Film Review: Curtains (1983)

Release Date: March 4th, 1983
Directed by: Richard Ciupka (as Jonathan Stryker), Peter R. Simpson (uncredited)
Written by: Robert Guza Jr.
Music by: Paul Zaza
Cast: John Vernon, Linda Thorson, Samantha Eggar, Anne Ditchburn, Lynne Griffin, Lesleh Donaldson, Sandee Currie

Simcom Limited, Jensen Farley Pictures, 89 Minutes

Review:

A lot of people in the Twitterverse, as of late, have been talking up this slasher flick pretty heavily. I guess someone pointed out that it was a hidden gem and a bunch of people agreed.

While I’ve been aware of it for years, I’ve never seen it. But it was streaming on one of my services, so I figured I’d check this Canadian slasher movie out.

I liked it but I don’t think it’s a hidden gem. It’s fairly okay and the killer is creepy as fuck but it’s a slow moving film that’s kind of drab when the slasher isn’t actually slashing.

Granted, this did have some rather good sequences in it, like the dream with the doll in the road and the ice skating kill. But there was a lot of filler and drawn out moments surrounding a plot that I didn’t care about.

Now you need a plot to set these films up but let’s be honest, no one watches slasher movies for the story, as much as they watch them for the kills, tits, gore and general mayhem and young people orgies. Sure, I love my slashers to have great origin stories but that can usually be done in just a few minutes and we just need to see the potential victims arrive at the place where the danger waits.

Curtains was cool to check out but this would come nowhere near my top ten… or top twenty-five, even. Top fifty… maybe.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s slasher flicks.

Film Review: Tenebrae (1982)

Also known as: Unsane (US alternative title)
Release Date: October 27th, 1982 (Tortona, Italy premiere)
Directed by: Dario Argento
Written by: Dario Argento
Music by: Goblin (credited as Claudio Simonetti, Fabio Pignatelli, Massimo Morante)
Cast: Anthony Franciosa, John Saxon, Daria Nicolodi, Giuliano Gemma

Sigma Cinematografica Roma, 101 Minutes, 91 Minutes (edited)

Review:

“Let me ask you something? If someone is killed with a Smith & Wesson revolver… Do you go and interview the president of Smith & Wesson?” – Peter Neal

Tenebrae or Unsane, as its also been called, is one of the Dario Argento movies that I’ve seen the least. In fact, it’s probably been twenty years since I last watched it. I kind of regret not revisiting it sooner, though, as my experience with it this time was pretty incredible.

While it’s not the best of Argento’s stories, it is one of his best directed films and it has some of the best visuals he’s ever done outside of Suspiria and Inferno.

This isn’t as stylish as his earliest giallo pictures but it feels more fine tuned and refined. It feels like the giallo style actually adapting and moving into a new decade. Now while the style was starting to disappear into the ’80s, this kept it alive for a bit longer and I think that’s because it feels like a more mature film. It certainly shows that Argento had really found his stride and in some regard, it almost plays like an Italian version of an early ’80s Brian De Palma neo-noir picture.

It’s almost uncanny that this was able to look so clean yet be so gritty and raw at the same time.

I think that some people may see this and think of it as watered down when compared to Argento’s earlier work but I think he really just tried to make a more palatable movie for a wider audience. Granted, Argento also doesn’t betray himself, as the finale gets incredibly bloody. However, the more reserved tone actually sets the climax up perfectly, as seeing an immense amount of vibrant red blood spray across a plain, white wall is pretty fucking jarring in an awesome way.

Additionally, this film features amazing camera work. There is a long tracking shot done by crane that is breathtaking to see and it has held up tremendously well. Also, some of the shots during the murder sequences are fantastic. The moment where you see cloth tear to reveal a woman filled with terror just as blood splashes across her face is, hands down, one of the best shots Argento ever captured.

Lastly, the score by three of the four members of regular Argento collaborators, Goblin, is one of their best. The film’s main theme would even be sampled by the French band Justice for two songs on their 2007 album Cross.

While this isn’t my favorite film of Argento’s from a story or even visual standpoint, it’s still a breathtaking experience that hit all the right notes and made me appreciate the director even more. 

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: Dario Argento’s other giallo pictures.

