Film Review: The House of the Devil (1896)

Also known as: The Haunted Castle (US), The Devil’s Castle (UK)
Release Date: Winter, 1896
Directed by: Georges Méliès
Cast: Jehanne D’Alcy, Jules-Eugene Legris

Star Film Company, 3 Minutes

Review:

Is this the first horror movie ever made? Well, it’s probably the oldest one still in existence.

The film is important in the earliest days of motion picture history for it being what’s considered the earliest form of cinematic horror but even more than that, it’s use of special effects and editing are quite impressive for the time.

The House of the Devil came out when film was still a new, barely unexplored medium and those who were experimenting with it still found themselves inventing the techniques that would go on to expand the art form into the most popular artistic medium on the planet.

Beyond simple horror, this also bleeds into the fantasy and comedy genres. It features pantomimed sketches with a bat, a devil, a couple of cavaliers, a skeleton, spectres and other goodies.

It uses clever editing techniques to show the transformation of magical creatures and other monsters appearing like magic to confront the heroes.

The film is only three minutes, which is pretty normal for pictures from this era but it packs a lot into that short time and it’s a much more entertaining film that what was the norm.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other very early and experimental films.

Film Review: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011)

Also known as: Ghost Rider 2 (working title)
Release Date: December 11th, 2011 (Austin Butt-Numb-A-Thon)
Directed by: Neveldine/Taylor
Written by: Scott M. Gimple, Seth Hoffman, David S. Goyer
Based on: Johnny Blaze by Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich, Mike Ploog
Music by: David Sardy
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Ciaran Hinds, Violante Placido, Johnny Whitworth, Christopher Lambert, Idris Elba

Imagenation Abu Dhabi FZ, Hyde Park Entertainment, Columbia Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“[voiceover] Why does the devil walk on human form anyway? I have no idea. Maybe he doesn’t know either. Maybe he passes on from body to body, down through history, waiting for the perfect fit. But I know one thing, on Earth, he’s weak. His powers are limited. He needs emissaries to do his dirty work, so he finds them or makes them, using his greatest power, the power of the deal.” – Johnny Blaze

I dreaded going into this, as there was no way it could be better than its predecessor, which was a pretty big pile of cinematic shit.

However, I was wrong.

Granted, I may be alone in my assessment of this picture but I found it to be more palatable than the first Ghost Rider film because it just went batshit crazy from the get go and Nicolas Cage was fully unchained and allowed to be the insane madman he can be when he turns his performance up to eleven.

This is still a terrible film and I doubt I’ll ever watch it more than once but I didn’t find myself wanting to fast-forward like I did with the previous one.

I think it also helped the movie that Idris Elba was in it, even though he should never have to be a part of a production this atrocious. He was a bright spot in this turd, however.

Elba couldn’t save the movie, though, as it had a bafflingly bad script, not a very good story to begin with and then was littered with horrendous CGI special effects and awful acting.

Honestly, based off of the first film, this one should’ve never been made and I think that it was only greenlit, at the time, in order for the studio to try and hang on to the intellectual property rights. I mean, it’s obvious that no one associated with this film gave a shit about it.

Well, except maybe Nicolas Cage, who dedicated himself to the insanity so much that it’s only worth seeing because the level that Cage performs at here, must be seen to be believed.

At the end of the day, the movie feels like cocaine that somehow became sentient and then sniffed itself.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: the Ghost Rider film before it.

Film Review: Ouija Shark (2020)

Release Date: March 7th, 2020 (Toronto premiere)
Directed by: Brett Kelly (as Scott Patrick)
Written by: David A. Lloyd
Cast: Christina Roman, Zoe Towne, Robin Hodge, John Migliore, Peter Whitaker

Wide Eye Releasing, 81 Minutes

Review:

“One of those movies you watch until the end because you’re convinced it must get better…. But it doesn’t…….This was by far one of the worst movies I have ever seen for a while!Do not bother….This Film is So-So-Very-Very-BAD!” – a user review from IMDb

The above user review from IMDb is pretty spot on, bad grammar and all because Ouija Shark doesn’t even deserve a grammatically correct response.

Man, this movie is shit. I only watched it because I was immensely bored and figured I’d watch this new, 2020 movie that was made by a director that deliberately makes bad movies.

