Frankenweenie (1984)

This was the strangest, most unexpected thing. I was watching the credits of the 2012 animated Frankenweenie on Disney + for the October EYG Halloween Horror Bingefest, when the screen popped up a graphic for another Frankenweenie, which appeared to be live action.

I had no idea what this was, so I decided to watch it. There was young Shelley Duvall and Daniel Stern, which immediately put an end to the idea that maybe they had done this after the animated movie.

So it was clearly something that predated the animated movie. Then I saw that Tim Burton had also directed it.

Turns out that Frankenweenie started out as a 28-minute short from Burton and that they adapted the animated movie from this short. I had no idea.

The short was fun, considerably more condensed than the 2012 film, but it did a good job of showing the relationship between Victor (Barret Oliver) and Sparky. There were a few of the scenes (like the cars hooking up their jumper cables to Sparky) were exactly the same in the animated movie.

Much like the 2012 animated movie, this is an homage to the Universal Monster Movies, particularly Frankenstein (1931). The black and white film does a great job of creating that very mood. The short also makes you feel as if you were watching those older film with the staging and the way the actors carried themselves.

This was an interesting exercise, seeing this short after seeing the animated movie. There was more depth in the animated movie, but, as a short, this brought an excellent tone and set the stage for the future movie.

Frankenweenie (2012)

Today, in order to continue the October EYG Halloween Horror Bingefest, I pulled up Disney + for a little family horror entertainment. This would be Tim Burton’s animated classic Frankenweenie.

This was a wonderful animated film, with the magic of stop animation giving us what appeared to be flawless artistic appearance of the characters and setting. The beautiful black and white filming highlighted every last piece of art that appeared on the screen making this a visually stunning film.

The story was touching and funny as well. Victor (Charlie Tahan) and his dog Sparky were inseparable until a tragic accident brought the dog’s life to an end. Engulfed in the world of science, Victor was inspired to attempt an experiment to resurrect the dog using lightning.

Clearly, the film is an homage to the 1931 film Frankenstein, as many of the iconic imagery appears in the animated movie. There is a lot of emotion here too as anyone who has lost a pet and who wished that there was something that they could do about it could feel for Victor and his plight.

The voice cast is strong. It features Catharine O’Hara, Martin Short, Martin Landau, Winona Ryder, and Atticus Shaffer. O’Hara and Short pitched in with multiple voices each.

This is a great family film with some real emotion and some powerful moments for Halloween. Frankenweenie is the type of animation that does not speak down to children, but provides them with a good story and beautiful imagery to watch.

Scream 4

As the October EYG Halloween Horror Bingefest continues, we revisit the fourth movie in a franchise that brings meta filmmaking to a new level. Scream 4 features Neve Campbell as the ultimate victim-turned-bad ass Sidney Prescott, and directed by horror icon Wes Craven.

Murder is the name of the game in Woodsboro once again as super survivor Sidney (Neve Campbell) returned to face off again with the next version of Ghostface. This time, Ghostface is targeting Sidney’s cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) and her friends, in order to film his murders.

The basic pattern of the film follows the original Scream, which is actually a piece of the plot of the film. Our favorite characters Dewey (David Arquette) and Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) are married now, but that does not prevent them from being blade deep in this story.

We meet a bunch of new high school students, some of which are obsessed with movies and others who are there as red herrings to make the audience wonder if they might be the returning Ghostface. There must be something in the water at Woodsboro High to keep cranking out these weirdos.

I could understand someone saying that this movie is nothing more than repetitive, but I feel that the film uses that as a hook to the franchise. There is so much meta story telling going on in the Scream franchise that, with the inclusion of Stab, the movie-within-a-movie, it works.

You would think that, after all this time, Sidney might get herself a permit to carry a gun. Seems to me she could absolutely find an argument for why she needed one.

With the news of a fifth film coming from this franchise, you would have to argue that Scream is one of, if not the, best horror franchises of all time. While none of the sequels reach the campy goodness of the original, all three sequels are fun and entertaining, with lots of positives with them. Even the much maligned Scream 3 contains lots of positives and enjoyment to be had.

