Film Review: Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972)

Also known as: Il tuo vizio è una stanza chiusa e solo io ne ho la chiave (original Italian title), Irene, Excite Me, Eye of the Black Cat, Gently Before She Dies (alternative titles)
Release Date: August 18th, 1972
Directed by: Sergio Martino
Written by: Ernesto Gastaldi, Adriano Bolzoni, Sauro Scavolini, Luciano Martino
Based on: The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe
Music by: Bruno Nicolai
Cast: Edwige Fenech, Anita Strindberg, Luigi Pistilli, Ivan Rassimov, Franco Nebbia, Riccardo Salvino

Lea Film, Titanus, 97 Minutes

Review:

Sergio Martino did this film a year before his most famous one, Torso.

While he’s not my favorite giallo director, he has done some really memorable work that probably deserves its place alongside the giallo masters like Mario Bava and Dario Argento.

Many giallo aficionados seem to like this one too and while I do enjoy the first act of the movie, it drags on and falls kind of flat for me. Although, I do like the ending, as it homages Edgar Allan Poe quite nicely and in the most Italian way possible.

I enjoyed the three main actors in this and seeing Luigi Pistilli was kind of cool in that his character is truly the antithesis of what I think is his most famous role as the priest brother of Tuco in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

The other two leads are Edwige Fenech and Anita Strindberg, who both put in believable performances even when the story calls for some over the top antics.

My main issue with this film is the pacing. It’s only 97 minutes but those 97 minutes felt like two hours. There are some minor side characters and side plots that simply existed to give the killer more kills. That’s not necessarily a bad thing in a slasher-esque giallo but most of this just felt like soulless filler in a movie that could’ve been more fine-tuned in dealing with the core actors and their dynamic.

I do like the look of the movie, even if it isn’t as opulent and vivid as the work of the better giallo filmmakers.

Ultimately, this was okay but it’s not Martino’s best work and with that, it’s not anywhere near the upper echelon of ’70s giallo.

Rating: 5.75/10

Film Review: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

Release Date: October 15th, 2003 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Marcus Nispel
Written by: Scott Kosar
Based on: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre by Kim Henkel, Tobe Hooper
Music by: Steve Jablonsky
Cast: Jessica Biel, Jonathan Tucker, Erica Leerhsen, Mike Vogel, Eric Balfour, R. Lee Ermey, Andrew Bryniarski, David Dorfman, John Larroquette (narrator)

Radar Pictures, Focus Features, New Line Cinema, 98 Minutes

Review:

“Excuse me, you mind getting the fuck outta my way, son?” – Sheriff Hoyt

Very few horror franchise reboots are good. This is one of the few that are and because of that, it kind of started a trend where a new generation of filmmakers, inspired by the old, started trying to resurrect the most iconic horror franchises of their youth.

I know many people that actually prefer this movie to the original. I don’t but I also don’t think that those people are insane, either. I think there actually is an argument to be made about it and it’s one of my favorite horror debates to listen to between people that actually know and are passionate about these movies.

I think that in 2003, I would’ve rated this much higher. Seeing it 18 years later, I do find some of the dialogue to be a bit cringe and poorly written. I also find some of the director’s choices in how he shoots certain sequences to be a bit weak and trope-riddled.

The biggest highlight of the film for me was Jessica Biel and not just because she looked fucking magnificent but because she really dived into this and gave a convincing performance. So much so, in fact, that I hadn’t seen a “final girl” this good in a decade or more at the time that this came out. Honestly, I think in that regard, she actually exceeds the vast majority of “final girls” in horror. Granted, it’d be hard to put anyone in front of Jamie Lee Curtis or Heather Langenkamp.

I also immensely enjoyed R. Lee Ermey in this, as the town sheriff who is actually a part of the killer family and directly related to this franchise’s top monster, Leatherface.

Ermey gave a performance on the same level as his best work. He committed to this role so greatly that you really want to see him get what he deserves in the end. When he does, it’s beyond fucking satisfying. Without Ermey and Biel, this would’ve probably just been a standard, cookie cutter, forgettable slasher flick.

Now the rest of the cast is pretty bad and it kind of bogs the film down in the scenes where it focuses on them. In fact, the stuff in the van at the beginning was pretty awful and it almost wrecked Jessica Biel but luckily, they didn’t stick to that too long and the horror started almost from the get go.