That being said, I half expected it to have some sort of redeeming value, as self-aware bad movies tend to capitalize off of that self-awareness.

This absolute turd, however, doesn’t even try. Sure, it attempts to be hokey and funny in spots but it all falls flat and you’re left shaking your head wondering what you did in your life that brought you to the point were you actually rented a film like Ouija Shark.

This is atrociously acted with some of the worst special effects I’ve ever seen. And even if all that’s deliberate, nothing is really done to fine tune it with any sort of wink to the audience who are in on what’s supposed to be a joke.

Eh, whatever, fuck this movie. I need those 81 minutes back.

Rating: 1/10
Pairs well with: staring at asphalt while breathing in traffic exhaust.

Comic Review: Conan: The Hour of the Dragon

Published: January 1st, 2020
Written by: Roy Thomas
Art by: John Buscema, Gil Kane
Based on: Conan the Barbarian and other characters by Robert E. Howard

Marvel Comics, 281 Pages

Review:

This is old school ’70s Conan the Barbarian by the original Conan comic book maestro, Roy Thomas. But it was just released as a collection and it’s kind of unique, as it tries to adapt the only full-length Conan novel that Robert E. Howard wrote: The Hour of the Dragon.

This was mainly told over the course of multiple issues of Giant-Size Conan and Conan the Barbarian annuals, as opposed to being a part of the regular comic book series.

Overall, this was action packed and featured some of the best character development writing for the Conan character. It also sees him fall in love, get married and become a ruler.

This is one of those Conan stories that kind of hits all the marks one would be looking for in a comic featuring the iconic hero. A lot happens and every issue and chapter within is pretty cool.

Additionally, this features art from two of my all-time favorite Conan artists, Gil Kane and John Buscema.

Top to bottom, this is a solid Conan tale with solid art and while it might not be a perfect adaptation of the source material, it pulls it into the Marvel comic book mythos quite well.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other Conan comics from the classic Marvel era.

Film Review: Ghost Rider (2007)

Also known as: El vengador fantasma (several Spanish speaking countries)
Release Date: January 15th, 2007 (Ukraine)
Directed by: Mark Steven Johnson
Written by: Mark Steven Johnson
Based on: Johnny Blaze by Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich, Mike Ploog
Music by: Christopher Young
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Wes Bentley, Sam Elliott, Donal Logue, Peter Fonda, Brett Cullen, Rebel Wilson

Relativity Media, Crystal Sky Pictures, Columbia Pictures, 110 Minutes, 123 Minutes (Extended Cut)

Review:

“Any man that’s got the guts to sell his soul for love has got the power to change the world. You didn’t do it for greed, you did it for the right reason. Maybe that puts God on your side. To them that makes you dangerous, makes you unpredictable. That’s the best thing you can be right now.” – Caretaker

Even though 2003’s Daredevil received pretty bad reviews, under-performed and left most moviegoers feeling disappointed, it’s director was still given the character of Ghost Rider to adapt into another live-action Marvel movie.

While I liked the Director’s Cut of Daredevil for the most part, Ghost Rider is an atrocious motion picture from top-to-bottom. Honestly, this came out when Nicolas Cage seemed to run out of gas and saw his career trending downward fast. Honestly, this and its sequel could’ve been the nail in the coffin.

This is terribly acted, except for the scenes with Sam Elliott and the minimal appearances by Peter Fonda. They can’t save the rest of the movie, however, as Cage, Eva Mendes and Wes Bentley don’t really seem to give a shit about anything. Even Donal Logue severely under-performed and he’s a guy that I tend to expect a lot from, as he’s proven, time and time again, that he’s a more than capable actor with good range and convincing performances.

The special effects can’t save the film either, as they’re generally pretty generic mid-’00s CGI shit. Hell, the villains don’t look the way they’re supposed to look and it just adds to this movie’s cheapness.

It’s a vapid, shit film, a complete waste of time and could only be upstaged in its awfulness by its even worse sequel.

I guess I’ll have to review that flaming turd soon.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequel and other terrible comic book adaptations of the era.

