Film Review: Dagon (2001)

Also known as: H.P. Lovecraft’s Dagon (US complete title), Dagon: Sect of the Sea (alternative), The Lost Island (Philippines)
Release Date: October 12th, 2001 (Spain – Sitges Film Festival)
Directed by: Stuart Gordon
Written by: Dennis Paoli
Based on: The Shadow Over Innsmouth by H.P. Lovecraft
Music by: Carles Cases
Cast: Ezra Godden, Francisco Rabal, Raquel Merono, Macarena Gomez, Brendan Price

ICCA, Generalitat de Catalunya, Institut Català de Finances, Televisió de Catalunya, Televisión de Galicia S.A., Vía Digital, Xunta de Galicia, Castelao Producciones, Estudios Picasso, Fantastic Factory (Filmax), Lionsgate, 95 Minutes

Review:

“You cannot care for her. You do not dream of her! You will go soon to a beautiful place. You will forget your world and your friends. There will be no time, no end, no today, no yesterday, no tomorrow – only the forever and forever, and forever without end. It is your fate. It is your destiny.” – Uxia Cambarro

Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna are no strangers to Lovecraftian horror but this film is the closest thing to the source material that they have ever produced. And while this isn’t better than their earlier films: Re-Animator and From Beyond, it is still a solid, good effort that is better than most of their films after the 1980s.

While Dagon is the title of a short story from H.P. Lovecraft, this film is actually an adaptation of Lovecraft’s novella, The Shadow Over Innsmouth.

The two major difference is that the setting was shifted to a Spanish fishing village called “Imboca”, as opposed to “Innsmouth”, Massachusetts. Also, the aquatic deity Dagon takes on more of a Cthulhu appearance, whereas in the originally story his was humanoid with fish-like features.

I like this film for the most part. In all honesty, my only real complaint were the digital effects. They looked cheap, horribly cheap. They looked worse than what the standard was in Sci-Fi Channel movies circa 2000. However, the practical effects really make up for it, as the gore that was created physically, comes off as pretty damn good. But the problem with this is that there is so much variance in quality between the great practical effects and the abysmal digital effects that it breaks the movie for me. It’s, at times, pretty jarring. Especially, when both are utilized in moments that run so close together.

Also, the acting is pretty shitty but its not so bad that it goes to lower depths than one would expect from this sort of picture. It’s just nothing to write home about and so much of it comes off as really hokey. This could also be due to the quality of the dubbing, as this is a Spanish film and a lot of the dialogue needed to be dubbed over for the American video release. Usually dubbing from Spanish language films isn’t too much of a distraction but there are some scenes that look very out of sync.

The story is pretty compelling though. But this doesn’t do anything to surprise you other than some shocks with the amount of gore towards the end. But, if I’m being honest, none of the gory stuff exceeds what Gordon and Yuzna have done with their earlier movies. The infamous face peeling scene here is also just a rehash of the infamous face peeling scene that Tobe Hooper gave us in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.

What I dig most about this film is that regardless of its flaws, it is one of the best adaptations of Lovecraft’s work. It’s not “Lovecraftian horror” it is Lovecraft.

Also, the scenes with mutated people slowly walking through the dark streets of the village reminds me of one of my favorite scenes from the Vincent Price starring The Haunted Palace. That was another film that adapted Lovecraft and featured some similar plot points to this film.

Dagon is a pretty cool film to watch, if you are into Lovecraft. It probably won’t resonate for those who aren’t already fans but it does have some solid gross out moments and it’s strange, surreal and unique.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other Lovecraftian horror films: The Call of Cthulhu, From Beyond, Re-Animator, The Haunted Palace and The Dunwich Horror.

Film Review: Hellraiser: Judgment (2018)

Release Date: February 3rd, 2018 (Internet)
Directed by: Gary J. Tunnicliffe
Written by: Gary J. Tunnicliffe
Based on: characters by Clive Barker
Music by: Deron Johnson
Cast: Damon Carney, Randy Wayne, Alexandra Harris, Heather Langenkamp, Paul T. Taylor, Gary J. Tunnicliffe, John Gulager

Dimension Films, Puzzle Box Pictures, Lionsgate Films, 81 Minutes

Review:

“Please. Let’s save ourselves the time and you the considerable pain by answering the questions honestly. Clearly this is a place where the rules of your world do not apply. And obviously, I’m a man for whom pain is nothing more than a common currency. [pulls out a straight razor] I will spend some on you… if you like.” – The Auditor

After the last Hellraiser film, which came out in 2011, I declared this franchise dead. Granted, it felt dead long before that, as most of the later sequels were pretty awful. However, the 2011 movie was one of the worst films I’ve ever had to suffer through. It’s like Pinhead wanted me to finally experience pain on an epic level.

