Documentary Review: Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror (2019)

Release Date: February 7th, 2019
Directed by: Xavier Burgin
Written by: Ashlee Blackwell, Danielle Burrows
Based on: Horror Noire by Robin R. Means Coleman
Music by: Timothy Day
Cast: Robin R. Means Coleman, Ashlee Blackwell, Rusty Cundieff, Keith David, Ernest R. Dickerson, Ken Foree, Richard Lawson, Kelly Jo Minter, Miguel A. Nunez Jr., Paula Jai Parker, Jordan Peele, Ken Sagoes, Tony Todd, Rachel True

Stage 3 Productions, Shudder, 83 Minutes

Review:

I’ve seen quite a few documentaries on the history of horror as well as ones on blaxploitation and grindhouse movies. What makes this a unique film is that it examines the history of black horror, specifically.

This is well organized, fabulously presented and the thing that really gives this a lot of life is all the people that they were able to bring in and chat about the subject matter.

Also, this was told from the perspective of black people. We were able to see how certain things in movie history effected them, which is refreshing when most documentaries that cover black cinema usually feature a lot of white voices trying to interpret what they assume black people were feeling.

I think that this film gave a lot of clarity to the cultural impact of certain horror tropes regarding minority characters, as well as Hollywood tropes about race in general.

Most importantly, this honors the films it features, as well as all the talent that worked behind the scenes and on the screen.

This is a Shudder exclusive but between this, the new Joe Bob Briggs show and all their great horror film selections, you should already be subscribed. Plus, it’s cheaper than all those other streaming services.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other retrospective documentaries on horror and blaxploitation cinema.

Film Review: The Lost Boys (1987)

Release Date: July 27th, 1987 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Joel Scumacher
Written by: Janice Fischer, James Jeremias, Jeffrey Boam
Music by: Thomas Newman
Cast: Corey Feldman, Corey Haim, Jason Patric, Kiefer Sutherland, Jami Gertz, Edward Herrmann, Barnard Hughes, Dianne Wiest, Alex Winter, Jamison Newlander, Kelly Jo Minter

Warner Bros., 98 Minutes

Review:

“One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach; all the damn vampires.” – Grandpa

The Lost Boys might not have been the biggest film of 1987 but it was still a pretty huge deal. Every kid and teen wanted to see it. It starred the two Coreys, both of whom were really hot commodities at the time, and it was a teen vampire movie that had comedy and charm.

When I was a kid, I thought David, the vampire played by Kiefer Sutherland was the coolest guy in the film and I was cheering for the vampires to win because who didn’t want to join an undead gang that looked like an ’80s goth band?

This was directed by Joel Schumacher, years before he put nipples on Batman’s suit. Say what you will about the man’s Batman films but this came out when he was at the top of his game and it’s probably his best movie, although I also liked Flatliners and Falling Down.

Schumacher mixed all the elements together really well but the decade of the ’80s sort of had it’s own cinematic magic too. But what you have here is a film that can tap into a child’s imagination, deliver amazement, wonder and still give us something that’s very adult in a lot of respects. This has a lot of lighthearted, funny moments but it also conveys a real darkness and dread that goes beyond other teen or kid horror comedies of the decade. There’s just something primal about this movie that puts it ahead of great films like Fright Night and Monster Squad.

I can’t say that this is a film that boasts great acting but it doesn’t need to. All the actors play their parts really damn well though and they all feel authentic. Unlike a lot of ’80s films featuring young people, this doesn’t try to lump its characters into archetypes or caricatures and I think that’s why this works so much better than other films like it.

The Lost Boys truly is a magical and fantastical experience. It might not play as well for modern audiences lacking the nostalgia for it but I’d much rather watch this than something like Twilight. Full disclosure, I don’t even want to watch Twilight to review it.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: For ’80s teen horror comedy: Fright NightNight of the CreepsNight of the Comet and Monster Squad. For the Coreys: License to Drive and Dream A Little Dream.

Film Review: The People Under the Stairs (1991)

Release Date: November 1st, 1991
Directed by: Wes Craven
Written by: Wes Craven
Music by: Don Peake, Graeme Revell
Cast: Brandon Adams, Everett McGill, Wendy Robie, A.J. Langer, Ving Rhames, Kelly Jo Minter, Sean Whaler

Alive Films, Universal Pictures, 102 Minutes

Review:

“Yeah, and maybe the President will make me Secretary of Pussy.” – Leroy

People Under the Stairs is a movie that I did not like when it came out in 1991. In fact, as much as I loved a few of Wes Craven’s films, the majority of them were like this, just weird and uninspiring without much to care about.