Film Review: Black Belly of the Tarantula (1971)

Release Date: September 4th, 1971 (Turin premiere)
Directed by: Paolo Cavara
Written by: Marcello Danon, Lucile Laks
Music by: Ennio Morricone
Cast: Giancarlo Giannini, Claudine Auger, Barbara Bouchet, Rossella Falk, Silvano Tranquilli, Barbara Bach

Da Ma Produzione, Produzioni Atlas Consorziate (P.A.C.), 89 Minutes, 98 Minutes (uncut)

Review:

Paolo Cavara was better known for making mondo films. However, he also made two giallo pictures, this being one of them.

Since I had never seen this but heard good things, I figured I’d check it out. It also stars a young Giancarlo Giannini, as well as the immensely beautiful ladies, Barbara Bouchet and Barbara Bach.

Like many giallo pictures, this one plays like a proto-slasher movie. And while it is very artistic and vivid, as giallos go, it doesn’t look as overly stylized as the works of Argento or the two Bavas. Still, it is a beautiful looking picture, a product of its unique time and country of origin, but it feels a bit more grounded in a gritty reality.

The method of the killer in this movie is unique and kind of cool, as he kills his victims in the way that a spider wasp kills a tarantula: paralyzing them with the sting of a needle and then slicing open their stomachs as they are conscious and can feel the agonizing pain without the ability to fight back or scream.

Giannini plays the detective trying to stop the killer but in doing so, finds himself and his girlfriend as targets of the deranged, mysterious killer.

While I can’t put this on the same level as the best giallos to come out of Italy, it is still memorable because of its killer’s methods, as well as the superb cast.

This also came out just as the genre was finding its style and getting its stride. So it might not feel as refined, beautiful and as opulent as later films in the genre but it did help pave the way for them.

Overall, this was pretty enthralling from the perspective of one who generally likes these sort of films. I can’t necessarily call Cavara a giallo maestro just based off of this one film but it did make me want to check out his other giallo picture: Plot of Fear a.k.a. Bloody Peanuts.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other early ’70s Italian giallo pictures.

Vids I Dig 431: Whang!: The Lost ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ Movie – Tales From the Internet

Taken from Justin Whang’s YouTube description: In 1999, William “Tony” Hooper, son of Tobe Hooper, began work on a spinoff of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre about the character Choptop, played once again by Bill Mosely. Although it has been over 20 years, however, the movie has yet to be released despite being mostly finished.

Film Review: My Bloody Valentine (1981)

Release Date: February 11th, 1981
Directed by: George Mihalka
Written by: John Beaird, Stephen Miller
Music by: Paul Zaza
Cast: Paul Kelman, Lori Hallier, Neil Affleck, Don Francks, Cynthia Dale, Alf Humphreys, Keith Knight, Patricia Hamilton

Canadian Film Development Corporation (CFDC), Famous Players, Secret Films, Paramount Pictures, 90 Minutes, 93 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“[reading a Valentine note] Roses are red, violets are blue, one is dead, and so are you.” – Mabel Osborne

This is a better slasher film than people give it credit for. I’ve heard it catch a lot of shit over the years but it has some sequences in it that are really good and the third act is cool and takes the slasher formula into a unique environment, as opposed to just the woods, a suburban neighborhood or a campus full of young people.

It obviously tried to tap into Halloween‘s success by taking place on another holiday but apart from that and it being a slasher flick, it’s still very much its own thing.

Most of the characters in this are actually likable and I thought it was a better cast than what we get with most films like it. I also liked that the cutest chick in the movie was with the mustachioed fat dude. But he had charisma and was usually the voice of reason within this group of twentysomethings.

The story takes place around a mining town and the slasher wears mining gear. The monster just has a cool look that I thought worked really well. Additionally, having the killer stalk his prey through the mines in the last third of the film was refreshing and neat.

Now the big reveal at the end wasn’t all that shocking but I really liked that the slasher survives and mocks the good people of the town, as he retreats into the darkness of the mine tunnels.

With that, this was left open for a sequel but unfortunately, we never got one. We would get a remake in 2009 but I’ve never actually watched it because it came out in an era where every ’80s horror flick was being remade with bad results. Maybe I’ll check it out and review it in the near future, though.

Anyway, this is a better than average slasher movie from the height of the era. It could’ve used more gore and brutality but it still plays well.

