Film Review: Horror Express (1972)

Also known as: Pánico en el Transiberiano (original Spanish title), The Possessor (US re-issue title), Panic in the Trans-Siberian Train (alternate title)
Release Date: September 30th, 1972 (Sitges – Catalonian International Film Festival)
Directed by: Eugenio Martin
Written by: Arnaud d’Usseau, Julian Zimet
Music by: John Cacavas
Cast: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Telly Savalas, Silvia Tortosa

Granada Films, Benmar Productions, 91 Minutes

Review:

“The two of you together. That’s fine. But what if one of you is the monster?” – Inspector Mirov

It’s been at least a decade since I’ve watched Horror Express but I really didn’t like it the few times I saw it, even though it is one of the 22 motion pictures that teamed up real life best friends Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. It also features another one of my favorite actors, Telly Savalas.

I’m not sure why I wasn’t a fan of it, as I liked it this time around but maybe I’m older, more mature, have a better palate and thought that this thing was a bit of a fine wine with just the right amount of cheese to accompany it.

I think that one of the reason’s I never liked it was due to the fact that all the prints and releases of this film are in pretty poor quality. I hope it gets a proper remaster, at some point. But I was able to not let that bother me this time, as I got caught up in the story, most of which I hadn’t remembered other than this being a mummy on a train movie.

There’s a weird twist though, this mummy is actually an alien and he has this power where he uses his glowing eyes to peer through his victims’ eyes and murder them with some sort of brain crushing ability. However, the alien mummy has to kill people to regain his form and his strength but he also can control them like an undead army.

This movie feels like a mix between Agatha Christie’s Murder On the Orient Express and a classic Hammer horror film. But it looks more like the ’70s visual style of an Amicus production. Strangely, this is neither a Hammer or Amicus film but it was able to lure in the talents of Lee and Cushing.

I liked the setting and how the environment was used so well. A train kind of limits what one can do in a horror movie but it never wrecked the plot here and it actually made you feel just as confined as the characters.

The movie uses miniatures for the exterior train shots but they come off really well. That could be due to the poor quality of the print hiding the imperfections but even the big finale, which sees part of the train go over a cliff was pulled off nicely.

I’m glad that I revisited this. I didn’t expect to actually dig it as much as I did this time but sometimes you can revisit something you weren’t fond of and see something new or worthwhile that you may have missed before.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Amicus and Hammer Films of the early ’70s, especially those featuring Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee.

Comic Review: Star Trek/Green Lantern: The Spectrum War

Published: April 20th, 2016
Written by: Mike Johnson
Art by: Angel Hernandez, Stephen Molnar
Based on: Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry, characters from DC Comics

IDW Publishing, DC Comics, 156 Pages

Review:

I hoped this would be a cool comic book series but I already found it a bit of an eye roller when I saw that they used the Kelvin timeline cast, as opposed to the likeness and style of the original cast and it’s version of Star Trek.

Anyway, I don’t hate the Kelvin movies, as you may know after reading my recent reviews on those films. However, why use Kelvin shit if you don’t have to?

So Ganthet dies and with his death, he rips a hole in spacetime. This conveniently brings several Lantern rings into the Star Trek Kelvin universe. The Enterprise crew finds Ganthet’s corpse and the rings and pretty quickly the rings come to life and choose their bearers. One of which is General Chang of the Klingon Empire, in what would be his first Kelvin timeline appearance. Some may remember him as the great villain from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

This story rehashes concepts from the Blackest Night storyline and just brings those concepts into the Kelvin timeline. We have multiple Lantern villains show up like Sinestro, Atrocitus and Larfleeze. We also get new evil ring bearers: a Romulan and a Gorn. But the biggest twist with the Blackest Night concept is when Black Lantern leader Nekron resurrects all the dead citizens of Vulcan, including Spock’s mother. While it was trying to make a big emotional impact on the reader, it felt cheap and pretty cheesy.

I had sincerely hoped that seeing two of my favorite franchises come together would be a fun story. This just felt like it was a lowest common denominator attempt at cashing in on yet another crossover.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequel, as well as Planet of the Apes/Green Lantern and Star Trek/Planet of the Apes.

Video Game Review: Ghosts ‘n Goblins (NES)

This would have been one of the greatest NES games ever if it wasn’t so f’n hard! No, seriously. This game makes me want to headbutt an axe.

It doesn’t help things that if you get hit twice, you’re dead. It also doesn’t help things that the majority of the enemies swarm you, move quickly and follow your movements. And you can’t really run most of them off of the screen if you dodge them and keep going.

