Film Review: Curse of the Demon (1957)

Also known as: Night of the Demon (original title)
Release Date: November 9th, 1957 (Birmingham UK premiere)
Directed by: Jacques Tourneur
Written by: Charles Bennett, Hal E. Chester
Music by: Clifton Parker
Cast: Dana Andrews, Peggy Cummins, Niall MacGinnis

Sabre Film Production, Columbia Pictures, 95 Minutes

Review:

“All good scientists are from Missouri: in other words, they should continually be saying, ‘Show me’.” – Dr. John Holden

This is one of the first classic horror movies I saw that wasn’t either Universal Monsters related, made by Hammer or didn’t star Vincent Price. That being said, I remember seeing it for the first time because it left a hell of impression on me because of it’s incredible, terrifying monster.

Curse of the Demon, also originally called Night of the Demon, still has one of the greatest cinematic monsters of all-time. And while not much is known about the monster, other than it is an evil force of nature, it still looks so f’n cool and intimidating that it’s still an effective scare in spite of the technical limitations of this film’s era.

The monster is just a giant demon that appears from thick fog and chases its victims until it eventually grabs them and crushes them in its demonic grip.

This film might not have been anywhere near as good with a director other than Jacques Tourneur. He’s a director that I consider an underappreciated legend, who started out making great horror pictures, transitioned into film-noir, but then would go back to horror after noir started dying out. I’ve reviewed several of Tourneur’s movies and honestly, I’ve yet to find one that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy.

Curse of the Demon also benefits from the acting talents of Dana Andrews and Peggy Cummins. Andrews starred in some of the best film-noir pictures ever made and Peggy Cummins is actually on the banner to this website due to how great she was in one of my all-time favorite noir pictures, Gun Crazy.

All these years later, this movie still has one of the best openings and closings in horror film history. It actually kind of amazes me that no one has remade this yet. I’m not calling for that, at all, but Hollywood does nothing but remakes, reboots and reimaginings anymore and this movie’s monster is just too cool for someone not to steal and fuck up.

Rating: 8.5/10

Film Review: Vampire Hunter D (1985)

Also known as: Kyûketsuki hantâ D (original Japanese title)
Release Date: December 21st, 1985 (Japan)
Directed by: Toyoo Ashida
Written by: Yasushi Hirano
Based on: Vampire Hunter D: Volume 1 by Hideyuki Kikuchi
Music by: Tetsuya Komuro
Cast: Kaneto Shiozawa, Michie Tomizawa, Seizo Kato, Keiko Toda

Ashi Productions Co., CBS Sony Group, Epic/Sony, Toho Co. Ltd., 80 Minutes

Review:

“I’ve lived for almost ten thousand years. Believe me you have no idea what that means: boredom. Everlasting and hideous boredom. A never ending search for ways to pass the time… and mating with a human female is one of the few I enjoy. Eventually they become tiresome. For in spite of their vitality, they are fundamentally stupid creatures who couldn’t survive without the nobility to rule them. Perhaps now you’ll understand my wanting to have some fun every thousand years or so?” – Count Magnus Lee

Vampire Hunter D is one of the first “not for kids” anime films that I ever saw. My friend Carlos had it and showed it to me when I was in high school. I pretty much fell in love with it, dubbed a copy and watched it a dozen times or more over the next few years. However, I haven’t had a working VCR in at least fifteen years, so I’ve wanted to revisit it for quite some time.

Seeing this, in HD for the first time, I was pretty blown away. Man, the animation really holds up and I forgot how atmospheric this movie was from the visuals, the sound, the music and the talent of the English language dub cast.

I also forgot how many monsters and characters were in this and all of them are pretty cool and interesting in their own way. While there are small sequences in the film that kind of get in the way of the overall flow, they all still features cool creatures and villains for the hero to fight.

Other than the title character, D, I really like the primary villain, Count Magnus Lee, who was a very large, elegant looking vampire. The character was named and somewhat modeled after Christopher Lee, specifically his version of Dracula. The Count was just a damn cool, intimidating villain that you kind of like despite him simply killing and doing evil things out of boredom.

This is just a cool fucking anime film. It really takes you to a cool, unusual world and let’s be honest, here, this obviously was a major influence on the Castlevania video games, as far as aesthetics and designs go.

While there was a second Vampire Hunter D film, as well as a series, years later, this is something that deserves to be a bigger franchise than it is.