Also, the scene where the girl is stalked in the room with the miner uniforms dropping from the ceiling is one of my favorite slasher kill scenes of all-time. There’s something spooky, primal and terrifying about it that really makes it stand out.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other slasher films from the late ’70s and early ’80s.

Film Review: Psycho (1998)

Release Date: December 4th, 1998
Directed by: Gus Van Sant
Written by: Joseph Stefano
Based on: Psycho by Robert Bloch
Music by: Bernard Herrman, Danny Elfman (adapting), Steve Bartek (adapting)
Cast: Vince Vaughn, Julianne Moore, Viggo Mortensen, William H. Macy, Anne Heche, Robert Forster, Philip Baker Hall, Anne Haney, Rance Howard, Chad Everett, Rita Wilson, James Remar, James LeGros, Mike “Flea” Balzary, Gus Van Sant (cameo)

Imagine Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 105 Minutes

Review:

“A boy’s best friend is his mother.” – Norman Bates

If you ever thought that a shot-for-shot remake of a masterpiece with added gore and vibrant color was a good idea, you’re in luck because this motion picture exists!

If you’d rather see someone take old material and give it new life and a fresh perspective, well… don’t watch this motion picture.

It’s baffling to me that the director, Gus Van Sant, came right off of the critically acclaimed and multiple award winning Good Will Hunting and churned out this pointless, vapid turd.

I’ll be honest, I never wanted to see this film because the original Alfred Hitchcock classic is damn near perfect. However, it’s the only Psycho-related thing that I haven’t watched and reviewed. Sadly, it makes the worst of the sequels and re-imaginings look like classics by comparison. Hell, even the strange Bates Motel TV movie from the ’80s is much better than this.

What’s weird is that the acting actually isn’t bad, it’s just that this uses the same script and only really alters it to feature some extra violence and to update it due to technology changing from 1960 to 1998. The problem with that, is that this feels more like the actors trying to emulate what came before with just a little bit of their own flourish added to it. But I can’t really say that it’s their fault, as how can one not be influenced by the great performances that already turned this same script into a real cinematic classic?

As a film, this is embarrassing. I feel bad for everyone involved in it and I just don’t understand why this was made and who thought it’d be a good idea. Some of the sequels and other takes on the material were good. It would’ve been a lot cooler to see a new take on the story, as opposed to just making it in color, more violent and more modern.

Eh, whatever… fuck this movie.

But I guess it’s worth checking out if you’ve ever wanted to see Vince Vaughn fap.

Rating: 2/10
Pairs well with: spoiled milk and stale Zebra Cakes.

Film Review: Candyman (1992)

Also known as: Clive Barker’s Candyman (complete title)
Release Date: September 11th, 1992 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Directed by: Bernard Rose
Written by: Bernard Rose
Based on: The Forbidden by Clive Barker
Music by: Philip Glass
Cast: Virginia Madsen, Tony Todd, Xander Berkeley, Kasi Lemmons, Ted Raimi, Vanessa Estelle Williams

Candyman Films, PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, Propaganda Films, 99 Minutes

Review:

“They will say that I have shed innocent blood. What’s blood for if not for shedding? With my hook for a hand, I’ll split you from your groin to your gullet. I came for you.” – Candyman

This movie is adored by some within the horror community but it’s just never really resonated with me. The weird thing, is that I love Tony Todd in just about everything he does and this certainly is his most iconic role. However, the film just kind of falls flat and it’s hard to care about much within it but I’ll explain.

To start, the film does lure you into a dreamlike state, almost immediately, by the enchanting, interesting and unique score by Philip Glass. However, even though I like the score, I don’t specifically like it for this film, as it gives it a weird tone and for me, at least, it doesn’t quite fit.

That’s also not to say that it’s not somewhat effective, as it does put your brain in a strange place. But that strange place sort of wrecks the film. Just because something is effective doesn’t mean that its effect is a good creative choice.

I have several issues with the film beyond this.

Firstly, the score doesn’t really help the pacing of the film, which moves slower than a drunk snail crossing over a maple syrup spill. In fact, it makes the film seem slower, as it tries to constantly enchant you and put you to sleep.

Secondly, it never really clearly defines who or what the monster is. You also don’t really understand what his powers are. Almost every time you see him, he appears to have the ability to teleport. Yet, at the end of the film, when he’s stuck in a giant pile of burning trash, he doesn’t teleport out, he just burns to death.