Having seen this film for the first time in a long time, I still don’t like it. However, it wasn’t as bad as I remembered. But it was still weird and uninspiring, as well as boring and pointless.

I don’t understand what this film was trying to be. I guess it’s part horror, part comedy, part social justice, I don’t know. It’s a confusing mess and adding in two cast members from Twin Peaks doesn’t give you the license to be bizarre for the sake of being bizarre. It also doesn’t excuse a stupid picture.

No, actually, the more I think about it, I still hate this picture.

I hate it because its ugly, lame and insulting. Wes Craven is way better than this unless A Nightmare On Elm Street and The Serpent and the Rainbow were just flukes.

The monsters are awful, the psycho people are awful, the characters are awful, the plot is awful, the acting is awful, the direction is awful, the whole damn film is awful.

Yes, this is getting put through the Cinespiria Shitometer. Well, what we have here is a “Type 7 Stool: Watery, no solid pieces. Entirely liquid.”

Rating: 3/10

Film Review: House Party (1990)

Release Date: March 9th, 1990
Directed by: Reginald Hudlin
Written by: Reginald Hudlin
Music by: Lenny White, Marcus Miller
Cast: Kid ‘n Play (Christopher “Kid” Reid, Christopher “Play” Martin), Full Force (“Paul Anthony” George, Lucien “Bowlegged Lou” George Jr., Brian “B-Fine” George), Robin Harris, Martin Lawrence, Tisha Campbell, A.J. Johnson, Groove B. Chill (Gene “Groove” Allen, Daryl “Chill” Mitchell), Kelly Jo Minter, John Witherspoon, Clifton Powell, George Clinton, Chino ‘Fats’ Williams

New Line Cinema, 100 Minutes

Review:

“I don’t know why they named that boy that African name. Knowing he from Cleveland!” – Pop

I loved this film the moment I saw it for the first time when it debuted on premium cable, a year after it hit theaters. I had already been a Kid ‘n Play fan at that point but this immortalized them as cool, as far as I was concerned at twelve years-old.

House Party benefits from having an all-star cast before these actors were really all-star players.

Robin Harris is probably the biggest name and he was well-known for his stand-up comedy but he really had some great moments in this that brought him to a higher level. Unfortunately, he passed away shortly after this film came out and didn’t get to reap whatever benefits would have came from the success this film had.

House Party also features Martin Lawrence, just on the cusp of his superstardom, as well as John Witherspoon, Tisha Campbell, Clifton Powell, Kelly Jo Minter and musicians George Clinton, Full Force and Groove B. Chill.

The picture was originally intended to be a vehicle for DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (Jeff Townes and Will Smith) but Kid ‘n Play got the project. This could have been due to Smith’s big sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air creating a conflict.

With high school teen sex comedies being all the rage in the 1980s, House Party follows suit but gives us a film from the African-American perspective. Ultimately, there isn’t much of a difference other than the added hip-hop flair, which by 1990 was a welcome change following a decade of high school comedies scored to new wave pop music.

The film was critically acclaimed. Roger Ebert loved the film stating, “House Party is a light, entertaining teen comedy with an infectious energy.”

House Party is a great movie for its type. It gives something fresh to its genre and helped pave the way for a lot of up and coming talent. Additionally, it opened doors for black filmmakers, who would really make an impact on cinema throughout the 1990s. House Party was an African-American comedy that really went mainstream and helped in creating a shift in American entertainment, at the time.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: House Party 2 and 3, as well as the other Kid ‘n Play film Class Act.

Film Review: The ‘A Nightmare On Elm Street’ Film Series, Part II (1988-1991)

 A Nightmare On Elm Street IV: The Dream Master (1988):

Release Date: August 19th, 1988
Directed by: Renny Harlin
Written by: Brian Helgeland, Scott Pierce, William Kotzwinkle
Based on: characters by Wes Craven, Bruce Wagner
Music by: John Easdale, Craig Safan
Cast: Robert Englund, Lisa Wilcox, Danny Hassel, Tuesday Knight, Brooke Theiss, Andras Jones, Toy Newkirk, Ken Sagoes, Rodney Eastman, Robert Shaye

New Line Cinema, Smart Egg Pictures, Heron Communications, 93 Minutes

Review:

The Dream Master is the most successful film of the original series of six. I believe it is because it took the formula of Dream Warriors and then upped the ante and shot it more like a 1980s MTV music video in a time when MTV ruled the world and teenagers’ minds.