This is also plagued by the cinematic style of the time, which I didn’t like back then and still don’t like now. It’s nothing I’ve started to feel nostalgic for as time passes. What I’m referring to specifically is the overuse of color filters, which makes all films look unrealistic and like a music video. This may have started with David Fincher in Alien 3 but it’s something that would be used to death in just about every “hip” film of the mid-’90s to mid-’00s from Fincher’s other movies, The Matrix films, nearly all horror that wasn’t Scream, as well as action flicks and crime movies. It’s not such a big deal when used sparingly but it’s not here. The film is either unnaturally bronze or bluish green in every scene.

Still, the positives outweigh the negatives and this is a movie carried by two solid performances and a version of Leatherface that is the scariest of them all.

Rating: 6.25/10

Film Review: Halloween Kills (2021)

Release Date: September 8th, 2021 (Venice Film Festival)
Directed by: David Gordon Green
Written by: Scott Teems, Danny McBride, David Gordon Green
Based on: characters by John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Music by: John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, Daniel Davies
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Thomas Mann, Anthony Michael Hall, Nick Castle, Kyle Richards, Nancy Stephens, Charles Cyphers, Scott MacArthur, Michael McDonald

Blumhouse Productions, Miramax, Universal Pictures, 106 Minutes

Review:

“I’m coming for you, Michael.” – Laurie Strode

So this is the second part of the Halloween trilogy by David Gordon Green and Danny McBride. I mostly liked the first one and I also mostly liked this one.

Oddly, there are some things about this one that are worse and also some things that are better. So with that, it kind of just evens itself out and, overall, is on the same level as its predecessor.

Looking at the positives first, I thought that this one committed to the violence of the deaths better. The previous film showed some seriously fucked up kills but then it’s like it met its quota and then some gruesome kills saw the camera shy away from them. Here, it threw everything at you and didn’t pull any of its punches.

This one also brought back some classic characters and some minor characters from the original 1978 film. I don’t like how some of these characters were utilized and ultimately what their fates were but I did like the idea of a group of Michael Myers survivors being fully aware that one day they’d have to come face-to-face with the monster once more.

As for the negatives, I don’t like how reckless and stupid Tommy Doyle was, as well as his dipshit small town mob. They pushed an innocent man to suicide, they got overzealous and then sloppy when they had the advantage over Michael and by the end, you kind of want these morons to get what you know is coming to them.

Additionally, the film did some time jumping early on, which I felt was a bit messy and made the first act of the story somewhat chaotic and disjointed. It also doesn’t really recover from having a bad flow, as it starts introducing new sets of characters that just seem to be on their own side quest from the get go and it pulls time away from the main story and the main characters of this film series.

Also, I get that Laurie Strode was severely injured but I hated that she was in a hospital bed the entire movie, except when she tried to leave, hurt herself, and then ended up right back in bed next to the cop from the first movie, who also stayed in bed the whole time.

I also didn’t like the appearance of Loomis in this. It felt kind of cheap and weird like when Disney used a CGI Peter Cushing in Rogue One. I couldn’t tell if they used CGI on an actor’s face here or if they just got an actor that looks an awful lot like Donald Pleasence.

Other than that, the story was okay and the kills were solid and creative. At the very least, this feels like a good extension of what was established in the original 1978 Halloween and these are much better movies than that white trash Rob Zombie crap from a decade and a half ago. These are also better than the other attempt at a sequel reboot that we got with H20 and Halloween: Resurrection.

Rating: 6.75/10

Film Review: Dr. Giggles (1992)

Also known as: Doctor Giggles (alternative spelling)
Release Date: October 23rd, 1992
Directed by: Manny Coto
Written by: Manny Coto, Graeme Whifler
Music by: Brian May
Cast: Larry Drake, Holly Marie Combs, Cliff DeYoung, Glenn Quinn, Doug E. Doug

Largo Entertainment, JVC Entertainment Networks, Dark Horse Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 95 Minutes

Review:

“Sorry…the Doctor is in…sane” – tagline

I remember how hard the studio was marketing Dr. Giggles when it was coming out. Being that I was in 8th grade, at the time, I didn’t see it in the theater and just planned to wait for it to come out for rental on VHS like most horror movies when I was that age. However, it came and went and I never did rent it.

So nearly thirty years later, I finally checked it out.

To start, it’s not very good. But it’s also not terrible. It’s very middle of the road, predictable and doesn’t make a big enough mark to warrant a film series like so many other slashers with unique villains that came out over the ’80s and ’90s.

