Film Review: The Thing That Couldn’t Die (1958)

Also known as: The Water Witch (working title)
Release Date: June 27th, 1958 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Will Cowan
Written by: David Duncan
Music by: Henry Mancini (uncredited)
Cast: William Reynolds, Andra Martin, Jeffrey Stone, Carolyn Kearney

Universal Pictures, 69 Minutes

Review:

“[explaining why the branch fell on Linda] It must have been a evil wind!” – Gordon Hawthorne

The poster for this ’50s horror picture is much cooler than the film itself. But yes, there is indeed a severed head that gets carried around. Eventually, the head, that of an evil sorcerer, is reunited with a body. But even though the evil head’s evil plot is about getting put back onto a body, not much comes of it, as the sorcerer is then knocked off pretty easily.

While I watch a lot of schlock pictures, a lot of them have things that make them fun. This one doesn’t though. There is nothing endearing or charming and had this not been in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, I doubt it’d be remembered today in any capacity.

Strangely, this was paired with the infinitely superior Hammer Films classic, Horror of Dracula. Now that’s a double bill with a massive contrast in quality.

The general premise for the movie sounds cool but the execution made me want to execute myself for sitting through it. But apparently, there is a Spanish film from 1972 that has a very similar plot and looks to be better based off of what I’ve read about it online. That film is called Horror Rises From the Tomb a.k.a. El espanto surge de la tumba. I can’t yet vouch for it, as I haven’t seen it.

But getting back to this film, it’s worth missing. Unless you’re an MST3K junkie like myself and feel the need to sit through hours of schlock just for a few laughs.

Rating: 2.25/10
Pairs well with: other ’50s and ’60s horror schlock that was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Film Review: Vampirella (1996)

Release Date: September 28th, 1996
Directed by: Jim Wynorski
Written by: Gary Gerani
Based on: Vampirella by Forrest J. Ackerman
Music by: Joel Goldsmith
Cast: Talisa Soto, Roger Daltrey, Richard Joseph Paul, Brian Bloom, Angus Scrimm

Cinetel Films, Concorde-New Horizons, Showtime Networks, 82 Minutes, 86 Minutes (DVD cut)

Review:

“You are much stronger than I am.” – Vampirella, “At the risk of sounding egotistical, I am stronger than anyone.” – Vlad

I don’t think I even knew about this movie at the time of its release and I worked in a video store then. I was also a fan of comics, horror and movies that were made with the involvement of Roger Corman, the King of B-Movies.

Well, I didn’t expect much from this film but it was still pretty entertaining seeing Roger Daltrey of The Who get to ham it up pretty hard. He looked like he was having a good time, committing to this character and this film, regardless of the production value.

On the flip side of that, I have no issues with Talisa Soto, but I don’t think that she was the best choice to play Vampirella. But the script was bad, the dialogue was terrible, her hair was wrong and her outfit looked like dime store cosplay and didn’t really work. But I also realize that the traditional Vampirella costume is even racier and way more revealing. But it’s not the skin that’s the issue, as much as it is the poor, kind of unflattering design of the suit.

Also, Vampirella should be more curvy. Soto has a great body but it’s more athletic than curvy. Tia Carrere would have been a better fit but she was also probably more expensive in 1995, when this was made. But she looks more the part and if she had the same hair style that she did the first moment you saw her in Wayne’s World, it’s even a better fit.

But nothing would’ve really saved this picture from itself.

The plot was nonsensical and the pacing and editing were pretty bad. I just watched this movie and I don’t even remember what it was about other than an evil alien vampire (Daltrey) escapes from execution, heads to Earth, Vampirella follows and they fight. But hey, Angus Scrimm, Phantasm‘s the Tall Man, plays an elder vampire on their home planet.

Calling Vampirella a disappointment is an understatement. It’s a movie that really shouldn’t have been made. You think Corman would’ve learned after his experiment with Fantastic Four a few years earlier.

Unless you are an absolute die hard Vampirella fan, you should ignore this film. If you insist on checking it out, do so at your own risk. But it is free on YouTube, at the moment.

Rating: 3.25/10
Pairs well with: Roger Corman’s unreleased adaptation of Fantastic Four, as well as the 1990 Captain America film.

