Film Review: Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990)

Release Date: November 10th, 1990
Directed by: Mick Garris
Written by: Joseph Stefano
Based on: characters by Robert Bloch
Music by: Graeme Revell, Bernard Herrmann (original themes)
Cast: Anthony Perkins, Henry Thomas, Olivia Hussey, C. C. H. Pounder, Warren Frost, John Landis, Kurt Paul, Sharen Camille

Smart Money Productions, Universal Pictures, NBC, Showtime, 96 Minutes

Review:

“All that faith and no potatoes.” – Norman Bates

For being a made-for-TV movie and the third sequel in a series, Psycho IV isn’t half bad. Hell, I even like it a bit more than the third film, even if it is missing Jeff Fahey, who killed it in that picture.

The cast in this one is really well-rounded though between the returning Anthony Perkins, as well as Henry Thomas, Olivia Hussey and C. C. H. Pounder. Honestly, this is a really well acted picture that saw its main players give it their all with really solid and compelling results.

The picture starts with Norman Bates being cured but we’ve seen that in the two previous pictures until events pushed him over the edge and back towards his serial killing slasher self.

What’s different and unique about this picture is it involves Norman calling a radio show discussing boys who have murdered their mothers. He uses the name “Ed” while on the air but he talks through his past, primarily his early years, in an effort to fight off his killer tendencies from returning.

With that, this film serves as both a sequel and a prequel. It takes place after Psycho III but it spends a great deal of time flashing back to his life before the events of the original Psycho. It delves into his bizarre relationship with his mother and how it shaped him into the man he became.

Henry Thomas, most famous for playing Elliot in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, shows that he was a good actor and he creates a young Norman that is sympathetic yet disturbed.

However, his performance is enhanced by the talent of Olivia Hussey, who plays his mother Norma Bates. The film examines the sexual tension between mother and son and it’s really the plot of this movie that gave birth to the concept that became the Bates Motel television series. And honestly, I prefer this version of a Psycho prequel.

Adult Norman, still played by Perkins, who really committed his life to this role and who always delivers an A-plus performance, shared most of his scenes with the always good C. C. H. Pounder. While the scenes they share are over the phone, as both act out their scenes in different rooms separate from each other, the two had perfect chemistry and their discussions are emotional and believable.

But giving credit where credit is due, a lot of this also probably has to do with the quality of the editing and the overall film direction. These two actors were on completely different sets, probably filming on completely different days but their combined efforts worked and it carries the picture at its most important parts.

What’s fantastic to me, is that I never expected much from Psycho sequels. The first one is perfection and anything else, I thought, would diminish it. But I was wrong. While none of the sequels are as good as the original Hitchcock film, each is still good in their own way and every chapter feels like it enhances the larger story that is Norman Bates’ complete life.

I hope that Anthony Perkins was pleased with the end result of all these films.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The other Psycho films.

Film Review: Seed of Chucky (2004)

Also known as: Child’s Play 5, Son of Chucky, Bride of Chucky 2 (working titles)
Release Date: November 12th, 2004
Directed by: Don Mancini
Written by: Don Mancini
Based on: characters by Don Mancini
Music by: Pino Donaggio
Cast: Brad Dourif, Jennifer Tilly, Redman, Billy Boyd, Hannah Spearritt, Steve Lawton, John Waters

Rogue Pictures, David Kirschner Productions, Castel Film Romania, 87 Minutes, 88 Minutes (unrated)

Review:

“Christ! Enough about your mother! I killed that bitch twenty years ago and she still won’t shut up!” – Chucky

Whenever this movie comes up in conversation, everyone I talk to seems to hate it. Granted, when it came out, the trailer didn’t make me want to see it and I put it off for nearly ten years. However, once I did give the film a chance, I liked it near the same level that I liked its predecessor: Bride of Chucky.

I understand why this entry into the long running movie series gets a lot of hate but I think that is because people try to view it in the same way that they looked at the original trilogy of films, as a serious slasher with some colorful and funny one-liners from the killer doll.

The big difference is that this needs to be viewed as a comedy. Sure, a dark, twisted, fucked up comedy but this takes the increase in comedy from Bride of Chucky and magnifies it a lot more. Now I understand why that would upset some hardcore slasher purists but this is really the 1966 Batman of the franchise and I mean that as lovingly as possible.

Brad Dourif and Jennifer Tilly are absolutely dynamite in this. It honestly feels like Dourif was ad-libbing the whole thing. I know that’s not really possible, unless he was controlling Chucky’s animatronics while voice acting but this has a similar feel to it as improv comedy. Plus, Chucky’s never been funnier and the jokes are just constant.

The real star of the film is Billy Boyd, though. He plays the offspring of Chuck and Tiff and isn’t sure about his/her gender, his/her life and his/her place in all of the madness that surrounds his/her parents. I guess a lot of people disliked this character severely and he/she’s sort of been pushed out of the film series since this picture but I’d still like to see him/her reappear or at least get a mention as to what his/her whereabouts are.

After typing that politically correct paragraph, I came to the realization that Don Mancini and the Child’s Play franchise were more socially progressive than Twitter by at least a decade.