Rating: 7.75/10

Film Review: Amityville II: The Possession (1982)

Release Date: September 24th, 1982
Directed by: Damiano Damiani
Written by: Tommy Lee Wallace, Dardano Sacchetti
Based on: Murder In Amityville by Hans Holzer
Music by: Lalo Schifrin
Cast: James Olson, Burt Young, Rutanya Alda, Jack Magner, Diane Franklin, Moses Gunn, Leonardo Cimino, Ted Ross

Media Transactions, Estudios Churubusco Azteca S.A., Dino De Laurentiis Company, Orion Pictures, 104 Minutes

Review:

“If these walls could talk…they would shriek!” – tagline

I think that the original Amityville Horror will always be the best of the films that carry the Amityville name but I have to say that this one, because of how absolutely fucked up it is, is my personal favorite.

This features a new family moving into the immensely haunted, demonic house from the first film.

The father is played by Burt Young a.k.a. Paulie from the Rocky movies, which always weirdly fascinated me, as it’s hard to separate him from his most iconic role. And in this, he’s sort of the worst version of Paulie imaginable. Granted, most of that is due to the demonic influence of the house.

There is also the mother, an older brother and sister and a couple really young kids.

The older brother and sister have a weird incestuous vibe from the beginning and it’s actually hard to tell how much of that already existed or how much of it comes from the house. It’s an odd, taboo side plot that is supposed to make viewers feel uncomfortable and it is pretty effective, especially by the time they go full incest, as the brother falls deeper into demonic madness and the sister comes under the evil spell of the forces living inside her.

As religious horror goes, there is also a priest character that wants to save the family but doesn’t have the support of the church, as they find all of this to be too insane to believe.

This movie really goes much further into darkness than the original, as the end of the second act actually sees the oldest brother violently murder his entire family while being fully possessed. It’s an insanely fucked up sequence but it immediately makes the original tame by comparison. I’m sure the critics of the time hated just how gruesome this movie actually got.

The priest, even after the murders, still feels as if he must conquer the demonic energies in the house and with that, he is driven to save the possessed son.

The final showdown is really damn intense and the special effects are pretty fucking incredible for 1982. The effects make the finale work really well and it adds to the agony that both characters have gone through and are going through.

I can’t say that this is well acted or even well directed but it’s still an effective horror film that pushes the bar pretty far and succeeds at that without feeling like it jumped the shark. This could’ve very easily fallen into looking and feeling like cheap exploitation for the sake of shock value but it sort of maintains its humanity and leaves us with a truly heroic character that was willing to throw away his own soul to save a kid from Hell.

Rating: 6/10

Film Review: Angel Heart (1987)

Release Date: March 6th, 1987
Directed by: Alan Parker
Written by: Alan Parker
Based on: Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg
Music by: Trevor Jones
Cast: Mickey Rourke, Robert De Niro, Lisa Bonet, Charlotte Rampling

Union, Winkast Film Productions, Carolco Pictures, 113 Minutes

Review:

“They say there’s enough religion in the world to make men hate each other, but not enough to make them love.” – Louis Cyphre

I wanted to kickoff my Halloween movie season with something that many consider iconic but that I hadn’t seen, at least in its entirety. I chose Angel Heart, as it isn’t just horror but it’s also neo-noir and stars two elite talents in Mickey Rourke and Robert De Niro.

While I’ve seen segments of this motion picture, over the years, it’s rarely ever been on television and out of the thousands of movies I’ve come to own, this wasn’t one of them.

I really dug this movie tonally and aesthetically. It’s also tremendously well acted from the two leads, as well as Lisa Bonet and Charlotte Rampling, both of whom carry themselves fantastically alongside two real heavyweights.

This movie is just so dark and brooding that you feel it in your gut. It’s hard to describe but it reminds me of the feelings I get whenever I revisit The Serpent and the Rainbow. Well done voodoo movies just hit me on a guttural level, I guess. Maybe that’s because I live in southern Florida and have grown up around many Caribbean people, who have effected me over the years.

My only real issue is that sometimes it feels slow or uneventful. I think that the payoff, albeit predictable, is still satisfying and it helps bring everything together.

I actually don’t want to spoil too much about the plot but a private investigator is hired by a mysterious man in New York City. This man is looking for a lost pop singer named Johnny Favorite. The investigation leads the P.I. to New Orleans and the surrounding bayou a.k.a. voodoo country.

While there, and as the story progresses, things get increasingly more fucked up and weird. Eventually, this guy is in really deep and he starts to lose his mind, as bodies start piling up.

The art direction and cinematography in this film are incredible. While I think that was made easier by using the timeless architecture and locations in New Orleans, that doesn’t discount how well that city was captured on film and maximized to its fullest effect.

With that, this movie feels kind of timeless. Sure, it happens in a specific location and era but something about this film feels like it exists in its own special place and time. When you get to the ending, it may actually get you theorizing on why exactly this is.

