art style of the other book. That era was full of work by great fantasy painters from Spain and Italy and it had a totally different vibe.

This collection features modern comic book art. I do like most of it but it doesn’t blow my socks off like the old school stuff.

If these are the sort of books you like to collect, this one shouldn’t disappoint. The art styles have changed over the decades since the original Vampirella stories but there are still great pieces to enjoy here.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other art books put out by Dynamite Entertainment that features the history of the characters they publish.

Comic Review: The Tomb of Dracula – The Complete Collection, Vol. 1

Published: October 4th, 2017
Written by: Gerry Conway, Archie Goodwin
Art by: Gene Colan, Alan Weiss, Gil Kane (cover)
Based on: Dracula by Bram Stoker

Marvel Comics, 518 Pages

Review:

This was an interesting collection, as it not only featured the first few story arcs of The Tomb of Dracula comic book series but it also featured issues of the black and white comics magazine Dracula Lives!

Additionally, this features the first appearance and first story of Blade, the character made most famous by Wesley Snipes in the film trilogy that kicked off in 1998. It also has a story that pits Robert E. Howard’s Solomon Kane against Dracula, capitalizing off of the popular sword and sorcery trend in comics at the time.

Overall, this is a pretty neat comic and since I love the Dracula character in many of his incarnations, it’s cool seeing Marvel’s take on him. I also like that Dracula exists within Marvel canon, as well as Robert E. Howard’s canon, because it opens up a lot of possibilities. Sadly, I don’t think we ever got a Dracula and Godzilla crossover even though both of them existed at Marvel at the same time.

I absolutely love the art in this whether its the stuff from the Tomb stories or the Lives! ones. But I do kind of wish that they would’ve made this a beefier collection of just The Tomb of Dracula while also making a collection just for Dracula Lives!

Both series are great but they’re also very different in that the Dracula Lives! comics didn’t have to adhere to the Comics Code Authority and therefore, were a lot darker, more violent and much sexier.

Anyway, I enjoyed both halves of this huge collection and I look forward to delving into the second volume in the near future.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the later Marvel Dracula stories, as well as other ’70s Marvel horror titles.

TV Review: The Witcher (2019- )

Original Run: December 20th, 2019 – current
Created by: Lauren Schmidt Hissrich
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: The Witcher novels by Andrzej Sapkowski
Music by: Sonya Belousova, Giona Ostinelli
Cast: Henry Cavill, Freya Allan, Eamon Farren, Anya Chalotra, Joey Batey, MyAnna Buring, Royce Pierreson, Mimi Ndiweni, Wilson Radjou-Pujalte, Anna Shaffer, Mahesh Jadu

Netflix, Pioneer Stilking Films, Platige Image, Sean Daniel Company, One of Us, Cinesite, 8 Episodes (so far), 47-67 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

As someone who has never read any of The Witcher books or played any of the video games, I went into this pretty blindly. But I really wanted a dark fantasy television show that worked for me, as I was never a fan of Game of Thrones but have always loved the genre apart from that show. Also, I like Henry Cavill and he seemed pretty excited for the world to finally see this.

I wasn’t too keen on the first episode, I thought it was alright and I might not have watched beyond that if the first season wasn’t a short run of just eight episodes. But I’m glad I did because about midway through, everything sort of clicked and I ended up enjoying this quite a bit.

The show starts off with a weird pace, as different characters exist in different timelines. That’s not made clear until episode four or so but once you come to that realization, things flow better.

I thought that the world created for the show was pretty cool. The environment changes quite a bit as they travel and it doesn’t feel like it’s stuck in the same place.

The acting is superb, especially the scenes that feature Henry Cavill. However, Anya Chalotra steals just about every scene that she is in, which is impressive as she doesn’t have a whole lot of screen experience and frankly, I didn’t know who she was before this.

It’s hard to say how good this will be going forward but the first season does a good job of setting up the universe for these characters to play in. Plus, it’s made me want to try out one of the games.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other fantasy action television shows. Some would say Game of Thrones but I never liked that show and this is superior.

Video Game Review: Gremlins 2: The New Batch (NES)

While Gremlins 2: The New Batch isn’t as good as the original film, it was actually more imaginative, creative and dare I say, more fun? And the plot of the movie created a great story to be adapted into a video game, which it was.

Now Gizmo doesn’t just have to deal with regular Gremlins, things have gotten much, much worse.

This is because of their exposure to a crazy genetics lab ran by a mad scientist (the legendary Christopher Lee in the film). Now, the Gremlins have a wide array of superpowers and abilities that they didn’t have previously.

Because of that neat plot development, this video game has a bunch of different types of Gremlins to fight throughout this 8-bit adventure.

This is a really challenging game and honestly, it’s way too hard for the normie and even with my decades of video game experience and having played this multiple times over thirty years or so, I still found it extremely difficult and ended up resorting to a Game Genie code in order to complete it.

Even with my infinite lives code, the game is still tough as hell and frustrating. However, it’s that good kind of frustrating that leads to a feeling of accomplishment once you tough it out.

Overall, this has pretty good level design that is only slightly hindered by the game’s difficulty, a lot of which has to do with enemy placement. My only real complaint about anything design-wise though is the boss fights. They all take place in a single room the size of the screen and are comprised of oversized Gremlins in a confined space with floor traps. It makes navigated the space safely near impossible. In most boss battles, I mostly had to try and unleash as much damage as possible while trying to outlast the villain. There didn’t seem to be much point in putting an effort into developing an actual strategy.

Gremlins 2 is a pretty good game. It’s better than I remembered and it uses the movie’s plot and environments well.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other top down action platformers for the original Nintendo.

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.