Another issue with this game is that the mechanics are brutally difficult. Your jumps are short and quick and you can’t go very high. Also, good luck having the controllers respond in any sort of consistent way when you have to jump from moving platforms. Going up and down ladders? Also a mechanical clusterfuck.

Yet, for decades, I haven’t been able to stop playing this game. Because with all the frustration and madness that this pushes up from the darkest parts of my soul, Ghosts ‘n Goblins is just so cool.

I love the music in this game, I love the look and tone of it and at least it came out in an era where we still got games with codes and the level select option made this a lot more fun, even if after level 2, I’m basically dead f’n meat.

The boss fights are really tough but none of the bosses are unbeatable. Working your way through levels full of little flying demons, shitty ladders and moving platforms seems to be more difficult for me than the actual boss fights. Although the big winged demons in the last few levels are a real bitch. And that dragon takes so damn long to kill.

Strangely, defeating Lucifer, the final boss, is one of the easiest tasks in the game. But when you kill his blue demon ass, it’s still really damn satisfying.

Ghosts ‘n Goblins has some strange magical hold over its fans. For something that makes you angry as hell, it still brings you a lot of joy. It’s hard to explain but at the same time, maybe that only works for people that have a lot of nostalgia for the game.

But I’ve never played something so frustrating that still calls me back to it, fairly often, over thirty years later.

This isn’t as frustrating as Silver Surfer for the NES, though. And I never have the urge to go back and play that one other than to remind myself why I hate the shit out of it.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other games in this series, especially the original arcade version. Also, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest for similar themes and bouts of madness trying to play through it.

Comic Review: Afterlife With Archie, Vol. 1: Escape From Riverdale

Published: June 4th, 2014
Written by: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Art by: Francesco Francavilla, Jack Morelli

Archie Comics, 160 Pages

Review:

Man, I wasn’t expecting this to be as fun as it was but it won me over almost from the get-go.

Zombie stories have been done to death for so long now that it’s hard to make ones that stand out. Bringing this element to the Archie Comics universe was pretty cool though and the company deserves the success that this book brought them.

This is pretty adult and even has a good level of gore and real horror to it. This isn’t an Archie comic for young kids and grandma might lose her mind if she reads this but teenage Archie fans should love it.

I loved the art style used here, especially the color palate. This was a perfect blend of chiaroscuro and vibrant colors similar to a classic giallo film.

Frankly, this was a comic book that I didn’t know I wanted until I gave it a read.

For horror fans and Archie fans, I’d say that you should probably check this out.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other recent Archie Comics releases with a horror theme: Jughead: The Hunger and Vampironica.

Comic Review: Aquaman/Justice League: Drowned Earth

Published: Octoberber 17th, 2018 – November 28th, 2018
Written by: Scott Snyder, Dan Abnett, James Tynion IV
Art by: various

DC Comics, 224 Pages

Review:

This was a big crossover event that was used to give us a cool and epic Aquaman story just as his first movie was set to hit theaters. It’ts spread over multiple titles in a similar style to the recent Wonder Woman/Justice League Dark: The Witching Hour event.

The plot deals with some Atlantean deities coming to Earth and drowning the planet with magic water that turns everyone into fish zombies. No, seriously, that’s the premise.

That being said, it still plays out really cool and as bonkers as it sounds, the writers commit to the bit and the story is just as fun as it is nuts. It’s also pretty damn intense, as the surviving heroes try their damnedest to not get wet while working to save the planet.

However, there isn’t much here that seems to hold any real weight over the DC universe, apart from how it effects just Aquaman and where his comic will go, as it moves forward with a new creative team.

This will probably be remembered for its insanity but other than that, it isn’t an event that will be remembered as anything more than a cash grab and promotional tool for the upcoming Aquaman movie.

It had a solid creative staff and is certainly better than DC’s current mega event Heroes In Crisis but this massive extinction level event went down and now everyone, except Aquaman, is fine and has moved on. In fact, most of the other DC titles didn’t even seem effected by this other than a few casual mentions of people being turned into fish zombies.

I did like tracking down all these issues, nonetheless. I’ll always think of it fairly fondly, simply because it was a wild ride and mostly exciting.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Aquaman stories leading up to this, as well as the recent crossover The Witching Hour. This also ties back to Dark Nights: Metal.