Comic Review: Doctor Strange & Doctor Doom: Triumph & Torment

Published: July 1st, 1989
Written by: Gerry Conway, Bill Mantlo, Roger Stern
Art by: Gene Colan, Mike Mignola, Kevin Nowlan

Marvel Comics, 154 Pages

Review:

I heard a rumor that the second Doctor Strange movie would possibly include the Marvel Cinematic Universe debut of Doctor Doom and that the story for the film would borrow heavily from this story, one I haven’t read since the early ’90s. After reading this, I don’t know how they’d pull it off but I would kind of like to see them attempt it.

Reason being, this is a stupendous comic book. In fact, it’s pretty fucking perfect.

This was originally released as one book in a series of Marvel Comics’ graphic novels. Back in the ’80s and through the early ’90s, Marvel had a graphic novel series that were printed in a larger format than regular comics and also had roughly twice the pages. They sold for more money than regular comic books but they rarely disappointed and usually the stories had a more adult edge to them, which was definitely cool for my pre-teen brain. They also had some of the best artwork of the era, as more time and care were put into these releases.

This story was one of my favorites out of the Marvel graphic novels I read and I’m glad to say that it didn’t just live up to my original opinion of it but it exceeded it. I think that’s because I was able to grasp this more as an adult and the emotional weight of the story really took hold of me.

It also doesn’t hurt that Doctor Doom is my favorite Marvel villain of all-time and I’ve always loved Doctor Strange and the mystic side of the Marvel mythos.

But this story is just so perfect. It brings these two characters together and in regards to Doctor Doom, it really displays his human side and how there might be a good man trapped underneath all that armor, emotional baggage, narcissism and borderline madness.

Doom and Strange unite and take on Mephisto in an effort to free the imprisoned soul of Doom’s mother. It reads like a dark fairy tale but it is packed with lots of action, great magical moments and all sorts of hellish beasts. It’s also all presented with exceptional art.

While this is longer than a regular sized comic book, it is still a quick, easy read. But it shows different sides of these characters and it made Doom a lot more interesting and complex, overall.

It’s also one of the best stories to feature Mephisto and what it is he can do when he’s not just sitting on a throne giving monologues and devising sinister plans.

I read the version that is currently up on Comixology and it also had a few other stories tacked on to it. It’s probably the coolest version of this to be released, if you don’t mind reading comics digitally.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other ’70s & ’80s comics featuring Doctor Doom or Doctor Strange.

Comic Review: Vampirella and the Scarlet Legion

Published: February 29th, 2012
Written by: Joe Harris
Art by: Jose Malaga

Dynamite Entertainment, 135 Pages

Review:

It’s been a little while since I’ve read a Vampirella comic and this one has been in my Comixology queue for quite some time. In fact, it was the oldest title in my queue, so I figured I’d give it a read.

For the most part, this was kind of cool and I liked the whole mythos surrounding The Scarlet Legion and their ties to Vampirella. This also added in some Aztec mysticism, as Vampirella is essentially elevated as a god to the tribe she encounters in the story.

The plot itself is just okay. It’s got a few twists and surprises but a lot of this feels cookie cutter.

And while I mostly like the art, it lacks energy. The character designs and illustrations are pretty solid but nothing feels very dynamic. The colors are decent but a bit wonky at times, as well.

Overall, this is okay but there are better Vampirella stories out there.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other Vampirella comics from her Dynamite era.

Film Review: The Wicker Man (1973)

Also known as: Kult (Poland)
Release Date: December 6th, 1973 (UK)
Directed by: Robin Hardy
Written by: Anthony Shaffer
Based on: Ritual by David Pinner (uncredited)
Music by: Paul Giovanni
Cast: Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Ingrid Pitt, Diane Cilento, Aubrey Morris

British Lion Film Corporation, 88 Minutes, 99 Minutes (extended), 94 Minutes (final cut)

Review:

“Do sit down, Sergeant. Shocks are so much better absorbed with the knees bent.” – Lord Summerisle

This is my 2000th film review here on Talking Pulp (formerly Cinespiria) and I wanted to celebrate with one of my all-time favorite films. I also chose this one because I feel like it is now unfairly forgotten due to it having a horrible and justifiably mocked remake. You know, the one with Nicolas Cage screaming about bees.

Additionally, I was actually surprised to find out that I hadn’t reviewed this already, as it is a film I revisit every few years. But I guess I hadn’t seen it since before I started this site in November of 2016.