It is a colorful film with great editing and visuals. It opened the door for director Renny Harlin to go on and have a pretty big film career.

While Dream Warriors is my favorite film of the series, this one is right behind it. The dream sequences are very imaginative even the few that are a bit cheesy. But, at this point, the franchise was serving up more cheese and laughs than utter dread. Sure, Freddy was still sinister and evil but he had fully become the character everyone was cheering for.

Robert Englund was stellar as usual and he had great chemistry with his new foil, Alice (played by Lisa Wilcox).

This film sees Alice gain the powers of her friends as they die. Whatever their talents are, she has them all by the end of the movie, giving her more ammunition when taking on Freddy. She also knows how to control her dreams in a way that others before her weren’t able to do. She is Krueger’s perfect nemesis. Ultimately, where Nancy is the godmother of all the Elm Street children, Alice is their unrelenting protector.

I love this movie. It was also the last of the good films in the series.

Rating: 7/10

A Nightmare On Elm Street V: The Dream Child (1989):

Release Date: August 11th, 1989
Directed by: Stephen Hopkins
Written by: Leslie Bohem, John Skipp, Craig Spector
Based on: characters by Wes Craven, Bruce Wagner, William Kotzwinkle, Brian Helgeland
Music by: Jay Ferguson
Cast: Robert Englund, Lisa Wilcox, Danny Hassel, Beatrice Boepple, Whit Hertford, Kelly Jo Minter, Erika Anderson, Nicholas Mele

New Line Cinema, Smart Egg Pictures, Heron Communications, 96 Minutes

Review:

Alice is back. This time she’s pregnant. Freddy wants the baby in an effort to resurrect himself. Essentially, we have the A Nightmare On Elm Street version of Rosemary’s Baby.

I was glad to see Alice and her boyfriend Dan return but overall, this film sucked.

There were a few good dream sequences, mainly the one where the kid gets sucked into the comic book. Also, the force feeding death to Greta was pretty well done and stomach churning – literally.

While this film tries to give Freddy Krueger more backstory, it chips away at the mystery too much. They revisit the nun mother plot from the third film and expand on it. All this ties it to the baby plot thread.

This film was also toned down in its color palate and just feels and looks really bland after the MTV-esque Dream Master.

It is mostly a sterile film with little to add to the series. Considering they got Alice back, they wasted an opportunity. Additionally, the writers completely disregarded the fact that she had the ability to get her friends’ skill sets. She ran around like a bad ass, which was fine, but she didn’t have the magic about her character that was there in the previous installment.

Rating: 5.5/10

Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991):

Release Date: September 13th, 1991
Directed by: Rachel Talalay
Written by: Michael DeLuca, Rachel Talalay
Based on: characters by Wes Craven
Music by: Brian May
Cast: Robert Englund, Lisa Zane, Shon Greenblatt, Lezlie Deane, Yaphet Kotto, Breckin Meyer, Ricky Dean Logan, Johnny Depp, Tom Arnold, Roseanne Barr, Alice Cooper, Robert Shaye

New Line Cinema, 89 Minutes

Review:

This is, by far, the worst film in the series. While Freddy’s Revenge was a weird piece of work, it had so many redeeming factors. This film, truly has none.

The mythos is completely fucked up, similar to what happened to Jason Voorhees around the same time with Jason Goes to Hell. Freddy now has a daughter, he is now cemented as a child molester – which was just implied before, he had a normal family with a nice house but murdered his wife in front of his daughter and none of it made much sense or added anything interesting.

The film fast forwards to ten years into the future where all the Elm Street kids are dead and Freddy needs the last kid to go out and lead others to him. The fact that Freddy just assumes that kids will make it back there, doesn’t make any sense either.

Also, there are barely any kids in this film. Only three of them die. There are also too many survivors in the end.

Most of the dream sequences are completely retarded. For instance, the one where the kid is trapped in the video game is more of a cartoon and looks nothing like video game graphics. Also, the game play makes no sense. It was clearly devised by someone who never played a game before.

The drug use parts were also written by someone who clearly never smoked weed. Weed doesn’t make you hallucinate like LSD. But in this movie it did. Sure, you could write that off as Freddy making the kid trip when he got drowsy but it still doesn’t make much sense given the scenario.

The film is capped off by an atrocious 3D sequence through Freddy’s brain. It serves no purpose to the story and just makes the film look more ridiculous when played back over twenty years later on a 2D screen.

I hate this movie. Freddy wasn’t killed by the heroine of this film, he was killed by shitty execution, shitty writing and a shitty director.

Rating: 2.5/10