Anyway, I still prefer the original three films to anything that came after but this reinvents the franchise quite a bit and honestly, it needed some reinvention. While Bride of Chucky accomplished that already, Seed of Chucky pushed the bar further.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: all the Child’s Play movies except the 2019 reboot.

Film Review: Bride of Chucky (1998)

Also known as: Child’s Play 4, Chucky, Chucky and His Bride (working titles)
Release Date: October 16th, 1998
Directed by: Ronny Yu
Written by: Don Mancini
Based on: characters by Don Mancini
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: Brad Dourif, Jennifer Tilly, Katherine Heigl, Nick Stabile, John Ritter, Alexis Arquette, Gordon Michael Woolvett, Kathy Najimy

David Kirschner Productions, Midwinter Productions Inc., Universal Pictures, 89 Minutes

Review:

“My mother always said love was supposed set you free. But that’s not true, Chucky. I’ve been a prisoner of my love for you for a very long time. Now it’s payback time.” – Tiffany

Initially, I didn’t know what to make of this movie when it came out in 1998.

Over time, I grew to love it though, as I mostly see it as a black comedy, which is how it’s really intended to be seen. It’s not so much a parody of the Child’s Play movies, as it is a true vehicle to just let Brad Dourif’s Chucky be unrestrained from trying to make a more serious slasher film.

Bride of Chucky goes beyond horror accented by comical one-liners and evolves the franchise into something more in-line with its star character’s personality. Overall, it’s less scary and less terrifying but it makes up for that in its coolness. And it really does get nuts in the best way possible.

Now with that being said, I don’t like it as much as the original three films but it is more energetic and more fun, overall. Without, I feel as if it has more replay value than most of the movies in the series.

I love the inclusion of Jennifer Tilly as Tiffany, Chuck’s actual bride who also becomes a killer doll. And of course, this leads to the sequel Seed of Chucky, which focuses on the offspring of the killer dolls. Most people seem to hate that movie but I kind of love it too for what it is but I’ll get into that when I review it, specifically.

Ronny Yu did a fine job of giving life and energy to Don Mancini’s script and frankly, I thought he was a wise choice. I also love his Freddy Vs. Jason, even though some people think it sucks. But fuck those people, as Yu understands how to turn these slasher franchises into something beyond the norm, which was kind of needed in the time that he made this film and FvJ.

The best part about this (and its sequel) is the chemistry between Tilly and Dourif. It’s f’n spectacular. Where I originally wasn’t keen on the concept before seeing the film, Tilly won me over almost immediately and proved she was a perfect choice for the role. And she has since become nearly as iconic as Chucky.

Bride of Chucky is an enthralling entry into a series that didn’t have much left in the tank. It reinvented what a Child’s Play movie could be and it left the door open for more, which allowed the Dourif era to flourish for three more films.

Despite my distaste for the 2019 Child’s Play reboot, I’m glad that the Dourif version of Chucky still isn’t dead, as there is a television show in-development, which will continue to build off of this movie and all the ones before and after it.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: all the Child’s Play movies except the 2019 reboot.

Retro Relapse: Top 50 Slasher Films of All-Time

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2014.

*2019 Notes: Years have passed since I wrote and compiled this list for a different website, so the order in my head has changed somewhat and there are probably other films I’d add. Maybe I’ll re-order it and expand it in the near future.

I love slasher films. As a kid, it was probably my favorite sub genre of film, with horror being my favorite genre overall.

Sure, my mum hated the fact that I watched horror movies and she wouldn’t rent them for me but she also knew that I was just going to watch them somehow, whether at a friends house after school or a cousin’s house over the weekend. It was cool then though, because parents weren’t total pussies and didn’t hover over our every move like these modern kids have to deal with. This is also why these modern kids are afraid of their own shadow. My generation was the last great generation because an R rating didn’t mean crap and it was never actually enforced at the theater or video rental store.

Moral of the story, we all turned out just fine.

I was lucky enough to grow up in the heyday of slasher films. I saw pretty much everything I had access to.

In my 35 years on this planet, these are the ones I consider the very best.

1. Black Christmas (1974)
2. Halloween (1978)
3. A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
4. Psycho (1960)
5. StageFright
6. Sleepaway Camp
7. Suspiria
8. Friday the 13th (1980)
9. The Burning
10. A Nightmare On Elm Street III: Dream Warriors
11. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
12. American Psycho
13. Blood Rage
14. Alice, Sweet Alice
15. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
16. Child’s Play
17. Twitch of the Death Nerve
18. Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter
19. My Bloody Valentine (1981)
20. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
21. A Nightmare On Elm Street IV: The Dream Master
22. Halloween II (1981)
23. The Funhouse
24. The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
25. Deep Red
26. Peeping Tom
27. Maniac (1980)
28. Friday the 13th Part 2
29. The Initiation
30. The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)
31. Child’s Play 3
32. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
33. The Prowler
34. Terror Train
35. Scream
36. Torso
37. Freddy vs. Jason
38. Silent Night, Deadly Night
39. House of 1,000 Corpses
40. Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers
41. Friday the 13th Part III
42. A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge
43. Child’s Play 2
44. Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III
45. Jason X
46. Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning
47. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
48. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers
49. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood
50. Hatchet

Video Game Review: Friday the 13th (NES)

I used to hate this game as a kid yet strangely, I still played the shit out of it.