It’s a pretty haunting and effective film and despite its age, it still works. In fact, I think it may have gotten better over time but that could also be due to modern films not having the same sort of panache as films from this era, especially in regards to horror and suspense thrillers.

The plot to this movie is fairly simple. A detective arrives at a Scottish island in a sea plane. It’s far from civilization and the residents sort of exist in their own world. The detective quickly learns that the whole village is very, very pagan. He’s brought there because a little girl was reported missing. As he investigates, he starts to uncover some really dark things about the village and the mystery behind the missing girl gets weirder and weirder.

The detective is played by Edward Woodward, who American fans will probably most recognize from his hit television show, The Equalizer. His foil and leader of the community is Lord Summerisle, who is played by horror icon and total legend, Christopher Lee.

The cast is rounded out by Hammer horror starlets Britt Ekland and Ingrid Pitt, as well as a few character actors like Aubrey Morris, who is probably most recognized for his role of Mr. Deltoid in A Clockwork Orange.

The film plays like a slow burn but it is a very immersive and engaging experience that lures you in and grabs you around the throat. It builds suspense incredibly well and you’re never really sure what’s going on until you get to the big, incredible finale. In fact, if you’ve never seen this and don’t know where it’s going, it’d be best to go into this film blindly and just experience it completely fresh.

It’s certainly well directed with superb editing but the thing that really stands out is the acting, especially from the two leads. Christopher Lee doesn’t even come into the picture until you’re forty minutes in but once he does, he ups the ante greatly and you feel the pull of his magnetic charm, even if he does feel off and possibly mad.

The Wicker Man is a stupendous horror picture. It’s one of the best to ever exist and it does that by being cerebral, building suspense and dragging out the mystery with perfection. It’s chilling, haunting and pretty fucked up. But it’s also beautiful, kind of serene and makes you think about yourself, your mortality, your morality and it weirdly gives you hope in a hopeless situation, as the hero never relents, never stops doing what he feels is right and stands proud till the very dark end.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other religious or occult horror films of the ’60s and ’70s, as well as the spiritual sequel, The Wicker Tree.

Comic Review: He-Man/ThunderCats

Published: July 11th, 2017
Written by: Rob David, Lloyd Goldfine
Art by: Freddie E. Williams II
Based on: Masters of the Universe by Mattel, ThunderCats by Tobin Wolf

DC Comics, 148 Pages

Review:

I was late to the party in knowing that this even existed. It came out in a time where I didn’t have a local comic shop, otherwise I would’ve been all over it in 2017.

I’m glad that I checked it out now and even if IP crossovers are a dime a dozen lately, this one just felt like it could fit really well together and for the most part, I wasn’t disappointed.

It includes all the key characters and brings them together in a cool way that isn’t just a story about opening a random portal.

This was fairly clever and I liked some of the daring things that they tried, like making He-Man’s trusted partner Battle Cat into a humanoid ThunderCat character, even if it was pretty brief.

I also liked how it tried to merge Mumm-Ra and Skeletor into a single entity and how their personalities clashed.

The illustrations, ink and colors were also really good and this was just an incredible work of art from page-to-page.

Fans of either or both franchises should enjoy this quite a bit.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other comics DC has put out based off of Masters of the Universe.

Video Game Review: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (Arcade)

You may be saying to yourself, “Wait! Didn’t you already review that video game?!” Well, yes… except I reviewed the port for the original Nintendo, which was a fairly crappy version.

This original arcade version of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is far superior in every regard but one.

The arcade version has better graphics, much better sound, better gameplay, better replayability and much smoother controls.

In fact, the only thing that the NES port did better was how it was redesigned to be longer, overall. It had lots of levels, different play modes and was much more challenging in how you have to work your way through the game. This is, honestly, why I like playing the NES version even though I now have access to the original arcade version.

Focusing back on this version, I love how it includes Mola Ram as a threat and dangerous obstacle throughout the game. Also, I love how they designed the room with the Sankara Stones and lava pit.

While the NES game is more of a challenge and a lengthier experience, the original arcade game is cooler and more impressive in every other way. And frankly, it’s fun to revisit every once in awhile.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Indiana Jones video games of the ’80s and ’90s.