So I didn’t anticipate this film wowing me in any way and it definitely doesn’t but this is one of the better sequels in that it gets back to basics and at least feels more like the first few movies in the series, as opposed to all the straight-to-video sequels that were just re-purposed scripts made to fit within the Hellraiser brand.

Gary J. Tunnicliffe wrote and directed this and even stars in it as the Auditor. Sadly, Pinhead is not Doug Bradley but the new actor was infinitely better than the guy who played him in the previous abomination. Also, this has a brief cameo by Heather Langenkamp and she’s the only known actor in the entire picture.

That being said, the film isn’t well acted but it’s passable for what this is. And it’s also not bad in anyway that detracts from the film.

The plot here is interesting, adds a lot of new stuff to the mythos that respects what came before it and it opened the doors for new stories and possibilities for future installments.

Sadly, I don’t think there will be any sort of expansion on this film, as they’ve announced a Hellraiser reboot by David S. Goyer, who is hit or miss but mostly miss.

In the end, this one wasn’t a total waste of time, it is a nice homage to the better parts of the Hellraiser franchise and it doesn’t try to rehash what we’ve already seen or assault us with surprise curveballs that feel like they shouldn’t even be within this once great film series.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the nine previous Hellraiser films.

TV Review: Swamp Thing (2019)

Original Run: May 31st, 2019 – current
Created by: Gary Dauberman, Mark Verheiden
Directed by: Len Wiseman
Written by: various
Based on: Swamp Thing by Len Wein, Bernie Wrightson
Music by: Brian Tyler
Cast: Crystal Reed, Virginia Madsen, Andy Bean, Derek Mears, Henderson Wade, Maria Sten, Jeryl Prescott, Jennifer Beals, Will Patton, Kevin Durand, Ian Ziering

Big Shoe Productions, Atomic Monster Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television, 10 Episodes, 52-60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

At the time of this writing, only two episodes have aired and the show has already been cancelled. Honestly, that’s kind of infuriating, as this is a damn good show from just the small sample size I’ve seen, thus far.

Where Titans got off to a pretty rough start, between Doom Patrol and Swamp Thing, it looks like the DC Universe streaming service has quickly righted the ship and is making some damn good television.

At this point, I’m pretty sure that the service is in serious trouble and it is close to coming to an end, as it isn’t selling enough subscriptions and this solid show, only the service’s third, had its production closed down early, midway through its tenth out of the planned fifteen episodes. Additionally, it was then cancelled just after the pilot aired. Then DC Universe claimed it had something to do with North Carolina taxes, the State of North Carolina said that wasn’t true and then someone who worked on this show said that Warner Bros. (DC’s parent company) was sold to AT&T and they didn’t have faith in Swamp Thing.

Whatever the reason, DC Universe has been managed like a bastard child and everything surrounding it seems like a big corporate clusterfuck.

So I was really looking forward to this show, as I love the character and have fond memories of the Swamp Thing movies of the ’80s, as well as the old television show that used to air on the USA Network, back when I was in middle school.

Additionally, this show assembled a solid cast with Crystal Reed, who I thought was stellar as Sofia Falcone on Gotham, as well as Derek Mears as Swamp Thing, Virginia Madsen, Will Patton and Jennifer Beals. Also, a nice surprise in episode two is the addition of Ian Ziering, as the man that becomes another DC hero, Blue Devil.

What really makes this show work is that it commits itself to being straight horror, at least in these earliest episodes. We have some scenes that are very reminiscent of John Carpenter’s The Thing and it is actually quite glorious and impressive.

The show also is very dramatic but thus far, it’s all pretty good, the story is compelling and I’m already invested in the lives of the main characters. So much so, that it’s kind of depressing that I will only ever see ten episodes.

It’s hard to do a proper, thorough review and I usually wait until a new show has at least given us a full season but maybe if more people express their excitement and enthusiasm over this show, more people will give it a shot and maybe, just maybe, Warner Bros. could find a way to save it.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other DC Universe shows: Doom Patrol and Titans.

Film Review: C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud (1989)

Also known as: C.H.U.D. 2 (France)
Release Date: May 5th, 1989
Directed by: David K. Irving
Written by: M. Kane Jeeves
Music by: Nicholas Pike
Cast: Brian Robbins, Tricia Leigh Fisher, Bianca Jagger, Gerrit Graham, Bill Calvert, Robert Vaughn, Sandra Kerns, June Lockhart, Norman Fell, Priscilla Pointer, Clive Revill, Robert Englund (uncredited cameo)

Lightning Pictures, Vestron Pictures, 84 Minutes

Review:

“Meet Bud, party animal of the living dead.” – tagline

Where C.H.U.D. is more of a serious horror film, C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud is a straight up teen comedy that doesn’t have much of a connection to its predecessor.

