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: Suspiria (2018)

Also known as: Suspíria: A Dança do Medo (Brazil)
Release Date: September 1st, 2018 (Venice Film Festival)
Directed by: Luca Guadangnino
Written by: David Kajganich
Based on: Suspiria by Dario Argento, Daria Nicolodi
Music by: Thom Yorke
Cast: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, Angela Winkler, Ingrid Caven, Elena Fokina, Sylvie Testud, Renée Soutendijk, Christine LeBoutte, Fabrizia Sacchi, Małgosia Bela, Jessica Harper, Chloë Grace Moretz

K Period Media, Frenesy Film Company, Videa, Mythology Entertainment, First Sun, Memo Films, Amazon Studios, 152 Minutes

Review:

“Movement is never mute. It is a language. It’s a series of energetic shapes written in the air like words forming sentences. Like poems. Like prayers.” – Madame Blanc

There had been rumors of a Suspiria remake for years. I never thought it would actually happen, as it was in developmental hell and it isn’t a film that needs to be remade. The original was unique, haunting, effective and super stylish. In fact, it’s one of my favorite films of all-time.

So I was definitely against the idea of a remake. In fact, in my original Suspiria review, I referred to the upcoming remake as “cinematic sacrilege”. But something changed when I saw the trailer for this film.

This was a motion picture that was drastically different and certainly appeared to be its own thing only vaguely inspired by its source material. I was intrigued and once I realized that it was directed by the very talented Luca Guadangnino, who most recently did the Oscar nominated Call Me by Your Name, I was even more intrigued.

Unfortunately, this didn’t get a theatrical release near me but knowing that it was distributed by Amazon Studios, I figured I could just wait until it was available for free with my Prime membership. Once it was, I wasted no time in checking the film out.

I ended up being pleasantly surprised by this movie and even though it isn’t on the level of the original, it exceeds it in some factors.

Primarily, the acting in this picture is utterly superb and it is only enhanced by Guadangnino’s direction. He was able to capture very intimate moments, without the support of dialogue, in a way that added a mystique to the haunted proceedings.

Guadangnino also didn’t take his style cues from Argento’s original, which is actually a very, very good thing. This version of Suspiria was incredibly visual and stylized but in a new and unique way. Instead of employing the intense vivid and contrasting colors of Argento’s patented giallo visual flair, the color palate here is more subdued, full of dark earth tones and a grittiness. However, Guadangnino does sprinkle in some giallo-esque highlights. I think it is clearly an homage to Argento but it is done so subtly that someone unfamiliar with the original picture will miss it.

I thought that both Dakota Johnson and Tilda Swinton really owned their roles in this film, especially Swinton who had to play triple duty where two of her characters presented real performance challenges. Also, I was really impressed with Mia Goth and her ability to truly wear dread on her face and in her body language.

While the score by Goblin is absent, like the lack of giallo visuals, it is a good thing here. This film’s score by Thom Yorke has real character and it works quite well with the narrative and visual tones. While it is very hard to top that Goblin score, what we get with this film fits pretty flawlessly. Trying to mimic the sounds that Goblin did in 1977 would most likely have been a distraction.

This film also benefits from using the old school method for building suspense. While the picture may feel slow at parts, there really isn’t a wasted moment and everything serves the purpose of adding layers towards the story’s big climax.

As far as the climax goes, it has a pretty shocking twist that almost adds a feeling of disorientation to a sequence that almost comes across as sensory overload. It’s a lot to bear in a film that crawls by at a relaxed pace but it’s is quite incredible when you get to this point in the film.

That being said, I thought that some of the stuff in the finale was a bit over the top and a bit cheesy. I don’t want to spoil anything by pointing out the details but the whole thing hits you in the face like a hammer and by this point, you are mentally spent and the grotesque and hokier bits are buried under the weight of the whole sequence.

And despite my reservations about a few things with that finale, it is that moment that really made this film work for me. It truly showcased that Guadangnino might have started with Argento’s premise but in the end, he crafted his own creation that was much more complex but emotionally and intellectually deeper than the original. That alone allows this motion picture to justify its existence.

I look at remakes like I look at cover songs: if an artist can improve on the source material in some way or present it differently but still well, then it serves a purpose.

In the end, this is a motion picture that shocked and surprised me. While I still prefer the original, this remake is one of the absolute best horror films of the last decade.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the original Suspiria and it’s first sequel Inferno.

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.

Comic Review: Web of Venom: Cult of Carnage – One-Shot

Published: April 10th, 2019
Written by: Frank Tieri
Art by: Danilo Beyruth, Joshua Cassara (cover)

Marvel Comics, 35 Pages

Review:

I’m not really sure where the Venom series is going other than it has been working towards the return of Carnage for what I assume will be a massive Venom versus Carnage showdown.

Since last year’s Venom number 1 and the other Web of Venom one-shots, Donny Cates has mostly been at the helm and he’s done a pretty stupendous job. However, he’s seemingly left Venom behind to focus on Guardians of the Galaxy and the upcoming relaunch of Silver Surfer. That being said, this one-shot was written by Frank Tieri, who I mostly only know from his work on DC Comics’ Harley Quinn, as well as Jughead: The Hunger and a Red Sonja miniseries.

Overall, the story here was quite good. There was a bit of cheesy dialogue in one or two panels but not enough the detract from the proceedings.

