Film Review: Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland (1989)

Also known as: Nightmare Vacation 3 (UK, Germany)
Release Date: August 4th, 1989 (limited)
Directed by: Michael A. Simpson
Written by: Fritz Gordon
Based on: characters by Robert Hiltzik
Music by: James Oliverio
Cast: Pamela Springsteen, Tracy Griffith, Mark Oliver, Michael J. Pollard

Double Helix Films, 80 Minutes, 84 Minutes (uncut)

Review:

“Good thing you’re dead ’cause in a couple of years your breasts would have been sagging something terrible!” – Angela

Since I recently watched Sleepaway Camp II, I thought that I’d follow that up with a viewing and review of the third movie in the series.

Honestly, this one is pretty much just more of the same and it’s fairly consistent to the one before it. My only really gripe about it is that the kills aren’t as creative as they were in the previous installment.

Now there are a few good kills like the lawnmower one but most of them are pretty basic and repetitive. Usually, we see Angela just beat someone to death with a flimsy branch and then follow that up with a stab or a fire.

Pamela Springsteen is really the glue of these two films, as she’s simply entertaining and commits to the bit so well. Even though these are far from the best slashers or horror comedies out there, I could’ve easily watched her return a few more times to do the same schtick. She’s just funny and has a lot of charm, even when she’s brutally murdering someone.

I liked that this movie brought in Michael J. Pollard, as I’ve always liked the guy. He’s mostly a character actor that most people might recognize from Scrooged or Bonnie & Clyde but he always comes off as enjoyable and likable. In this film, however, he plays a scummy pedophile summer camp owner. While his character is weirdly played up for laughs, he handles the controversial material pretty well and you enjoy seeing him get what was coming to him.

Overall, this is a goofy, violent picture that actually doesn’t push the gore as hard as I had hoped for a late ’80s slasher picture but it’s still amusing, entertaining and it kept me distracted from the pandemic that has taken over the world in 2020.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Sleepaway Camp films, as well as the Friday the 13th film series and The Burning.

Video Game Review: A Nightmare On Elm Street (NES)

I actually hated this game as a kid. I didn’t really understand what you were supposed to do and it wasn’t made clear within the game. The similar Friday the 13th made some sense and ultimately, I figured out how to beat it.

Well, I fully grasp this game now, thanks to skimming over an online walkthrough, which weren’t available in the late ’80s. So now I’ve played through this and beat it and have more of an appreciation for it, even if it is a pretty flawed game.

I’d actually say that I prefer this a bit more than Friday the 13th but it still isn’t as great as an A Nightmare On Elm Street game could’ve been in the 8-bit realm. However, it is better than most licensed games based on larger properties.

My main gripe with this is that there isn’t much difference between the real world and the dream world. I love that you can play in both but I find the real world to be more of a pain in the ass, even if the enemies seem somewhat weaker. But why are there zombies, monster snakes and giant rats in the real world? Is Elm Street next to a zoo that did insane lab experiments and then released them on the suburbs?

That being said, this game lacks creativity. What sucks about that, is that A Nightmare On Elm Street is a franchise full of some of the most creative slasher movies ever made. I don’t think anyone can really deny that.

Granted, this offers up more boss battles than Friday the 13th, which only really has two. However, the boss battles in this game primarily consist of disembodied pieces of Freddy Krueger floating around a screen or being attached to a chain like Chain Chomps from the Super Mario games.

When you do actually fight Freddy in his normal form, the boss battle is pretty underwhelming.

Additionally, the level design isn’t great and the game is pretty repetitive.

Still, this isn’t a bad way to waste about an hour of your time. While it’s damn difficult, it’s not unbeatable and it does give you a sense of accomplishment once you toss Freddy’s bones into the furnace.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: the Friday the 13th game for the original Nintendo.

