The Terror Within – Alien Lite

The Terror Within is currently available on instant Netflix

The Terror Within

 

The Terror Within (1989) – Rated R

The apocalypse has come, and the world has been forever changed by “the accident,” a chemical warfare experiment gone awry. Some have survived by hiding in an underground complex, safe from the harsh landscape above and the mutants that roam there.”

One Line Review: Low budget Alien ripoff is mildly entertaining.

Long before Asylum opened its gaping maw, others were ripping off movies. Admittedly Asylum has perfected the formula, getting their ripoff in stores just before the movie they’re ripping off hits the screens but they were not the first.

In spite of it being made a decade later, The Terror Within is Alien with a much smaller budget. Oh sure there is talk of it being a post-apocalyptic future and it is set in an underground base but this is Alien. We have a ‘gargoyle’ that bursts out of a pregnant woman and rapidly grows to larger than human size.

The crew attempt to hunt down the gargoyle. They move through the spacious air ducts. They split up. They wield flamethrowers and improvised weapons. As they do so, they are picked off one by one. There is even a pet in the base, here a dog instead of Jonesy the cat.

George Kennedy is top-billed here but only collects a paycheck in a role that, with a brief exception, only requires him to sit at a desk and say a few lines. Andrew Stevens (President/CEO of Andrew Stevens Entertainment and Stevens Entertainment Group according to imdb) is the real star here and he relies too much on a pretty face to get things done. The female members of the base contingent are played somewhat woodenly by Starr Andreeff and Terri Treas. On the other hand can you blame them? It’s hard to pretend to high art when you are holding a super soaker and pretending it’s a laser rifle.

People Watch: Jack Valan, who appears here as ‘the gargoyle’, was apparently embarrassed enough by this that he went by Roren Sumner in the credits in spite of using his real name in Witchboard 7 and Witchboard 8.

Spoiler Below

Sequel-itis: You wouldn’t think it but there is indeed a The Terror Within II (1991) written, directed by, and starring Andrew Stevens. Not only that but he wrangled his mother, Stella Stevens, into appearing as well.

The Innkeepers

The Innkeepers is currently available on instant Netflix

One Line Review: Intriguing concept that goes nowhere, s-l-o-w-l-y.

The Innkeepers

 

The Innkeepers (2011) – Rated R

In this eerie ghost story, a venerable New England inn closes after a century in business, and the lodge’s two remaining employees are determined to uncover the truth about longtime rumors that the majestic mansion is haunted.”

I have no idea what took me so long to review The Innkeepers. It has been available on instant Netflix for quite some time and I adored Ti West’s previous film, The House of the Devil. Ti West is writer, producer, director, and editor here.

The first third of the film is just Claire (Sara Paxton, Spongebob Squarepants) and Luke (Pat Healy, Magnolia), the titular Innkeepers, bantering back and forth as they work on the last weekend that the Yankee Pedlar Inn will be open. Nothing happens and patience will be required to get through this section. It helps that Paxton is quite likable.

Kelly (Top Gun) McGillis guests here as a formerly famous actress. Alison Bartlett is a hoot as an angry mother staying at the hotel with her son.

Unfortunately not much happens throughout the entire film. A portion of the ending was very predictable and the rest proved quite unsatisfactory. The Innkeepers is unfortunately too slow a burn. It is well made and acted, it just doesn’t really have much to say.

People Watch: Look for Girls’ Lena Dunham as an amusingly bothered barista.

Place Watch: The Innkeepers was shot in Torrington Connecticut at the real Yankee Pedlar Inn.

Huluween & Fangoria

Fangoria

Fangoria has a line of sponsored content on Hulu. I am not sure if it is just for Halloween but it can be found here. I loved Fangoria as a kid but honestly it is one of those magazines you read while waiting in the bookstore as Fangoria and all the monster magazines basically priced themselves out of the market ($8-10 for an issue filled with things I can read online?). Still Fangoria is an influential name in horror, my favorite genre.

Hulu

From the press release: “Hulu and Hulu Plus are getting an infusion of fan-favorite horror titles just in time for Halloween. Fangoria magazine and its distribution partner Brainstorm Media have teamed with Hulu on a new genre channel at hulu.com/fangoria, where a batch of curated horror flicks including William Lustig’s Maniac Cop 2, Takashi Miike’s Audition, and Lucio Fulci’s The House By The Cemetery will be made available. New titles will be added on an ongoing basis including releases from Magnolia, eOne, Phase 4, Millennium Entertainment, Scream Factory, Uncork’d and Doppelgänger Releasing.”

Audition

The Fangoria Hulu channel brings some much needed horror to Hulu. They currently have 40 movies from old cult movies like Maniac Cop 2 to fairly current releases from the Fangoria imprint like Hunger and Dark House. The best one at the moment (selections will rotate) is Audition though I warn you that this is a very disturbing film.