Film Review: Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016)

Also known as: Resident Evil 6, Resident Evil: Insurgence, Resident Evil: Rising (working titles)
Release Date: December 13th, 2016 (Tokyo, Seoul premiere)
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Written by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Based on: Resident Evil by Capcom
Music by: Paul Haslinger
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Shawn Roberts, Ruby Rose, Eoin Macken, William Levy, Iain Glen

Constantin Film, Impact Pictures, Davis Films, Screen Gems, 106 Minutes

Review:

“We’ve played a long game, you and me, but now it’s over.” – Dr. Issacs

I think that the things I’m looking for in these movies are different from what others are seeking. The reason I say that is that I’ve heard really bad things about this chapter in the series yet this was the best movie out of them all, as far as I’m concerned.

I think that the extended break mixed with the experience of what worked and what didn’t over the course of the five previous films, allowed Paul W.S. Anderson to weave his best tale yet and frankly, this one surprised me and took things in a direction I wasn’t anticipating.

Also, I watched all of these movies over the course of a week and didn’t have a decade and a half to ponder this series, its direction and the reveals that each chapter brought to the series as a whole.

As an action movie with a lot of horror and sci-fi thrown in, this was satisfying. Also, it did give the audience fan service but it didn’t trip over itself like the previous movie, which was bogged down by too many cameos and a mostly incoherent plot.

By this point, I’ve accepted the flaws that bothered me in the earlier movies. Six deep into this series and some of those flaws have really become tropes. Especially the Hong Kong style wire work during fight scenes, the imperfect CGI and the overabundance of green screen scenes. In regards to the CGI, it does get better with this movie.

I liked how this film was structured and the longer running time gave it a bit more room the breathe. It felt like it had more of a three act structure than the other chapters. First, you have the beginning where Alice wakes up in D.C., gets her mission and then runs into trouble on her way back to Raccoon City. Then you have a second act where she and a group of heroes defends Raccoon City from a literal zombie army. The third and final act sees Alice and some of the survivors storm the Hive to end the Umbrella Corporation once and for all.

The plot isn’t complicated but it’s well layered, is more dynamic than some of the other RE films and it has a good MacGuffin with a satisfying ending that leaves the series on a hopeful note, as opposed to the doom and gloom each previous film left you with. To be honest, I’d like a seventh film featuring Alice on her last adventure before the Earth resets. But the ending is still fine on its own.

Seriously, I am baffled by this movie. It shouldn’t have been as good as it was, all things considered. Maybe the fifth one set the bar really low and I didn’t expect much from its follow up. But again, this is my favorite Resident Evil film in the series.

Also, zombie dragons.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Resident Evil films, as well as other horror video game films from the same era: the Silent Hill series and Doom.

Film Review: Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)

Also known as: Resident Evil 5, Resident Evil 5: Retribution (working titles), Re5ident Evil: Retribution (alternate spelling)
Release Date: September 3rd, 2012 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Written by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Based on: Resident Evil by Capcom
Music by: Tomandandy
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Kevin Durand, Sienna Guillory, Shawn Roberts, Aryana Engineer, Oded Fehr, Colin Salmon, Johann Urb, Boris Kodjoe, Li Bingbing

Constantin Film, Impact Pictures, Screen Gems, 96 Minutes

Review:

“You were the only one to successfully bond with the T-Virus, to fully realize her powers. Well, now I have need of you. The old you. So I’ve given you back your gift. You are the weapon.” – Albert Wesker

Well, it took five films but I got to the chapter that was a big step down in overall quality. That being said, this was still entertaining and fit well within the film series, even if all its predecessors were better.

My biggest gripe about this one is that it is a total clusterfuck from the writing to it wedging in characters from every previous film and in some cases, multiple versions.

This one was hard to follow. I mean, I got the gist of the plot but dead people have been cloned, there are two Michelle Rodriguezes because when one can ruin an entire movie, maybe having two will cancel that out… I don’t know. But this was a narrative mess.

The special effects and fighting scenes are pretty consistent with the other films. It’s all a mixed bag of sometimes shoddy CGI and an overabundance on Hong Kong style wire work. I’ve learned to accept these flaws, at this point, because I’m five films into this and how dare I have expectations.

The highlight for me was Alice fighting two of the axe/hammer wielding behemoths, as opposed to just the one from the previous movie. However, this fight was over way too quickly and it does what this series has always done and that’s to take the big hard challenge from the previous film and turn it into a joke. I’m not sure if this is to show how badass Alice has evolved from movie to movie or if the filmmakers just don’t give a shit. It feels like the latter.

Anyway, if you’ve made it this far into the Resident Evil films series, you might as well just finish it up. This isn’t a total buzzkill, it’s just not a coherent story and felt more like poorly crafted fan service.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Resident Evil films, as well as other horror video game films from the same era: the Silent Hill series and Doom.