That’s not a knock against Larry Drake, who plays the title character. Drake is a multi-time Emmy Award winner and a talented actor in the right role. I’ve always liked him in movies where he’s the villain like the Darkman series or when he’s just simply in a horror movie like Dark Night of the Scarecrow.

Drake really got to shine as the focal point of this picture and he was superb at being creepy. His laugh was great and unique. His character also had a decent backstory, capped off by an incredibly well-crafted scene where the child Dr. Giggles emerges from the womb of his dead mother in the morgue. It’s actually the highlight of the film, if I’m being honest.

The rest of the cast is pretty bad, even if the movie has some notable people in it like a young Holly Marie Combs, Colin Quinn, who played Mark on Roseanne, and Cliff DeYoung, who I will always have a fondness for because of his role as the dad in The Flight of the Navigator. The movie also features Doug E. Doug before he’d become better known in Cool Runnings and Cosby.

Apart from those actors, the rest of the cast is abysmally bad and it drags the movie down, as it relies on throwaway caricatures and tropes for these characters.

This is a forgettable movie and that’s probably why people forgot about it immediately after its release in 1992.

Rating: 5/10

Film Review: Torso (1973)

Also known as: I corpi presentano tracce di violenza carnale (original Italian title), The Bodies Show Traces of Carnal Violence (literal English title)
Release Date: January 4th, 1973 (Italy)
Directed by: Sergio Martino
Written by: Sergio Martino, Ernesto Gastaldi
Music by: Guido & Maurizio De Angelis
Cast: Suzy Kendall, Tina Aumont, Luc Merenda, John Richardson, Roberto Bisacco, Ernesto Colli, Luciano Bartoli, Luciano De Ambrosis

Compagnia Cinematografica Champion, 92 Minutes

Review:

“Death is the keeper of secrets.” – Franz

Torso is a pretty well-respected giallo picture not directed by Dario Argento or a Bava. I even knew about it as a kid when I had no idea what a giallo picture was. I remember the VHS box art sitting on the shelf in the horror section of just about every video store I visited on the regular.

I ended up watching it in my teens but it’s been that long since I’ve seen it, so I figured I’d revisit it. Plus, I have a much richer understanding of what giallo is now.

Overall, this one is kind of mediocre. Although, I do like the look of the killer a lot and I can see where this specific picture was probably instrumental in inspiring a lot of the American and Canadian slasher films that would follow a decade later.

If you’ve seen a lot of giallo already, this one isn’t going to shock or surprise you. However, it’s filled with enough gorgeous women to make the movie more than palatable. And that’s a quality I loved about Italian horror, especially the ’70s stuff.

The killer stalks these beautiful girls, as they mainly hang around this mansion atop the cliff that overlooks the town below. This sets up a really cool finale where the final girl, ankle broken, is trapped in the house trying to signal to the citizens far below. It’s an effective scene in the movie and it help builds up the tension and intensity of the story’s final moments.

All in all, Torso wasn’t a classic in the same vein as Argento and the elder Bava’s work. Although, some fans of this style of film do hold it in much higher regard than I do. That doesn’t mean their wrong, I just feel like this is pretty standard giallo fare.

Rating: 6.25/10

Film Review: Shocker (1989)

Also known as: Shocker: No More Mr. Nice Guy (alternative title)
Release Date: October 27th, 1989
Directed by: Wes Craven
Written by: Wes Craven
Music by: William Goldstein
Cast: Michael Murphy, Peter Berg, Cami Cooper, Mitch Pileggi, Ted Raimi, Heather Langenkamp, Wes Craven, Kane Roberts, Dr. Timothy Leary, Jessica Craven, John Tesh

Alive Films, Carolco Pictures, Universal Pictures, 110 Minutes

Review:

“We can’t go killing people just to get Pinker out of their bodies.” – Jonathan Parker

As I’ve stated in other reviews, I’m really not a big fan of Wes Craven outside of A Nightmare On Elm Street. He was always in the same conversations with John Carpenter but his body of work is weak sauce in comparison, regardless of Elm Street being one of the best horror films of the decade.

Shocker is no different and because I’m not super keen on Craven, I had actually never seen it until now. In fact, I remember seeing the trailer for it when I was ten years-old and thinking it looked stupid as hell.