Scream has avoided the problem of being repetitive, actually turning that into a strength of the story, and we have recurring characters that we cheer for and want to see again.

Love and Monsters

Dylan O’ Brien faces the apocalypse and giant mutated bugs and lizards in the new coming-of-age/monster story Love and Monsters.

The film is an action/adventure/comedy featuring a good cast and a surprising amount of emotional stakes.

Joel (Dylan O’Brien) has lived for seven years in the apocalypse. Giant monsters had mutated from bugs and frogs, sending the surviving humans into underground bunkers. Joel, however, does not seem the surviving type. Thankfully, his colony mates are here to keep him safe.

Unfortunately, Joel feels lonely, being the only single individual in his colony, and he was missing his girlfriend from years before the apocalypse, Aimee (Jessica Henwick). Joel uses a radio to contact other colonies and found where Aimee was.

After a breach of his colonies defenses by a monster, Joel decided that he needed to go find Aimee, traveling for seven days to her colony. Understandably, his friends believed he was dooming himself to being eaten by a monster.

Along the way, Joel runs into survivalists Clyde (Michael Rooker) and a little girl Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt), who take him in and help show Joel ways to avoid being killed on the surface.

This film is charming, fun and filled with some wonderful character development. Joel, in particular, follows a remarkable arc for his character and Dylan O’ Brien does a remarkable job of connecting as our protagonist.

The real relationship of the film is between Joel and a dog he meets along the way named Boy. There were more moments between Joel and Boy than there were with most other characters. They fought side by side and they saved each other. Boy was given several character traits as well that made him more than just a pet.

The monsters looked good. While there were some spots where the CGI was obvious, it was not bad enough to pull me out of the film. The design of the monsters were scary, but realistic.

The opening scene of the film is an animated section as Joel narrates what has happened over the years. It was one of the most interesting ways to drop exposition and provide us with the information that we needed to know. It was creative and entertaining.

Love and Monsters was an exciting concept that did not overdo its monsters and gave us a charismatic lead character and his dog. There was a lot of fun here and it gave us all some inspiration that people can get through the world, no matter what they may have to face.

4.5 stars

The Trial of the Chicago 7

I do not think I have ever seen a movie that was set over fifty years ago that has more relevance in today’s society than what I just finished watching.

I was utterly amazed at the brilliant film The Trial of the Chicago 7. As I watched the film, I thought to myself how sparkling and intelligent the dialogue and the script was. After finishing it, I discovered that the script was written by Aaron Sorkin (who also directed it). That made a lot of sense to me.

Sorkin, who has written A Few Good Men, The Social Network, Steve Jobs, Moneyball, Molly’s Game, The West Wing, has been known for his amazing dialogue and sharp political verbiage and it is on full display here.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 tells the true story of the trial of seven men who were charged with inciting the riots that occurred during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, Illinois. Seven men known as far left activists were placed on trial in 1969 [along with Black Panther leader Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II)]. The men on trial included Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne). the militant Yippies led by Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen) and Jerry Rubin (Jeremey Strong), David Dellinger (John Carroll Lynch), Rennie Davis (Alex Sharp), John Froines (Danny Flaherty), and Lee Weiner (Noah Robbins).

The defendants faced an unfair trial, overseen by Judge Julius Hoffman (Frank Langella), who clearly had his mind made up before the trial began and went out of his way to display his racist, partial ideas from the bench. The prosecution was led by Richard Schultz (Joseph Gordon-Levett), a man who was shown to be fair and honest and who was bothered by the machinations of the court.

The cast here is utterly fire! I haven’t even mentioned Michael Keaton, who made a powerful cameo in the middle of the film that came from out of nowhere. This cast was rocking every moment and each member had their moments. Sacha Baron Cohen was amazing as Abbie Hoffman, bringing a quick witted humor among the devastatingly serious situation. John Carroll Lynch is always great in every role he takes on. Jeremey Strong stole every scene he was in with his portrayal of Jerry Rubin.

I would even go as far as to say that this might be the best performance in the career of Eddie Redmayne, as Tom Hayden. That is saying something considering the fact that Redmayne has won an Oscar.