Comic Review: Hellboy In Mexico

Published: April 26th, 2016
Written by: Mike Mignola
Art by: Mike Mignola, various

Dark Horse, 151 Pages

Review:

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this trade paperback but I like Hellboy and I like stories that take place in Mexico. Add in some lucha libre elements and I’m definitely sold!

This is an anthology collection of short stories that cover a five month period where Hellboy was in Mexico.

Overall, each chapter is a pretty cool and amusing tale. We see our hero enter the lucha libre world, as well as battling all sorts of supernatural monsters.

You don’t really need to read this in any sort of order with the regular series of titles, as it sort of happens on the side. But for fans of the series, this is certainly worth a look, as it features that great Mike Mignola art and writing style and the setting makes this a pretty unique and refreshing read within the larger Hellboy tapestry.

This did fly by though, at just 151 pages, and it made me wish that there were more Hellboy in Mexico stories to tell or that some of these would’ve been expanded upon more.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other Hellboy comics.

Film Review: Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)

Also known as: Zombieland 2 (working title, unofficial title)
Release Date: October 9th, 2019 (Taiwan)
Directed by: Ruben Fleischer
Written by: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, Dave Callaham
Music by: David Sardy
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Rosario Dawson, Zoey Deutch, Avan Jogia, Luke Wilson, Thomas Middleditch, Bill Murray (cameo), Al Roaker (cameo)

2.0 Entertainment, Columbia Pictures, Pariah, 99 Minutes

Review:

“[first lines] Welcome to Zombieland. Back for seconds? After all this time? Well, what can I say, but thank you. You have a lot of choices when it comes to zombie entertainment, and we appreciate you picking us.” – Columbus

Being that my fairly recent rewatch of the original film showed me that it didn’t age well, I wasn’t super gung ho to see its sequel, ten years later.

However, after being somewhat annoyed by the opening narration, which itself felt dated, I was at least pleasantly surprised to discover that I mostly liked this movie, even though it didn’t need to exist and didn’t do much to justify it being made.

I’ll admit, I liked all these characters from the first movie and it was cool checking in on them a decade later. You’re quickly filled in on what has happened in the time that’s passed but there isn’t really anything unexpected other than Little Rock being college aged and having the feeling that she needs to leave the nest and have her own experiences. This of course leads to the adventure in this film, as the other three set out to find her, after she takes off.

There are other new characters introduced and they’re all pretty decent, except for the douche from Berkeley but then again, you’re supposed to hate him.

At its core, this is really just more of the same with some weird subplot about a hippie commune full of pacifists that have somehow survived more than a decade into a zombie apocalypse, living in an unsafe high-rise with loud music, firework shows and no weapons. But hey, this is comedy, so whatever, right?

I liked the addition of Rosario Dawson and Zoey Deutch to the cast. I don’t like that they left Zoey behind with the dumb hippies though, as she’s probably just going to die.

Anyway, I’d probably say that this is fairly consistent with the first movie and rate it the same. It didn’t blow my socks off but it was a decent escape from the very real COVID-19 drama for 99 minutes.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the first Zombieland film and possibly the series, but I haven’t watched it yet.

Film Review: It Chapter Two (2019)

Release Date: August 26th, 2019 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Andy Muschietti
Written by: Gary Dauberman
Based on: It by Stephen King
Music by: Benjamin Wallfisch
Cast: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Andy Bean, Bill Skarsgård, Sophia Lillis, Jaeden Martell, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Olef, Stephen King (cameo)

KatzSmith Productions, Lin Pictures, Vertigo Entertainment, Double Dream, Rideback, Mehra Entertainment, New Line Cinema, Warner Bros., 170 Minutes

Review:

“For 27 years, I dreamt of you. I craved you… I’ve missed you!” – Pennywise

The adult half of the story to It was never as interesting or as engaging as the child half, so I probably shouldn’t have expected this film to be as good as its predecessor. However, it falls short in other aspects despite just being less interesting.