Angel Heart is an incredibly unique experience and unlike just about anything I can think of. While I can’t call it great, it’s worth checking out at least once, because of that uniqueness. This picture won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but there’s really only one way for a person to find out.

Rating: 7.5/10

Comic Review: The Cimmerian, Vol. 2

Published: June 2nd, 2021
Written by: Robin Recht, Sylvain Runberg, Robert E. Howard
Art by: Jae Kwang Park, Robin Recht
Based on: Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard

Ablaze, 168 Pages

Review:

This volume in Ablaze’s The Cimmerian series was more of a mixed bag than the first one.

Reason being, I thought the first story was slow, overloaded and a big step down from the previous two tales in the first volume, while I thought that the second story was really good and well adapted.

The two famous Robert E. Howard Conan stories that were adapted here are “The People of the Black Circle” and “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter”.

The first one is a story I like in its original form but it was really wedged into the short space that it was allotted for this adaptation. It needed more room to breathe and because of that, I don’t necessarily blame the writer and artist as much as I do the publisher.

Due to that, the story featured pages with lots of dialogue and tiny panels that made this look more like an advent calendar than a comic book. It was hard to read, flowed poorly and was kind of exhausting. I wasn’t really put off by the art style, itself, just how it had to be whittled down and stuffed with too much.

Now the second story was pretty great and it salvaged this volume of The Cimmerian and my rating of it.

“The Frost-Giant’s Daughter” has always been one of my favorite Conan tales and with the style of art, here, it looked magnificent and mesmerizing. The atmosphere, visually, was perfect.

Additionally, the adaptation was solid. There’s really not a whole lot to say other than it was pretty close to perfect, top-to-bottom, and the best adaptation Ablaze has done yet, although I really, really liked “Red Nails”.

So with that, this volume is suffering from multiple personality disorder. At least it went out with a serious bang and I’ll most likely be picking up the third volume when it drops in a few months.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: Joe Versus the Volcano (1990)

Release Date: March 9th, 1990
Directed by: John Patrick Stanley
Written by: John Patrick Stanley
Music by: Georges Delerue
Cast: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, Abe Vigoda, Dan Hedaya, Barry McGovern, Ossie Davis, Amanda Plummer, Nathan Lane, Carol Kane (credited as Lisa LeBlanc)

Amblin Entertainment, Warner Bros., 102 Minutes

Review:

“My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement.” – Patricia

This is one of those weird movies that always spoke to me, even as a kid. It’s like I knew I’d grow up and eventually find myself at a monotonous, seemingly pointless, unrewarding job for bosses that just yell nonsense and are just as lost as everyone else. So now that I am an adult and find myself in that position, this movie has even more meaning. I guess I should’ve heeded its warning when I was eleven but alas.

I also think that I liked it for the Tiki aesthetic in the movie’s third act, which sees Joe arrive at a South Pacific island where he is supposed to throw himself into a volcano in order to save the island’s tribal inhabitants.

What the movie is really about though, is living your life. It’s about not being a prisoner of what the modern world expects of you and how it’s expected for you to achieve what’s considered to be the “American dream”. Work hard, little or no play and then wash, rinse, repeat until you’re dead because retirement isn’t something most can really afford.

I love the message and the overall point of Joe Versus the Volcano, even though Joe has to go on a crazy adventure and is lead to believe he is dying and has very little time left. Joe has to believe that he’s out of time in order to really start living his best life.

Along the way, Joe meets three versions of Meg Ryan and falls in love with the best one. He also discovers that after his attempted suicidal sacrifice that he was never really dying. With this news and his new love, however, the world is Joe’s to enjoy, as he has a new, refreshed sense of being.

Beyond the story and it’s odd but somewhat clever way of delivering its message, I like just about everyone in this. Tom Hanks is pretty much his standard ’80s persona but Meg Ryan really turns things up while playing three very different characters. She excels in this movie quite magnificently and it’s kind of a shame that this was a box office dud and most people barely remember it at all. Most people I bring this film up to, haven’t seen it or even heard about it.

Joe Versus the Volcano is a weird enigma of a motion picture but I love it and always will. While I can’t consider it Tom Hanks’ best movie, it is still my personal favorite and one I like to watch when I need a kick in the ass.

Rating: 7.5/10

Ranking the Bosses of ‘Dark Souls III – The Fire Fades’

Since I ranked the bosses of the first and second Dark Souls games, I figured that I should also rank the bosses of the third one.

As I stated in my previous lists, I wanted to take the experience of playing through this multiple times to rank the bosses by how difficult I’ve found them to be overall.