Film Review: Vampires (1998)

Also known as: John Carpenter’s Vampires (complete title), Vampire$ (working title)
Release Date: April 15th, 1998 (France)
Directed by: John Carpenter
Written by: Don Jakoby
Based on: Vampire$ by John Steakley
Music by: John Carpenter
Cast: James Woods, Daniel Baldwin, Sheryl Lee, Thomas Ian Griffith, Maximilian Schell, Tim Guinee, Mark Boone Junior, Gregory Sierra, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa

JVC Entertainment Networks, Film Office, Storm King Productions, Largo Entertainment, Spooky Tooth Productions, Columbia Pictures, 108 Minutes

Review:

“Can I ask ya somethin, Padre? When I was kickin your ass back there… you get a little wood?” – Jack Crow

James Woods is cooler than any of us could ever be. And frankly, this may be the coolest he’s ever been. I mean, shit, he’s a vampire slaying, foul mouthed, badass, ready to burn down hordes of undead bloodsuckers.

Then you have Daniel Baldwin, who is always very convincing as an overweight piece of shit that isn’t afraid to punch his way through problems.

Both of these guys inject so much testosterone into this picture that it truly is cinematic Viagra.

Now I’m not saying they’re good people or even heroic. But that’s what makes this movie so badass and chock full of the best ’90s action movie cliches.

This also features Thomas Ian Griffith as the big evil vampire that they have to kill. Griffith was born to play this part, even if he’s given better performances elsewhere – The Karate Kid, Part III is still my favorite thing he’s ever done. But he is absolutely convincing, has the right build and physical presence and is able to terrify the audience. I remember people in the theater being in absolute awe during the scene where Griffith crashes the vampire hunters’ motel party, ripping everyone and everything to shreds.

What I really enjoy about this movie, is that it is a vampire movie with a real hard edge to it. In the ’90s, vampires were still scary and this does a good job of tapping into that while reminding you how cool vampires can be when used as legitimate monsters. This, along with Blade and From Dusk Till Dawn used these mythological terrors in the way that God intended.

This isn’t John Carpenter at his finest but it’s the second best movie he did in the ’90s after In the Mouth of Madness. It’s tough as shit, blue collar as fuck and it shows you that being a vampire slayer means that you’re probably going to die a very early death instead of just being a cool teenage girl that talks like all her dialogue is written by a balding middle aged guy pretending to be a teenage girl.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn and John Carpenter’s ’90s movies.

Film Review: Troll (1986)

Release Date: January 17th, 1986
Directed by: John Carl Buechler
Written by: Ed Naha, Joanna Granillo (uncredited)
Music by: Richard Band
Cast: Noah Hathaway, Michael Moriarty, Shelley Hack, Jenny Beck, Sonny Bono, Phil Fondacaro, Brad Hall, Anne Lockhart, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Gary Sandy, June Lockhart

Altar Productions, Empire Pictures, 82 Minutes

Review:

“[looking for Wendy in the basement] Have you been playing with dead cats?” – Harry Potter Jr.

This is the first Harry Potter movie and it actually features two Harry Potters. But sadly, this is unrelated to the J.K. Rowling franchise.

This also isn’t related to its sequels, as those are two different movies that stole the Troll name to market themselves better. Which is actually quite odd, as this Troll was far from a success.

Like the real Harry Potter series, though, this is a fantasy movie that features magic and creepy little critters.

It also features Sonny Bono as a pervy swinger, a very young Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Moriarty from The Stuff, Atreyu from The NeverEnding Story and June Lockhart, who is pretty much a legend with close to 200 credits to her name. Also, Phil Fondacaro does double duty as the actual troll in the film, as well as playing a regular character. I love Fondacaro’s work and it’s cool seeing him get to be the centerpiece of a movie.

Now this motion picture is pretty damn bizarre. But it’s that ’80s, over the top, “What the fuck did I just watch?” kind of bizarre. The best of all forms of bizarre.

It’s humorous, baffling and amusing. You kind of just have to surrender yourself to the film and let it play out in all of its gloriousness.

Sure, critics hated it, as did most people. But this film’s audience is a small segment of society. And while it’s not a classic, even as far as weird movies go, it’s endearing and charming in an unexplainable way. I guess it’s like Howard the Duck or Ghoulies or Munchies or Garbage Pail Kids or C.H.U.D. II in how they are mostly bad films but they found a way to touch a enough of a certain type of people that they live on as cult favorites.

But above all else, it is the incredible performance by the young Jenny Beck that is the glue that holds this picture together. Almost immediately, she becomes possessed by the evil troll and man, she commits to the bit throughout the entire film. For a child actor without much experience, she was tremendous and has to go down as one of my favorite kids from an ’80s movie.