 

V/H/S/2

V/H/S/2 just became available on instant Netflix.

V/H/S/2

 

V/H/S 2 (2013) – Rated R

“Two private eyes investigating the disappearance of a student discover horrific content on a collection of VHS tapes in his home. But these videos don’t just document evil … they actually contain a very dark presence.”

One Line Review: A good concept ruined by the actual concept. Again.

I was not a big fan of the first film (V/H/S – currently available on instant Netflix) but I was happy to give the sequel a try. I really loved Amicus’ run of portmanteau films (Tales from the Crypt, From Beyond the Grave, The House that Dripped Blood) but then those had Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Donald Pleasance and other stars in them.

V/H/S/2 wants to set a mood right away so it is only seconds before we are treated to a young topless woman. To show equality this is quickly followed by full frontal male nudity. Having established our horror prerequisites, we can now settle into our wraparound story about a couple of skeevy private investigators.

As with V/H/S, the individual tapes they find each tell a story. The first story is essentially The Eye which is a shame. One about a bicyclist is pretty funny. The cult story is very gory and intriguing but disjointed – if it had been more coherent, this one would have made a good feature film. The final tape they find is about aliens and looks like it was written and filmed by a fifteen-year-old with ADHD. It is easily the worst of the bunch. The wraparound story will just have you shrugging your shoulders. The funny thing is that in each case, the found footage shaky cam makes the story so much worse than it would otherwise have been.

V/H/S/2 is marginally better than the first and, if you don’t mind the gore, a passable waste of an hour and a half.

Halloween Keeps Getting Better – Pacific Rim

Blu-Ray.com

 

Blu-Ray.com is a board I frequent, mostly for news and reviews of Blu-Rays. I also periodically flip through the posted pictures of users home theaters and drool away. They periodically run drawings for FREE Blu-Rays. After being on that board for many years, I finally won one of the drawings.

Pacific Rim

 

I won the Blu-Ray for the prettiest movie of the summer, Pacific Rim (Star Trek Into Darkness was a close second). I won on the weekend and received my Blu-Ray on Wednesday via FedEx. Wow! Even the cover is gorgeous, with a lenticular kaiju alternating with one of the jaegers.

Halloween, Groupon, The Fly and The Vincent Price Collection

My loving wife bought me The Vincent Price Collection from Scream Factory for Halloween. Scream Factory is an offshoot of Shout Factory. Currently it’s a gasp-inducing $69.99 on Amazon but she bought ours on Groupon for $39.99.

Vincent Price Collection

The collection consists of Fall of the House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Masque of the Red Death, The Haunted Palace, Witchfinder General, and The Abominable Dr. Phibes – all on Blu-Ray. They come in a nice plastic case with individual mounts as well as a nice booklet with photos and stories and a slipcover box.

The restorations on these movies are incredible. They are so beautiful in high-definition. I haven’t listened to any of the commentaries but one of the extras on five of the movies is a set of introductions and closing comments by Vincent Price. These were done for PBS back in the 80s and are simply wonderful.

I highly recommend this set if you are at all a fan of Vincent Price.

The Fly

I also picked up the Blu-Ray of The Fly (1958) at Best Buy for $9.99 ($4.99 after coupon). That transfer too is beautiful and has as an extra, A&E’s Biography of Vincent Price. What a wonderful Halloween.

Yet Still More Streaming Netflix

Here are some more streaming options, the best of which is easily In Bruges:

In Bruges

Action/Adventure: In Bruges, American Brawler, Redemption (2013)

Anime: Fruits Basket, B Gata H Kei – Yamada’s First Time

21 & Over

Comedy: 21 & Over, Stag, Dorfman in Love, Tom Papa: Freaked Out

Documentary: Addicted to Fame, Reveal the Path, Rebirth: New Orleans, Jedi Junkies, Addicted to Plastic, Call Me Kuchu, We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks

Family: Standing Up, Magic Puppy

Foreign: Haute Cuisine, Eurotrapped, Makkhi, Populaire, Raavan, Chennai Express

Devil

Horror: Devil, V/H/S/2

Television: Emily Owens M.D. and new seasons of Nikita, Sons of Guns, and Casper’s Scare School

Thriller: The Haunting of Amelia, Phantom

Solar Yaaaaaaawn Crisis

Solar Crisis is currently available on instant Netflix.

Solar Crisis

 

Solar Crisis (1990) – Rated PG-13

“In this sci-fi thriller set in 2050, a huge solar flare threatens to destroy life on Earth unless a band of scientists can save the day by dropping an antimatter bomb on the sun. To make matters worse, there’s a saboteur among their ranks.”