My list certainly is my own and the more I talk to others that have an affinity for this series, we all seem to have a very different take on which bosses gave us the most trouble. I guess, this also has to do with play style and character type.

In the end, though, these are how I’d rank the bosses I’ve faced from hardest to easiest.

1. Nameless King
2. Slave Knight Gael
3. Darkeater Midir
4. Lothric & Lorian
5. Sister Friede
6. Dragonslayer Amour
7. Aldrich, Devourer of Gods
8. Champion Gundyr
9. Soul of Cinder
10. Demon In Pain & Demon From Below
11. Dancer of the Boreal Valley
12. Pontiff Sulyvahn
13. Abyss Watchers
14. High Lord Wolnir
15. Stray Demon
16. Champion’s Gravetender & Gravetender Wolf
17. Halflight, Spear of the Church
18. Old Demon King
19. Fire Demon
20. Vordt of the Boreal Valley
21. Iudex Gundyr
22. Curse-Rotted Greatwood
23. Yhorm the Giant
24. Ancient Wyvern
25. Carthus Sandworm
26. Crystal Sage
27. Oceiros, the Consumed King
28. Deacons of the Deep

Film Review: Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

Release Date: June 14th, 1991
Directed by: Kevin Reynolds
Written by: Pen Densham, John Watson
Music by: Michael Kamen
Cast: Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater, Alan Rickman, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Geraldine McEwan, Michael McShane, Brain Blessed, Michael Wincott, Nick Brimble, Jack Wild, Sean Connery (cameo, uncredited)

Morgan Creek Entertainment, Warner Bros., 143 Minutes (theatrical), 155 Minutes (Extended Edition)

Review:

“Locksley! I’ll cut your heart out with a spoon!” – Sheriff of Nottingham, “Then it begins.” – Robin Hood

I remember seeing this in the theater and loving the hell out of it. But I think I’ve only seen it once or twice since then and those viewings were in the ’90s. So I kind of didn’t know what to expect from it, seeing it decades later. And sure, I remembered some of the more iconic moments and lines but that’s about all I remembered.

This film starts out interesting and gives Robin Hood a neat backstory that saw him held prisoner in a dungeon in Jerusalem, far from his home in England. He is able to escape and saves the life of a Moorish warrior in the process. This warrior swears a life debt to Robin and follows him back to England.

Azeem, the Moorish character, was created just for this film but I liked the character a lot and it was cool seeing Morgan Freeman bring him to life while also getting to partake in the action heavy parts of the movie. Also, he paired up well with Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood and I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t have watched these two go on further adventures.

The story is your standard Robin Hood tale for the most part but it takes some liberties, as all interpretations of the legend do. This one also pushes the romance pretty hard between Robin and Marian but honestly, it doesn’t get in the way of the action or the larger story. This version also has a witch character, who gives advice and directions to the Sheriff of Nottingham.

Alan Rickman plays the Sheriff and frankly, it’s one of his best roles. He gets some great lines in this and he came off as very formidable against Robin in their final battle. Rickman turned the role down twice but finally took it when he was told that he’d have the freedom to play the character in the way that he wanted. I think that his influence and creative decisions made the character unique and memorable and it takes a great villain to shape a great hero.

I also like that the Sheriff of Nottingham had Michael Wincott as his main henchman. I’ve dug the hell out of Wincott for as long as I can remember and he was a good addition to this cast.

I also liked Christian Slater in this even though I felt like he was a bit underutilized.

The only truly odd thing in the film is that Kevin Costner, as the legendary British hero Robin Hood, uses his American accent, as opposed to doing a British one. I guess this was decided during production, as there are some scenes where Robin sounds a bit British-y. However, the director thought that it might be too distracting and break the film. I guess the critics of the time felt the opposite, though, as they got really hung up on the American sounding Robin Hood.

While the accent didn’t bother me too much, the running time did. I just thought this was 20-30 minutes too long and there was a lot that could’ve been whittled down. Once Robin gets back to England, early on, it felt like it took awhile for the film to really get going.

I thought that the action was pretty good and the big battles were exciting and hold up well. However, the final swordfight didn’t feel swashbuckling-y enough. I think that the director wanted a more realistic fight but part of Robin’s appeal, at least to me, was his athleticism, playfulness and mastery of the sword. Furthermore, the Sheriff of Nottingham truly gets the best of Robin and the hero only wins due to a distraction and a dagger he had hidden. It just felt kind of meh and cheap.

Still, I did like seeing this again and it was an entertaining experience. Costner was fine as Robin Hood but Rickman stole every scene that they shared.