Venom is nowhere to be found in this story, which is fine, but with his name in the title, I thought maybe he’d be around. In his place are Man-Wolf, a character I’ve always loved, and Misty Knight. We also get an inside look at this cult that has sprung up. The cult worships a strange god but it is really all a front for the returned Carnage, who has big plans that will most assuredly see him cross paths with Venom once again.

I liked the art and the tone of this was good.

These Web of Venom one-shots have all been pretty enjoyable and I like that they kind of feel like scenes edited out of the larger movie. They aren’t necessary to read with the regular Venom comic but they add more context than what you would get from just the primary title.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the recent Donny Cates Venom series and its Web of Venom spinoffs.

Film Review: Demon Wind (1990)

Release Date: July 5th, 1990 (Germany)
Directed by: Charles Philip Moore
Written by: Charles Philip Moore
Music by: Bruce Wallenstein
Cast: Eric Larson, Francine Lapensée, Rufus Norris, Jack Forcinito, Stephen Quadros, Mark David Fritsche, Sherry Leigh

Demon Wind Productions Ltd., United Filmmakers, 96 Minutes

Review:

“Come on chicken shit. I’ll shove that karate stuff up your ass!” – Dell

What a weird fucking movie.

In fact, I never knew of it’s existence until Joe Bob Briggs unleashed it on me in a recent episode of The Last Drive-In.

It was certainly worth checking out because of its bizarreness.

However, it’s a cheaply made dud that is only saved from completely drowning in its own shit due to how good some of the practical monster effects are for something with an extremely scant budget.

This is an amusing film with weird moments that are certainly worthwhile but this isn’t something that I’d really want to experience again. Or, at least, not for several years.

The scene where the magician dude shows up and does magic and karate is fucking hysterical. It’s one of the greatest introductions in all of film history.

The movie is primarily about this demonic fog that traps some college kids in the vicinity of this haunted, destroyed house with a front door that is a sort of gateway into another dimension. I’m not sure if it is actually a different dimension or time travel or what. Nothing in this movie is very clear.

In the end, this is a good way to kill an hour and a half, assuming that you are a fan of these kind of movies. It also made for a fun episode of The Last Drive-In.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: The Dead Pit, The Devil’s Rain and Night of the Demons.

Comic Review: Blood Realm: Dark Covenant

Published: September 20th, 2018 – February 7th, 2019
Written by: Robert Geronimo
Art by: Robert Geronimo

Alterna Comics, 75 Pages

Review:

Alterna constantly throws titles my way that are a lot of fun, imaginative and just cool.

Blood Realm is no different. It’s a dark fantasy in a sort of sword and sorcery setting. It has its own mythology which is well established and explained in this series.

Dark Covenant is comprised of three issues and this story arc is the first part of a trilogy. It’s hard to tell how good this will be going forward but this was a solid setup for the larger story.

I absolutely loved the art. It’s dark, menacing and enchanting. The main character is pretty interesting and comes to us in an unusual way. It’ll be neat seeing how this all unfolds moving forward, as this definitely isn’t just a rehash of fantasy or sword and sorcery stories that we’ve seen before.

This is a top notch indie comic and a refreshing read. I’m always down for something different and this was exactly that. I look forward to the two future story arcs.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: future Blood Realm releases and other fantasy comics by Alterna.

Film Review: The Maze (1953)

Release Date: June 24th, 1953 (Portland, Oregon premiere)
Directed by: William Cameron Menzies
Written by: Daniel Ullman
Based on: The Maze by Maurice Sandoz
Music by: Marlin Skiles
Cast: Richard Carlson, Veronica Hurst, Katherine Emery

Allied Artists Pictures, 80 Minutes

Review:

“SHOCKING CHILLS..Bloodcurdling suspense! A thousand thrill-maddening horrors!” – tagline

I never knew of this film’s existence until I stumbled across it on YouTube. But I’m glad that I gave this a watch, as I was pleasantly surprised by it.

I was initially drawn to the film because the idea of a horror film that takes place in and around a maze intrigued me. Plus, it takes place in Scotland with a Scottish castle and promises of “The Deadliest Trap in the World!” This film actually had several good marketing taglines but there wasn’t a single trap at all, really.

Now even though I enjoyed this film, it is very slow. But it does build up suspense pretty well so that once you get to the big finale in the maze, you feel a legitimate sense of terror and tension.

The big reveal at the end was pretty damn surprising too. The first time you see the creature scurry across the ground in the shadows, it’s a really bizarre moment and it’s hard to make out what you’re looking at. However, the full reveal is pretty damn shocking even for the hokiness of the monster.

If you want to watch this movie, ignore this spoilery paragraph and skip to the next. The creature is a big frog but it’s really a dude in a suit with a pretty realistic frog head. What’s really bizarre, is that he crawls across the ground. He sort of does this hop thing but barely. And what’s even more bizarre is that the frog dude’s screams sound like an elephant. Still, this was a really cool creature and I was caught off guard by it and also amused by it.

While the slow walk through the dark maze, at the end, was really well done. The lighting needed to be better. To simulate candlelight, the crew used a spotlight to illuminate the two women. However, it just looked like they were walking towards a spotlight and it didn’t seem to work as faux candlelight. Even for 1953, there were better techniques for lighting a scene like this. The only real reason why I’m actually pointing it out though, is that it distracts the viewer during this sequence, which was near perfect other than this glaring flaw.

Regardless of that one lighting issue and the slow pace, this was still thoroughly enjoyable. The last ten or fifteen minutes were solid. But that great climax probably wouldn’t have had as much impact if not for the slow, suspenseful build up.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: The Night Walker, The Psychopath and X the Unknown.