To start, it’s just too damn long and way too drawn out. The first two acts are slow as hell and I actually found it baffling that this wasn’t something that was fixed in editing.

The worst of it all, was the middle act of the film where all the characters had to go off on their own journeys to deal with their personal demons. I felt like each of these segments was too long and frankly, they could’ve somehow been edited together into one overlapping sequence, as opposed to multiple ones that just felt like their own separate chapters in the story. They felt more like side quests in a video game while taking a break from the main story. That works in a game but it definitely doesn’t work in a motion picture with limited time to tell its story.

Another major negative was the horror itself. I found many parts of the first film to be pretty damn disturbing. In this film, everything came off like this was the diet version of the previous installment. Pennywise wasn’t nearly as terrifying and most of the murders and violence were basic bitch shit. Pennywise pretty much just goes clown piranha and bites people in half. There’s no real creativity to any of it.

Additionally, the final monster was just a giant Pennywise with crab-like limbs. While I’ve knocked how the monster looked in the 1990 TV miniseries, it was at least more imaginative than just making a CGI crab monster with a clown head.

That’s really part of the problem here too. You see, almost every evil entity in the film has to be clown themed. The original novel and TV miniseries deviated from this, as the monster takes many forms. It isn’t specifically a fucked up clown. Pennywise (or It) is a shape-shifting alien from another dimension. He’s also thousands (if not millions) of years old. The MFer predates clowns and really just uses that form to lure in modern children… not adults.

Moving past all the faults working against this film, it is well acted and the cast did a pretty superb job, all things considered. It’s also well shot and visually consistent with its predecessor.

Still, the negatives severely impact the movie as a whole and I just don’t think that I’ll ever want to sit through this again, which is sad, as I really dug the first picture and typically enjoy film adaptations of Stephen King’s work.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor and other recent Stephen King adaptations for the big screen.

Film Review: Lust For a Vampire (1971)

Also known as: To Love a Vampire (US TV title)
Release Date: January 17th, 1971 (UK)
Directed by: Jimmy Sangster
Written by: Tudor Gates
Based on: characters by Sheridan Le Fanu
Music by: Harry Robinson
Cast: Yutte Stensgaard, Ralph Bates, Barbara Jefford, Suzanna Leigh, Michael Johnson, Helen Christie, Mike Raven, Pippa Steel, Christopher Neame

Hammer Films, 95 Minutes

Review:

“I spend the whole of last night going through Giles’s researches, and believe me they are powerful evidence.” – Mircalla, “Evidence! Of what?” – Richard Lestrange, “That you are a vampire.” – Mircalla

The second motion picture in The Karnstein Trilogy from Hammer Films, really takes the formula from the first movie and ups the ante quite a bit. In fact, the only thing missing was the great Hammer legends Ingrid Pitt and Peter Cushing. However, the film, as a whole, makes up for the loss of two big stars and is actually kind of bonkers in a near perfect way.

To start, Yutte Stensgaard is incredibly beautiful and she really brought something to this film despite her lack of acting ability. I’ve only ever seen her in one other film: Scream and Scream Again. Needless to say, she didn’t have to say much, she just needed to look sexy, mesmerizing and sinister all at the same time. She achieved this quite well and her presence transcends the screen, which probably goes beyond what was simply written on paper. She has an intensity here and conveys it well.

Additionally, Mike Raven, who barely does much in this, still commanded attention when he appeared. He didn’t act nearly as much as other Hammer actors of note but he is sort of a poor man’s Christopher Lee and therefore very closely resembles Lee’s Dracula while playing the evil Count Karnstein. Just think of Hammer’s Dracula with a goatee and that’s basically Karnstein in this film. He kind of just has to stand there, starring intensely, which he’s damn good at.

The film also features Ralph Bates in a prominent role for the first half of the film. I’ve enjoyed his work in other horror pictures of the era but this is probably my favorite thing that he’s done, as he plays a very different character in contrast to his smarmy, young, good looking visage. Bates shows his range here and does rather well.