While I don’t mean to sound overly harsh, that’s kind of how I felt about a lot of Craven’s stuff when trailers would drop.

This movie was a total clusterfuck, It tried to do way too much with its story and didn’t really let anything settle into place before throwing more layers of papier-mâché onto the still wet pieces beneath.

At first its a slasher movie, then it becomes some weird ass shit where the killer travels through TVs, electricity, infrared waves and satellite dishes while the killer also travels in and out of other people’s bodies, so that you’re always guessing who the killer could be. So basically, there’s three concepts all wedged into one movie and Craven never really seems to fully commit to any of it.

Not to mention, the main kid that the killer wants to kill has some sort of psychic connection to the killer. Why? Who the fuck knows, man?!

The only real positive about the film is Mitch Pileggi, who plays the killer. Most people remember him for playing Skinner on The X-Files. It’s cool seeing him in this role, as his character is so over the top and batshit crazy that it’s a huge contrast to the character he’s become most famous for. Plus, I’ve always liked the hell out of Pileggi and this is worth a watch if you feel the same way. Without him, this movie would’ve been the worst in Craven’s filmography. He, at least, makes it palatable to a point.

Rating: 4/10

Film Review: Fear City (1984)

Also known as: Border, Ripper (alternative German titles)
Release Date: May 16th, 1984 (Cannes)
Directed by: Abel Ferrara
Written by: Nicholas St. John
Music by: Dick Halligan, Joe Delia
Cast: Tom Berenger, Billy Dee Williams, Jack Scalia, Melanie Griffith, Michael V. Gazzo, Rossano Brazzi, Rae Dawn Chong, Janet Julian, John Foster, Maria Conchita Alonso, Joe Santos, Ola Ray, Tracy Griffith, Jan Murray

Rebecca Productions, Zupnik-Curtis Enterprises, Twentieth Century Fox, 95 Minutes

Review:

“[as Rossi drives off] There’s nothing I hate more than guineas in Cadillacs.” – Al Wheeler

I never saw this film but man, it was pretty damn cool. But when it stars Tom Berenger and Billy Dee Williams as two badasses at odds but hunting the same scumbag, why wouldn’t it be pretty damn cool?

It also stars Melanie Griffith during the best era of her career, just before things took off for her. The reason I like this era for her is that she did a lot of really cool flicks between this, Brian De Palma’s Body Double and the dystopian cyberpunk delight, Cherry 2000.

Griffith plays a stripper being hunted by a slasher type serial killer but she’s also joined by other good up-and-coming actresses also playing her stripper pals. Alongside her we get to see Rae Dawn Chong and Maria Conchita Alonso, two women that would go on to have a pretty good run throughout the ’80s and into the early ’90s.

At it’s core, this is a slasher flick. However, it’s not really a horror movie, as much as it is a crime thriller. It’s directed by Abel Ferrara, who previously directed the cult classic Driller Killer but would later go on to do The King of New York and Bad Lieutenant. This movie actually feels like a natural bridge between his gore littered slasher flick and his more serious crime dramas. Honestly, it mixes the best of both worlds and in my opinion, is probably Ferrara’s best movie even though most people have slept on it – myself included, until now.

If I’m being completely honest, I’ve actually never been a big fan of Ferrara’s work but this film is pretty solid. Granted, I need to revisit The King of New York, as it’s been a few decades since I’ve seen it.

Fear City is just energetic, provocative and ballsy. That’s what I love about it. It’s similar to the tone of a lot of the action movies that Cannon Films was putting out in the ’80s. It has that unapologetic grittiness to it with just a thick layer of cool.

I wish Abel Ferrara had made more movies like this.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: Ghost in the Machine (1993)

Also known as: Deadly Terror (working title)
Release Date: December 29th, 1993
Directed by: Rachel Talalay
Written by: William Davies, William Osborne
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: Karen Allen, Chris Mulkey, Ted Marcoux, Wil Horneff, Jessica Walter, Rick Ducommun

Twentieth Century Fox, 95 Minutes

Review:

“Excuse me… a little stiff. Caught a bitch of a virus.” – Computer Ghost of Karl

I never had much urge to see this way back when it was a current movie. Even though I was a fan of horror and cyberpunk concepts, I knew that it was directed by the same woman that did Freddy’s Dead, which murdered that once great franchise. I also figured that this would be full of computer graphics fuckery and that’s probably why she was hired, after she gave us that abysmally bad CGI 3D sequence in that previous movie.