Thirdly, the ending is bizarre and doesn’t make a lot of sense. Does Virginia Madsen actually take the Candyman’s place as the monster? The ending implies such but this isn’t anything that’s ever revisited in the sequels. Granted, I haven’t seen the third one but I’m pretty sure it’s left unanswered and continuity doesn’t mean jack shit with these movies.

Fourthly, the film is just full of a lot of random, baffling shit. Like why was there a giant mountain of garbage in the first place? How did days go by and no one heard the missing baby in the next door apartment? What baby doesn’t cry every fifteen minutes? When Virginia Madsen calls for Candyman, she just gets drunk and goes to bed, why didn’t he appear instantaneously to butcher her and her friend like he did the girl in the beginning? This movie has more holes in its plot than a hobo has in his underwear.

However, there are some positives in this movie, like the performances from Madsen and Todd. They’re really good despite the picture feeling like a house of cards waiting to collapse in on itself.

Additionally, this flick does a superb job of making duality a theme throughout the picture. There’s the duality between white and black people in Chicago, the duality of there being a supernatural Candyman and a real world drug dealer who adopted the Candyman persona, there’s also the duality of the dream world and reality, as you’re never quite sure what’s actually happening at certain points.

There are a lot of layers to the movie but the problem is that none of them are as clearly stated as they need to be and they sort of get lost in the overall production being lackluster, the pace being too relaxed and the general dreamlike presentation.

The point is, this film should be more effective in regards to its social and political commentary. I don’t know if the director just didn’t want to hit people over the head with it but sometimes a story can benefit from that. The biggest issue with it is that Candyman, as a character, needed to be more defined and clearly tied to the themes of the film. At least the first sequel gives you his origin and clues you in to who he is, why he is and how this is all supposed to make sense in a clearer way.

Overall, this is a movie I’ve always wanted to like but I’m just kind of meh about it. From memory, I like the second one better but I’m going to re-watch it soon and then do a proper review of it.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the other films in the series, as well as Wes Craven’s The People Under the Stairs.

Film Review: Maniac (1980)

Release Date: May 10th, 1980 (Cannes)
Directed by: William Lustig
Written by: C. A. Rosenberg, Joe Spinell
Music by: Jay Chattaway
Cast: Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro, Tom Savini, William Lustig

Magnum Motion Pictures Inc., 87 Minutes

Review:

“I told you not to go out tonight, didn’t I? Every time you go out, this kind of thing happens.” – Frank Zito

William Lustig made some really interesting horror films in his heyday. While I knew about Maniac Cop first, I spent a lot of my time in mom and pop video stores in the ’80s and discovered this at a pretty young age. It was one of those horror movies that left a lasting impact on me because I was much more scared of the real and plausible than I was of supernatural monsters or ghosts.

I definitely saw this film at a much younger age than I should have but us ’80s kids didn’t have great supervision and a lot of video stores would rent anything to anyone because society wasn’t overly pussified back then.

Anyway, this always had a special place in my mental nostalgia locker due to its impact on me, the fact that it has the mesmerizing Caroline Munro in it and because Joe Spinell was one of the coolest actors of his era. That could also be because I knew Spinell from the Rocky films and because he just has a very unique and memorable appearance. He, along with Dick Miller, were the two character actors that I started to notice in all the cool movies.

The one thing that is really cool about this picture is that it is American but it really has an Italian giallo style to it. Granted, it’s not as vivid, visually, and relies more on the gritty realism of New York City, at the time, but it still feels like it belongs in that very specific, short-lived genre.

I’ve talked before about how giallo kind of gave birth to the American slasher movie. This might actually be the best example of that. And while this isn’t specifically a slasher flick, as the killer uses guns and other tools, it really sort of bridges the gap between the two genres or styles.

Honestly, it just feels like it is both parts, a product of it’s influences and something that was a wee bit ahead of the cinematic horror trends. I don’t think any of that was something that Lustig thought about or planned for but it’s the way I see it and it really cements this film as one that is eternally relevant due to its significance to the larger picture.

Plus, this also has an awesome cameo by special effects maestro Tom Savini. The scene where he blows up his own head is one of the absolute best head splatter shots in motion picture history.

Also, this has an ending that is absolutely bonkers and kind of surprising.

Maniac isn’t a great film by any stretch of the imagination but it is a culturally significant one for those who love these sort of flicks.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other William Lustig films, as well as late ’70s/early ’80s slasher flicks and Italian giallo.