I love Troll. It is just one hearty spoonful of strange after another.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: it’s amusing but unrelated sequel and then any ’80s horror movie with little creatures.

Comic Review: Aliens/Vampirella

Published: July 6th, 2016
Written by: Corinna Sara Bechko
Art by: Javier Garcia-Miranda
Based on: Aliens by Dan O’Bannon & Ronald Shusett, Vampirella by Forrest J. Ackerman

Dynamite Entertainment, Dark Horse, 184 Pages

Review:

This crossover came out a few years back but I guess I didn’t notice it. 2016 was a weird year for me and I was working more than a normal human being should.

I was stoked to check this out now, though, as I’m a big fan of both the Alien franchise and Vampirella.

Overall, this was a pretty good, action packed, violent and intense comic. It even brought in some Nosferatu-looking vampires to mix it up with the alien xenomorphs. There’s this great sequence where a vampire bites a xenomorph in the neck and then has his face melted off from the acid blood.

I only have two complaints about Aliens/Vampirella.

The first and most important is that this is a Vampirella comic. Therefore, why the hell is she wearing a jumpsuit throughout the entire story? You only see her in her regular outfit in one panel where she first wakes up from deep sleep due to space travel. After that panel, she’s dressed like a Ghostbuster for all six issues.

For those bitching about how her outfit objectifies women, you’ve probably never read Vampirella. Also, comic books are a visual artistic medium that presents its heroes in ideal forms. It’s not real, it’s escapism and entertainment. It’s fantasy and when there are hot girls in my fantasy, they aren’t wearing jumpsuits. She should be in her traditional outfit or a variation of it. I mean, you don’t dress up Batman like an accountant, do you?

The second complaint is that once you get to the end, it ends really abruptly. It’s like, “Ha! We escaped!” Then, “Boom! The End!” It doesn’t wreck the comic but it felt like it could have been paced a bit better to pad out the conclusion a wee bit more.

Other than that, I liked the story for the most part and the art was mostly solid. Some panels, but very few, felt like they were rushed.

In the end, this was a fun read for fans of either or both franchises.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Vampirella and Alien crossovers, as both franchises have had many.

Film Review: The Ranger (2018)

Release Date: March 12th, 2018 (SXSW)
Directed by: Jenn Wexler
Written by: Giaco Furino, Jenn Wexler
Music by: Wade MacNeil, Andrew Gordon Macpherson
Cast: Chloe Levine, Jeremy Holm, Granit Lahu, Jeremy Pope, Bubba Weiler, Amanda Grace Benitez

Hood River Entertainment, Glass Eye Pix, 77 Minutes

Review:

“I kept your secret. I protected you.” – The Ranger

I really wanted to like this film and I did find it fairly enjoyable but there is nothing new here and it’s pretty mundane and weak, as far as slasher movies go.

The story is about some punk teens on the run, following a drug bust at a concert that was capped off by one of them stabbing a cop. The teens make their way to a cabin in the woods that once belonged to the uncle of one of the girls in the group.

However, the mountain where the cabin sits is under the watchful eye of a psychotic park ranger that has a past with that same teen girl. When she was a child, she did something bad and he took her in, protected her from the law and tried to train her to be more like him: a predatory wolf, living off the land and surviving by any means necessary.

So it doesn’t take long before these cliche punk teens disrespect authority, throw the word “fascist” around and start fucking up the woods, drawing the ire of the park ranger.

One problem I have with the movie is the characters. Except for the proverbial final girl, everyone here is completely unlikable. Plus, they all just kind of fit played out archetypes and their punk schtick feels forced. They’re not real punk rock, they’re like the punk that Target tries to sell on t-shirts to 12 year-old girls in Wisconsin. If you are looking for something in the same vein as the punk rock teens of The Return of the Living Dead, these kids aren’t them.

I do like the main girl though and the park ranger is pretty awesome. I just wish he had a bit more backstory. Maybe they’ll tap into that if there’s ever a sequel to this but I don’t think that very many people even know about this movie. I didn’t until Shudder suggested it within the app.

Also, this film has a bit of gore and blood but it implies gore more than it actually shows it. A lot of the kills are weak and maybe that’s because they didn’t have the budget to sever teenagers from limb to limb but some of these moments could have been done much better with practical effects and for not a lot of money.

The Ranger had a neat premise and two characters good enough to anchor it. However, it falls short of my low expectations and is pretty forgettable.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other films currently streaming on Shudder: Revenge, Monster Party, Boar and What Keeps You Alive.