This was totally entertaining, engaging and, at times, shocking. The scene where Judge Hoffman ordered the marshals at the court to remove Bobby Seale and to “deal with him as he should be dealt with” was jaw-dropping and about as uncomfortable as you can get. The film did not shy away from the clear racism on display and how black people could be dominated by the system.

The pacing is brisk and flowed extremely well. It did not feel like a two + hour film and I was enthralled through the entire run. It moved quickly and never once felt boring. despite it being heavily dialogue driven. It deals with characters and their desires and hopes for the country. It showed these men and people who love their country but who will not sit back and not speak out against the atrocities that the country may be responsible for.

Yet, it does not romanticize these men. They are shown with their own traits and quirks that make them feel real, and not just radical protesters that have revolutionary beliefs.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and I believe it may be my favorite film of 2020 so far. It is exceptional.

5 stars

Nocturne

The fourth of the new Blumhouse films released on Amazon Prime is Nocturne. Unfortunately, it was a film that I just could not get into.

Twin sisters Juliet (Sydney Sweeney) and Vivian (Madison Iseman) are at a prestigious institute for classical musicians, hoping for a chance to attend Julliard. However, Juliet has always trailed behind her sister in talent. However, Juliet makes a deal that is intended to see her pass her sister up.

Honestly, I just never got into the film and I was bored through most of it. There were some interesting visuals in the filmmaking which helped carry some of the film for me, but I just could not get into what was going on.

Based upon the classic Faustian tales, Nocturne feels like something that I have seen before and I just did not find it worth my time.

1.5 stars

Evil Eye

Evil Eye (Amazon Prime Video) movie large poster.

Blumhouse has released four new horror films on Amazon Prime for the month of October. Two of the films were dropped last week while this week sees the next two. The first one I saw was Evil Eye.

Usha (Sarita Choudhury) seemed to be a typical Indian mother, worrying that her only daughter Pallavi (Sunita Mani) would never find a husband. However, when Pallavi finds a new boyfriend Krishnan (Bernard White), Usha begins to have doubts about him and connects him to an incident she faced over 30 years before.

The premise of this film is interesting but it takes a while to get to it. While I do not mind a slow build, there needed to be some more drama along the way. And what was weird was that the film went from such a slow burn to full speed that it felt like a drastic tonal shift that practically gave me whiplash.

The performances were good. I believed everything that I saw and I thought each actor brought something original and intriguing to their roles. I liked that though it was an Indian culture on display that it did not dominate the film. It was not about trying to show the differences, it was more of a universal fear.

The idea behind the disapproving parent is all throughout the film and is taken to another level. The concept of the rebirth of evil is a constant that shows us how it can negatively affect a life.

While this kept my attention, it seemed as if the resolution came out of nowhere and derailed what was happening in the first part of the movie.

2.75 stars

Candyman (1992)

Continuing with the October EYG Halloween Horror Bingefest, last night I watched the original Candyman, from the mind of Clive Barker, directed by Bernard Rose.

I had never seen Candyman and, honestly, knew very little about it going in. With that, I really enjoyed this horror film and found it to be original and very creepy.

Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) was a student who was preparing a college thesis on the urban legend of the Candyman, a creature who was said to arrive and murder people when the person would speak his name five times into a mirror. Helen was a true skeptic and was more interested in the psychology behind the phenomenon than the actual killer.

When it seemed as if she had proven her thesis, she made the mistake of summoning the Candyman and she found her life in a downward spiral.

The way Candyman attacked her was ingenious and very entertaining. Tony Todd brought a frightening ambiance to the character of the Candyman and the very reverence that the creature had among the neighborhood created the specific charisma of the character. The voice fit beautifully into the lexicon of the character.

Virginia Madsen is top notch as Helen, showing her growing fear and uncertainty of what is happening around her and how she just simply is never sure of what she can do.

There is a lot of blood and gore in the film but it is not done as an excuse. It has a reason for its inclusion in the story and, because of that, works well.

The music of the film helped increase the anxiety and tension that the movie was trying to build.

The ending of the movie was strong too, although the fire scene was a little confusing. I did enjoy the ironic resolution to Helen’s story.