While most people seem to have a severe dislike of C.H.U.D. II, I find it to be the superior film. The reason being is that it is a funny, stupid movie and the original “serious” picture is mostly a boring dud that only excels when the actual C.H.U.D. is onscreen.

In this film, the C.H.U.D.s are just standard zombies. And since the main zombie is Gerrit Graham, this film gets an extra edge it wouldn’t have otherwise had.

But this isn’t completely carried by the great Graham, you’ve also got Robert Vaughn in one of his most hilarious and badass roles of all-time. He’s a military general here and he just goes around blowing shit up. At one point, he fires a f’n bazooka into a diner full of zombies and it creates a massive explosion. The dude just doesn’t give a shit in this flick and it’s fantastic to watch him ham it up and blow shit up.

This also features Brian Robbins of Head of the Class fame. I always liked him as a kid, as he was a cool, smarmy fuck that had quick comebacks and charisma.

C.H.U.D. II is also full of cameos by people as diverse as June Lockhart, Norman Fell and Robert Englund.

While the comedy here is cheesy and may feel very dated, it’s standard, low brow ’80s fare and for fans of the decade, it works.

I also like how creative the ending was. This kills off the zombie horde in a pretty imaginative way, even if it is over the top and completely implausible. Plus, that moment where Bud the C.H.U.D. rips out his own heart to give it to the girl he loves is pretty awesome and quite romantic.

A lot of people see this movie as a joke when compared to the original film but that’s the point. It’s supposed to be a joke and frankly, it’s a joke that works well and thus, this film accomplishes what it set out to do.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other horror comedies of the ’80s.

Film Review: The Cars That Ate Paris (1974)

Also known as: The Cars That Eat People (US alternative title), Cars (Germany, Norway), Killing Cars (France)
Release Date: May, 1974 (Cannes)
Directed by: Peter Weir
Written by: Peter Weir, Keith Gow
Music by: Bruce Smeaton
Cast: John Meillon, Terry Camilleri, Kevin Miles, Bruce Spence, Chris Haywood

Royce Smeal Film Productions, Salt-Pan, The Australian Film Development Corporation, 91 Minutes, 74 Minutes (cut version)

Review:

“As to our youth, they are idle. They are lazy. The need to work! As that American President said, eh, what was his name? Roosevelt. Roosevelt, yes. The New Deal! Build! They have got to work!” – The Mayor

This Aussie film is a strange little bird.

It’s a very dry, black comedy about a small village that causes car accidents in order to strip cars of their parts and to use the accident victims for weird medical experiments.

Writer and director Peter Weir came up with the idea while driving through the French countryside. He thought the road he was on was full of strange warning signs and found it odd how villages were sprinkled along the stretch of his rural journey.

I think that this film has a real place in history not because of its overall quality but because of its influence on other films that made more of a cultural impact, the original Mad Max for instance, which borrows some of this film’s ideas but executes them better. And then later on, the sequels would borrow some of the post-apocalyptic automobile designs from this picture. Most notably, the spiky cars that were used in 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road.

This film also sprinkles in a bit of horror and sci-fi with a pinch of Bruce Spence, who would go on to be in two Mad Max films, as well as Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and Matrix Revolutions.

This is a moderately amusing film but a lot of the comedy doesn’t hit. This could be because the humor is very Australian and some things might not translate, culturally. Also, it is a pretty dated movie when seen through modern eyes.

From a narrative standpoint, this explores some neat ideas but doesn’t really deliver on them. Although the mayhem in the final sequence was pretty enjoyable, as the town’s angry teens in post-apocalyptic cars overrun the big annual festival.

I wouldn’t call this a great movie and it’s almost forgettable, other than the fact that it influenced movies that are better than it.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: other Peter Weir films and then the original Mad Max, as it has some minute similarities.

Film Review: Boar (2017)

Release Date: November 23rd, 2017 (Monster Fest – Melbourne, Australia premiere)
Directed by: Chris Sun
Written by: Kristy Dallas, Chris Sun
Music by: Mark Smythe
Cast: Nathan Jones, John Jarratt, Melissa Tkautz, Bill Moseley

Slaughter FX, OZPIX Entertainment, 96 Minutes

Review:

While this isn’t a remake of the 1984 Australian film Razorback, this flick was also made in Australia and features a killer, man eating boar. And man, this beast is f’n gigantic, which just makes this a blast for those of us who love killer animal movies.