I beat Jason Voorhees a few times but I never actually beat the game. I just assumed that every time you beat him, the game just cycled back to the beginning for you to start over again with Jason getting stronger each round. I never realized, until recently, that the game takes place over three days and thus, you have to beat Jason each day to actually complete the game.

So I finally beat this thing. I can’t say that it was all that satisfying, as it’s a game that’s insanely repetitive and that all the little side quests you’re told to do, don’t really matter in the grander scheme of things.

All you have to do is run to stop Jason, fight him, survive the encounter, wash, rinse, repeat. You don’t need to go fight his mom’s floating head, I didn’t really bother with the advice given on notes found throughout the cabins and I didn’t even get the torch to use on Jason. I beat him with the less powerful machete.

Overall, this is still a pretty mundane game. But if you apply yourself, you can crush the whole thing in under an hour. I used to think that it was hard and overly tedious but that’s only if you are sidetracked with side quests and aren’t just running to kick the shit out of Jason.

Just go kick his ass and I guess, light the fireplaces in the large cabins if you have the time to do so.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other horror games for the original NES but primarily A Nightmare On Elm Street.

Film Review: Alice, Sweet Alice (1976)

Also known as: Communion (original title), Holy Terror (edited version), The Mask Murders (reissue title), Sweet Alice (Sweden)
Release Date: November 12th, 1976 (Chicago International Film Festival)
Directed by: Alfred Sole
Written by: Rosemary Ritvo, Alfred Sole
Music by: Stephen J. Lawrence
Cast: Linda Miller, Mildred Clinton, Paula Sheppard, Niles McMaster, Brooke Shields

Harristown Funding, Allied Artists, 98 Minutes, 108 Minutes (unrated version)

Review:

“She is a weird little girl. Did you notice her tits? When I put the tube around her she looked at me, like she wanted me to feel her up.” – Detective Cranston

Many people try to debate over which movie was the first slasher film. While this one isn’t it, it does predate Halloween by a few years. Although, it did come out after Black Christmas. But to me, none of those are the first and I feel like slasher films were born out of Italian giallo. The reason I even bring that up is that this is considered a slasher movie, and it is, but it has a strong resemblance to the giallo style.

This isn’t an Italian picture though. In fact, it was made in New Jersey. But it very strongly takes its cues from the films of Dario Argento, Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci and others.

It’s lacking the visual allure of giallo, as it has a more natural and muted color palate but the story structure, the violence and the general tone just fits well with those cool flicks.

The story is about a little girl who is believed to have horribly murdered her younger sister in the church during her first communion. While things aren’t quite what they seem in this movie, the little girl is a real shit and she’s certainly pretty fucked in the head.

However, this seems to be more about tapping into the fear of the nuclear family breaking down in American society. It also might be a critique on the Catholic church. Many people seem to think so. Personally, I think it’s just a story that happens to take place in and around the Catholic church, which has a big presence in New Jersey and the Northeast in general, especially in the ’70s.

All things considered, this is a film that probably shocked some of its audience in its day but it’s hardly as shocking as a lot of the exploitation movies that were at their peak in the same decade. All the things that would’ve caught people off guard all stem from the fact that the title character is a young child.

This isn’t really gory. There’s some blood but the worst stuff is more implied and happens once the camera cuts away. That could also be due to the budget of the production.

Overall, this was a cool movie to check out. It has some cult status among ’70s horror aficionados but it doesn’t really hit the mark for me. At least, it doesn’t reach the heights of the best giallo pictures and I certainly wouldn’t put this above Black Christmas or Halloween.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other ’70s slasher pictures and Italian giallo.

Video Game Review: Halloween (Atari 2600)

I never knew there was an Atari 2600 game based on John Carpenter’s Halloween. That could be due to the age I was when this would’ve come out but it’s surprising that I still never got wind of it over the years.

Like most Atari 2600 games, it’s pretty basic. But that’s not a bad thing, as this game is at least really amusing and surprisingly violent and comical.

You play as Laurie Strode (I’m assuming) and you need to evade Michael Myers while trying to save Tommy Doyle (or some other little brat). If Michael catches the kid, the little shit is stabbed to death. If Michael catches Laurie, he decapitates her, which leads to her running around headless with blood spurting from her neck stump.

It’s pretty nutty that this was a mainstream video game and probably sold to kids. However, ’80s kids weren’t pussies and video games didn’t have fascist ass ratings back then. Also, life was better and people weren’t so miserable and overly sensitive.

Anyway, that’s about all there is to do in the game. But it’s still a cool game to mess around with.

Also, the 4-bit Halloween theme is badass.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other old school horror movie video games like the original Nintendo’s Friday the 13th and A Nightmare On Elm Street.