Rating: 7.5/10

Comic Review: The Cimmerian, Vol. 1

Published: December 23rd, 2020
Written by: Regis Hautiere, Jean-David Morvan, Robert E. Howard
Art by: Pierre Alary, Didier Cassegrain, Olivier Vatine
Based on: Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard

Ablaze, 144 Pages

Review:

Now that Conan has fallen into public domain, at least the earliest stories, anyway, other publishers besides Marvel can now make Conan comics. Ablaze is the first company that I’m aware of that has taken their shot at adapting the iconic character.

In this collection, we get Ablaze’s adaptations of “Queen of the Black Coast” and “Red Nails”.

I like both of these stories a lot and always have because the first one features Bêlit, the swashbuckling pirate queen, and the other features Valeria, another female warrior that was great at Conan’s side.

Starting with the “Queen of the Black Coast” story, I thought the adaptation was pretty good but it also flew by rather quickly. I mostly liked the art, the dialogue was good and it felt pretty true to the story.

For me, though, “Red Nails” was the better half of this collection. I liked the art more, the story felt longer and more detailed and it had the right sort of vibe, matching Robert E. Howard’s source material.

All in all, this reminded me a lot of the old Savage Sword of Conan magazines that Marvel put out back in the day. These comics had a harder edge to them and didn’t pull any punches unlike the modern Marvel stuff that tries to appeal more to all ages.

Rating: 7.5/10

Film Review: From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

Release Date: January 19th, 1996
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Written by: Quentin Tarantino, Robert Kurtzman
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: George Clooney, Harvey Keitel, Quentin Tarantino, Juliette Lewis, Cheech Marin, Fred Williamson, Tom Savini, Salma Hayek, Ernest Liu, Danny Trejo, Michael Parks, John Saxon, Marc Lawrence, Kelly Preston, John Hawkes

Los Hooligans Productions, A Band Apart, Dimension Films, Miramax, 108 Minutes

Review:

“I know what’s going on. We got a bunch of fucking vampires out there, trying to get in here and suck our fucking blood. And that’s it. Plain and simple. I don’t want to hear anything about “I don’t believe in vampires,” because I don’t fucking believe in vampires, but I believe in my own two eyes, and what I saw, is fucking vampires. Now, do we all agree that what we are dealing with is vampires?” – Seth

I should preface this by saying that I love the hell out of this movie and it’s probably my favorite out of the films that Robert Rodriguez has done. I also hadn’t seen it in a really long time so a revisit was certainly long overdue.

This movie also features my favorite performance by George Clooney, an actor I have always loved and thought was cool, since first seeing him on The Facts of Life and Roseanne, as a kid in the ’80s. I’m glad this cool sitcom guy I liked actually carved out one of the greatest acting careers of his generation and really, any generation.

The reason why I like Clooney in this so much is that it is the greatest departure from the roles he usually plays, which are calm, chill, often times heroic people. While he’s always been cool, this is him at his coolest, going full throttle with no fucks given. It’s a real sight to behold, especially if you consider yourself a Clooney fan and have never seen this.

The rest of the cast is also great with Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis and Quentin Tarantino, who surprisingly did a solid job as his character, a guy that’s pretty much a psychopath.

Additionally, the cast is loaded with other memorable but smaller performances from Salma Hayek, Fred Williamson, Tom Savini, Danny Trejo, John Saxon, John Hawkes, Kelly Preston, Michael Parks and Cheech Marin, playing three different roles.

The thing I like most about this movie is that it’s like two films in one. The first half feels like a Tarantino crime picture and since he wrote it, it makes it that much more akin to say Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown or True Romance. The second half of the film turns into an over-the-top, balls out vampire action movie that is reminiscent of exploitation horror. Being that this has Fred Williamson in it, it just adds to that motif.

My only real gripe about the movie is in its use of CGI special effects, which I thought looked shitty even way back in 1996. The film also uses some incredible practical effects done by maestro Tom Savini. Savini’s work is as superb as always and with Robert Rodriguez having that guy at his disposal, I don’t know why he didn’t let him work out the kinks and help design the more elaborate effects shots. The creature makeup just looks so incredible in this picture that when it resorts to using CGI for vampire transformations or deaths, it’s really fucking jarring and takes you out of this otherwise awesome flick.

Like Savini’s stupendous practical effects, I also thought that the set design and general costumes throughout the picture were incredible. This is such a finely crafted, cool film that unfortunately has the rug pulled out from under it due to the bad CGI moments. Honestly, the CGI really undermines the work that went into creating this unique and fun world.

In the end, though, From Dusk Till Dawn is still a solid fucking movie. The pros definitely outweigh the cons but it’s frustrating that those cons weren’t avoided in the first place.

Rating: 7.25/10