Overall, this picture isn’t terribly exciting but it really gets the juices flowing when the boar is actually onscreen.

While I really like this creature and the overall execution of how it works within the movie, the effects are a mixed bag and they switch from practical effects and CGI quite often, depending on the shot that’s needed. Some of the CGI is weak but most of the CGI moments happen really quick.

There isn’t much of a story here but who cares? There’s just some people wandering around the Australian wilderness, getting picked off one by one by this feral beast.

Its the attacks and the scale of the monster that really make the film work though. Just seeing this creature running around with someone stuck in its mouth is a sight to behold.

And while some effects aren’t up to par, this is lightyears better that a Syfy movie.

I don’t feel like the world has been given enough Australian horror and that continent needs to keep pumping out scary movies. Besides, even if it’s been three decades, all of Australian still has to repent for Howling III: The Marsupials.

Also, we just need more killer boar movies. And I’d certainly be game for Boar 2: Boar Harder.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other killer animal movies but most notably 1984’s Razorback.

Film Review: Phantom of the Paradise (1974)

Also known as: Phantom, Phantom of the Fillmore (working titles)
Release Date: November 1st, 1974
Directed by: Brian De Palma
Written by: Brian De Palma
Music by: Paul Williams
Cast: Paul Williams, William Finley, Jessica Harper, Gerrit Graham, Rod Sterling (voice, uncredited)

Harbor Productions, 20th Century Fox, 91 Minutes

Review:

“[to Beef] Never sing my music again. Not here, not anywhere. Do you understand? Never again. My music is for Phoenix. Only she can sing it. Anyone else who tries, dies!” – The Phantom

This film often gets lumped together in conversations with The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The films came out around the same time, share a lot of similarities and have both developed cult followings. However, this film is far superior and I find it strange that it’s cult following is nowhere near as massive as Rocky Horror‘s.

I think this film has the edge in that it was written and directed by Brian De Palma, who was one of the top up and coming directors of the time. He was at a creative high and even though this film merges a lot of genres and is overly surreal and very absurdist, it’s kind of a masterpiece in that all the parts fit together and there has never been anything like this since. Well, at least nothing like this that was anywhere near as good as this.

Additionally, I’ve gone on record multiple times about my general dislike of musicals. Well, De Palma made a musical with this film and it is one of my absolute favorite films of the 1970s. In fact, I dig the hell out of the music in this picture and it all works in a way that makes sense. And I guess it’s not a musical with a traditional musical structure but it is chock full of tunes that progress the story without unnaturally pulling you out of it for the sake of wedging in another musical number.

The film stars actual rock star Paul Williams in what is my favorite role he’s ever had, playing Swan, a demonic record producer.

But the film is really carried by De Palma favorite, William Finley. It’s Finley’s over the top and batshit crazy performance that takes this film to heights it would not have reached without him in the title role as the Phantom. Finley is always great but this truly is his magnum opus, as he gives great range, exudes his passion for this role proudly with every frame and commits to the bit full throttle.

As good as both Williams and Finley are though, the film is also bolstered by the talent of Gerrit Graham. He’s had a lot of great roles within the horror genre but this is Graham at his best, as well. He plays a rock star simply named Beef. His onstage performance is incredible, his comedic timing is superb and he is a big, sweet cherry on top of this already perfect sundae.

And then there’s Jessica Harper. She’s most famous for being the lead in the original Suspiria from 1977 and even has a small role in the 2018 remake. She plays the apple of the Phantom’s eye and she’s terrific. Her performances are also solid and she has a lot more spunk in this film than what fans of Suspiria might expect. It’s really cool seeing her play a role that’s a departure from the one she’s most known for.

Phantom of the Paradise also boasts some incredible visuals. The film feels like a true rock opera of the highest caliber and even if this was made on what I guess was a modest budget, De Palma takes advantage of his surroundings, his sets and the talent he had working on this picture.

The cinematography is damn good and it is greatly impacted by the lighting, as well as the camera movement and shot framing of De Palma. It’s not just the colorful characters on the screen and the stupendous tunes that give this film all of its energy. A lot of it comes from the camerawork and the attention to detail within every single frame of this picture.

I can accept the fact that most people probably won’t view this movie the same way that I do and that’s fine. But from where I sit, it’s a damn fine motion picture that is incredibly unique and a pillar of imagination and creativity.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: I guess The Rocky Horror Picture Show is the closest film to this but it pales in comparison.