Film Review: Prom Night (1980)

Also known as: Bloody Midnight (Netherlands)
Release Date: July 18th, 1980
Directed by: Paul Lynch
Written by: William Gray, Robert Guza Jr.
Music by: Paul Zaza, Carl Zittrer
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Leslie Nielsen

Guardian Trust Company, Prom Night Productions, Simcom Limited, 92 Minutes

Review:

“Killer’s coming! Killer’s gonna get you!” – Young Wendy

I don’t know why there are a slew of slasher fans that seem to hold this in high regard. Is it because it’s got Jamie Lee Curtis in it? Because she was also in Terror Train around the same time and that was kinda shit too. Granted, I enjoyed Terror Train more than this disco train wreck.

Weirdly, this also has Leslie Nielsen in it in a non-comedic role as the high school principal. But honestly, he’s barely in it.

Anyway, this is a pretty uninspiring slasher flick that’s fairly devoid of imagination or anything remotely cool. I mean, the only thing I kind of liked was the simple mask of the slasher but that’s mainly because it was a bit sparkly for some reason and that looked cool during the scenes at the disco themed prom.

Also, the decapitation that saw the prom king’s head land in the middle of the light-up dance floor was kind of cool too. But honestly, that’s all this film’s got.

The plot is about a group of kids that bully a young girl and accidentally push her out of a window, killing her. They get away with it for awhile but there is a person who witnessed the incident and that’s the same person who puts on the mask and starts slicing teens on prom night, years later.

It’s not a wholly original plot, well maybe it was for 1980, as slasher flicks were still kind of new and just gaining in popularity. But regardless of that, it’s still pretty fucking pedestrian and some basic bitch shit.

My biggest problem with the movie though has to do with the pacing. It’s slow as absolute fuck and the good stuff doesn’t start happening until the very end. What that leaves us with is an hour of high school teen drama and shenanigans that isn’t very interesting and that is acted out by a cast of people that didn’t get any real work after this. Well, except for Curtis, who honestly just looks bored in this. I feel ya, babe.

Now this film would go on to inspire a much better sequel that had a cool supernatural twist to it. And I’ve already reviewed that one, since it was featured on The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs a year or so ago. Just go watch that one.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: other late ’70s/early ’80s slasher movies.

Film Review: Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland (1989)

Also known as: Nightmare Vacation 3 (UK, Germany)
Release Date: August 4th, 1989 (limited)
Directed by: Michael A. Simpson
Written by: Fritz Gordon
Based on: characters by Robert Hiltzik
Music by: James Oliverio
Cast: Pamela Springsteen, Tracy Griffith, Mark Oliver, Michael J. Pollard

Double Helix Films, 80 Minutes, 84 Minutes (uncut)

Review:

“Good thing you’re dead ’cause in a couple of years your breasts would have been sagging something terrible!” – Angela

Since I recently watched Sleepaway Camp II, I thought that I’d follow that up with a viewing and review of the third movie in the series.

Honestly, this one is pretty much just more of the same and it’s fairly consistent to the one before it. My only really gripe about it is that the kills aren’t as creative as they were in the previous installment.

Now there are a few good kills like the lawnmower one but most of them are pretty basic and repetitive. Usually, we see Angela just beat someone to death with a flimsy branch and then follow that up with a stab or a fire.

Pamela Springsteen is really the glue of these two films, as she’s simply entertaining and commits to the bit so well. Even though these are far from the best slashers or horror comedies out there, I could’ve easily watched her return a few more times to do the same schtick. She’s just funny and has a lot of charm, even when she’s brutally murdering someone.

I liked that this movie brought in Michael J. Pollard, as I’ve always liked the guy. He’s mostly a character actor that most people might recognize from Scrooged or Bonnie & Clyde but he always comes off as enjoyable and likable. In this film, however, he plays a scummy pedophile summer camp owner. While his character is weirdly played up for laughs, he handles the controversial material pretty well and you enjoy seeing him get what was coming to him.

Overall, this is a goofy, violent picture that actually doesn’t push the gore as hard as I had hoped for a late ’80s slasher picture but it’s still amusing, entertaining and it kept me distracted from the pandemic that has taken over the world in 2020.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Sleepaway Camp films, as well as the Friday the 13th film series and The Burning.