One Line Review: Plot good but actors wooden and script way too exposition heavy

One of the primary rules of storytelling is never tell, always show. Sadly, Solar Crisis tells us at every turn. Most of the first act is solid, boring exposition. The film begins with some very inexpensive looking scrolling text, letting us know that Earth is doomed and to buy war bonds now. Don’t strain your eyes though as a narrator reads those same words aloud.

Could the movie poster above be any more generic?

They waste a good cast. Charlton Heston, certainly a sci-fi veteran if ever there was one, has little to do here and just scowls and collects a paycheck. Jack Palance chews the scenery as a desert rat. Peter Boyle gives Jack a run for his money as Arnold Teague. The rest of the cast are stiff and wooden, including lead Tim Matheson.

Director Richard C. Sarafian so disavowed this mess that he uses the Alan Smithee credit. The plot desperately needs streamlining. As with the later projects Armageddon and Sunshine, apparently saving the Earth isn’t sufficient to capture people’s interest. They have to add on all sorts of plot devices, including the ubiquitous traitor in their midst.

While Solar Crisis is terribly boring, it was certainly way ahead of its time with greedy corporations ruling the Earth. Danny Boyle appears to have lifted whole sections of the plot for Sunshine (much as he combined Day of the Triffids with Night of the Living Dead to produce 28 Days Later). At least Sunshine was exciting and visually attractive.

People Watch: Yes, that is composer Paul Williams as the voice of Freddy the Bomb (I don’t make this stuff up). Horror icon Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes) has a small part as Matthew.

Railroad Jack the Industrial Revolution Circus Reaper

Watching movies so you don’t have to! Jack the Reaper is currently available on instant Netflix.

Jack the Reaper

 

Jack the Reaper (2011) – Rated R

The reaper, Railroad Jack, has no mercy when it comes to torturing and slaughtering anyone who meets his eye. When a group of teens sets out on a school field trip to learn about the industrial revolution, Jack has a different plan in mind for them.

One Line Review: Interesting elements don’t mesh and make a mess.

Jack the Reaper is a remarkably disjointed movie. The killer is continually called Railroad Jack, not Jack the Reaper as the movie is titled. While the killer is Railroad Jack, neither trains nor railroads figure in the movie (except in a brief aside). Instead a carnival is the centerpiece of the movie. So why wouldn’t you make your killer relate to the carnival?

I really get tired of the old cliche that characters in horror movies have never seen a horror movie. Here they split up at every opportunity even after they are being killed off and, in spite of their vehicle breaking down in the middle of nowhere, are not particularly interested in rescue once they discover an abandoned but fully operational carnival nearby.

Jack the Reaper has a few good ideas, which it has ripped off from much better movies. I won’t say which to avoid spoilers. It also has a cameo appearance by Tony Todd, which is always welcome but certainly not enough to save the movie.

My guess is that writer Kimberly Seilhamer wrote a horror movie script and then director Kimberly Seilhamer found a way to film inexpensively at a carnival and rewrote it. The carnage is not well handled and little to no suspense is involved.

The big mystery is how a bargain basement horror movie like this not only got Tony Todd on board but also Oscar-nominated actress Sally Kirkland (Anna, 1987). Douglas Tait, who had small parts in star Trek and Thor also appears here.

Maniac

Maniac is currently available on instant Netflix.

Maniac

 

Maniac (2012) – Not rated

“In this high-gloss update of a 1980 slasher flick, Elijah Wood stars as Frank, a mannequin store owner who develops an unsatiable lust for blood when he becomes obsessed with a young artist who turns to him for help with her latest exhibit.”

One Line Review: Elijah good but Maniac sick and misogynistic

There is some value in Maniac. It is much better than the grimy, disgusting 1980 grindhouse flick. It is also less misogynistic but only marginally so. It is a very slickly made slasher film. One of the encounters mid-film is both artfully and brutally done, all set to ‘Ave Maria’. Other scenes are also handled artfully and with some imagination.

I applaud Elijah Wood for stretching his acting muscles to play the titular killer, Frank. He does add a lot to the production and is quite creepily convincing. The script gives Frank a detailed and plausible backstory. As Maniac is filmed from Frank’s point of view, the director uses a lot of reflections to periodically show Elijah. Even so, the camera does cheat on several occasions, breaking the conceit.

Unfortunately that is all the good that can be said about Maniac. Because the entire film takes place from the killer’s point of view, it actually gets quite sickening. It is clear that Frank views women as objects, even without the proverbial on the nose treatment of scalping his victims and putting the hair on his mannequins. Maniac is well made but relentlessly misogynistic.

If I had to sum up Maniac in one word, it would be unpleasant.