Lust For a Vampire also features a young Christopher Neame, just before he became more recognized for his role as Johnny Alucard in 1972’s Dracula A.D. 1972.

Due to the success of The Vampire Lovers and how that spawned a lesbian vampire craze in B-movies, this thing was rushed through production and put out quickly, just as its followup, Twins of Evil, would be.

Regardless of that, this is a better movie than it probably should’ve been. It’s pretty standard Hammer horror but with the sexuality turned way up and probably as far as they could go in 1971 without getting an X rating.

I like the overall Karnstein story and this explores its themes further. It’s an interesting and sexy film that just hits the right notes for those that love Hammer and classic vampire cinema.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the other parts of The Karnstein Trilogy and Countess Dracula, as well as Vampire Circus and Hammer’s Dracula films.

Film Review: Orca (1977)

Also known as: Orca: The Killer Whale, The Killer Whale (alternative titles)
Release Date: July 15th, 1977 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Michael Anderson
Written by: Luciano Vincenzoni, Sergio Donati, Robert Towne (uncredited)
Music by: Ennio Morricone
Cast: Richard Harris, Charlotte Rampling, Will Sampson, Bo Derek, Keenan Wynn, Robert Carradine

Famous Films, Dino De Laurentiis Company, 92 Minutes

Review:

“I’d insisted on leaving South Harbor with them. I told myself that somehow I was responsible for Nolan’s state of mind. That I had filled his head with romantic notions about a whale capable not only of profound grief, which I believed, but also of calculated and vindictive actions, which I found hard to be believe, despite all that had happened.” – Rachel

I was originally introduced to this movie by my 6th grade science teacher circa 1991. While most of the class was dozing off, I really enjoyed it, even if it was one of several dozen ripoffs of Jaws.

Orca is somehow better than almost all of the Jaws wannabes, except for Joe Dante’s magnificent Piranha. But the reason for that is due to the movie’s ability to create great sympathy for the killer killer whale as well as Richard Harris’ ability to take a total bastard of a character and make him somewhat noble and redeemable.

I also really enjoyed Charlotte Rampling in this, as she added so much to the film’s context in a great way, as well as having a really organic chemistry with Richard Harris.

Being that I haven’t seen this in its entirety since that day in 6th grade, I was actually pleasantly surprised by the film all these years later. It was actually better than I remembered and there were some scenes I had completely forgotten, like the whale fetus on the boat deck scene, which my 6th grade teacher may have omitted from the movie when he showed us his VHS copy of it.

While this was a Dino De Laurentiis produced picture, which means it had a limited budget, most of the special effects were damn good. Even though I knew that some of the whale celebration moments with destruction in the background were composited shots, they actually look pretty great for the time, even when being seen in modern HD.

The two sequences that stood out to me the most were the coastal house being destroyed by the whale and collapsing into the sea, as well as the scene where the female whale is gruesomely captured and maimed, leading to her death and the death of the baby she’s carrying, all while the male whale watches on in agony. It may sound kind of cheesy but it’s surreal and haunting. Most importantly, it was incredibly effective. You felt the whale’s pain and understood his quest for vengeance against Richard Harris’ captain character.

I also really dug the Ennio Morricone score. The guy is an absolute legend and his score here is enchanting while also being brooding. While it’s not on par with John Williams’ Jaws score, it is very different and fits the tone of this movie, which wasn’t exactlyJaws ripoff. This just used the timing of its release to capitalize off of the killer marine life craze of the late ’70s.

The story is actually closer to Moby Dick and just modernized with a different species of whale. But that didn’t stop it from potentially taking a shot at Jaws by having the killer whale murder the crap out of a great white shark at the beginning of the film.

All in all, I was really satisfied with this. It’s not an all-time classic but it is better than most killer animal ocean movies not named Jaws.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other killer animal horror movies, especially those that take place on the water.