However, I’m also a fan of the worst ’80s and ’90s cheese, especially in the realms of horror and sci-fi, so I figured that I’d finally give this a watch, as it’s on HBO Max. Plus, it starred Karen Allen and Chris Mulkey and I like both of them quite a bit.

So to be upfront, I didn’t hate this and even though it was a bad movie, there was enough to enjoy in it and the “virtual reality” stuff was every bit as awful and wonderful as it is in other movies from the same era like The Lawnmower Man and Brainscan.

The CGI is primitive as hell and it dates the movie but seeing it in the 2020s, nearly thirty years later, makes it much cooler than it would have been experiencing it back then. Frankly, it made me really nostalgic for this stuff and the early days of computer animation, the Internet and the sort of unknown wonderous world of what technology could be.

I even enjoyed the pixilated killer ghost whenever he appeared in the real world and thought that they utilized the CGI well for what they were trying to achieve.

So the story is about a serial killer that works in a computer and software shop. He steals the address books of clients after his boss uses them to show those clients how his address book software works on common PCs. The killer takes out everyone on the address books before finally killing the person who owns it. However, he is killed in a car crash. Upon getting an MRI, weird shit happens to the power at the medical facility and he is essentially copied onto a hard drive and is essentially now a digital copy of the killer’s brain (and I guess soul) that can travel the Internet and effect any electronics he possesses.

While it’s an interesting concept, I feel like you could easily just trap him in a toaster, unplug him and toss it into the furnace. Also, he is able to manipulate electronics in impossible ways, like using a small microwave to essentially turn an entire large kitchen into a microwave oven.

Plot holes, plot conveniences and ridiculousness aside, some of the kills in this movie are really damn good, such as the microwave kill. The killing sequences also have a bit of a Final Destination vibe to them, as you know the person will die but it’s interesting seeing how it’s all going to unfold. Kind of like watching a Rube Goldberg machine of death.

In the end, though, this is still pretty bad. Most people will hate it and dismiss it as unpalatable schlock but for me, it had enough cool stuff in it to hold my attention and to make me appreciate the effort.

Rating: 5.25/10

Film Review: Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)

Also known as: Eyes (working title)
Release Date: August 2nd, 1978
Directed by: Irvin Kershner
Written by: John Carpenter, David Zelag Goodman
Music by: Artie Kane
Cast: Faye Dunaway, Tommy Lee Jones, Brad Dourif, Rene Auberjonois, Raul Julia, Frank Adonis, Lisa Taylor

Major Studio Partners, Columbia Pictures, 104 Minutes

Review:

“I’m completely out of control!” – Laura

I’m surprised that I had never come across this film until recently. I just sort of stumbled upon its existence while reading an article where it was mentioned. Considering it was directed by Irvin Kershner, written by John Carpenter and had a damn solid cast, I wanted to check it out.

Also, it’s a ’70s psychic thriller flick and those tend to be right up my alley. It also has slasher-y vibes too and a neo-noir-esque flavor. So in some ways, it reminds me of those damn good neo-noir movies that Brian De Palma did in the early ’80s.

This stars Faye Dunaway, who truly ruled the ’70s and this is just another great role to add to her impressive filmography. She’s pretty much perfect in this and even if she finds herself in the killer’s crosshairs and is very afraid, she plays the role with confidence and some real chutzpah, not being an incompetent damsel in distress. Frankly, this character and Dunaway’s part in bringing her to life feels real.

Dunaway is supported by several top tier male actors, many of whom were up and coming and on the verge of breaking out into bigger things: Tommy Lee Jones, Brad Dourif, Raul Julia and Rene Auberjonois. Each of these guys brought something worthwhile to the film and each one had a good, strong presence, that just made the picture better, overall.

The film also does a good job with its red herrings. As it got closer to the end and a certain character is murdered, I thought the identity of who the killer was, became pretty apparent. However, the movie does keep you guessing for about 85 percent of its duration.

Beyond that, the film looks great but then again, Irvin Kershner is a fine director, who is unfortunately mostly just known for being the guy that directed Empire Strikes Back. While I love Empire and its immense success and iconic place in motion picture history, it does overshadow all of Kershner’s other great movies.

Eyes of Laura Mars is entertaining, creepy and kind of marvelous from top-to-bottom.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other ’70s and ’80s psychic thrillers and horror films.