I liked this one a lot. I am not sure why I had never seen it, or even knew much about it. One of the better horror films from the 1990s.

The Dead Zone (1983)

When I was watching Creepshow this morning, I saw the name of this movie listed on the screen and I decided that this would be a good film to continue the EYG Halloween Horror Bingefest with a film that I have not seen in a long time: The Dead Zone.

After an auto accident, Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) wound up in a coma for five years, altering his life forever. When he awoke, he discovered that he had an ability to see the future.

Christopher Walken is tremendous in The Dead Zone. His performance carried the plot and made the strangeness of the story reasonable. The Dead Zone could have been way over-the-top, but it was grounded and realistic. Walken was a major part of that.

Martin Sheen’s work as the cruel political candidate for Senator was exceptional. It did not take long for me to hate this character, and Sheen embraced that.

The story had several parts to it, which felt almost like an anthology of adventures for Johnny Smith. He was involved with Tom Skerritt as a sheriff trying to stop a killer. He was a tutor to a young kid (Simon Craig) who was having trouble interacting with the world. He was involved in the Martin Sheen story. These all blended together into the story that would become The Dead Zone.

The ending of the Dead Zone hit me hard when I first saw this years ago at a sleep over at a friend’s house. I did not like it at the time because I wanted a happier ending than what was here. At this point, I found the ending extremely satisfying.

I think this is one of the better Stephen King adaptations around.

Lord of the Flies (1963)

After watching the 1990 version of Lord of the Flies, I decided that the next film for the EYG Halloween Horror Bingefest would be the original version from 1963,

The 1963 version was directed by Peter Brook and was shown in black and white. The use of the black and white always creates a more interesting dynamic of the film, and this is not the exception.

However, I was surprised how consistent the two versions were, with the 1990 version being larger in shots but not much different besides that.

One difference was that in the 1990 film, the kids were all from a military academy whereas this version had them separate. The group introduced with Jack (Tom Chapin) were from a military school, but Ralph (James Aubrey) and Piggy (Hugh Edwards) were British school boys. That difference between them make the eventual turn more effective.

There also seemed to be that the start of the movie had the world involved in a nuclear war, leaving everything up in the air about what might be around in society outside of the island.

Those were all basically character moments that altered the manner in which the characters would react, but the basic structure of the plot was fairly close to the 1990 movie.

The child actors here do a fine job as well, though we still only really get development among the three main characters, Ralph, Jack and Piggy.

This feels as if the innocent lost theme is stronger than in the 1990 version. I would be interested in reading the original novel and seeing where they fall after that.

Lord of the Flies (1990)

The next film in the October EYG Halloween Horror Bingefest is an adaptation of William Golding’s iconic novel, Lord of the Flies.

This is the most recent adaptation of the novel that tells the story of a group of kids stranded on a deserted island and how they descended into chaos and savagery without the rules of the adult world.

I remembered liking this movie a lot when it originally came out despite middling reviews. This time through, it was still a good watch, but I will admit to not feeling the same power as I did the first time.

I have not read William Golding’s novel, so I cannot comment on the adaptation. I am planning on watching the 1963 film version soon to make a comparison. I have heard that the 1990 adaptation is not on the level of the 1963 one and that it changes a lot of what make the book special. This is not uncommon among movie adaptations, but you would hope that any changes were made because of proper reasons and not just to make changes.

The most powerful moment in this movie for me back when I first saw it was the death of Piggy (Danuel Pipoly). I had a hard time accepting the manner in which it happened and how these kids could just go along with it. This time through I was expecting it and it did not make as large of an impact on me.

The rivalry between Ralph (Balthazar Getty) and Jack (Chris Furrh) is at the center of the film, but it feels pushed here. I would have liked to see more between the boys. There was an early movie scene of them play fighting on the beach which was nice, but there was not enough of that to really drive home the power of Jack’s eventual betrayal.

I am not sure that the movie ever sufficiently dealt with the storyline of the “monster.” It was obvious who the monster was but I did not see it handled. Maybe I missed it.

The ending of the movie came very quickly too. It lacked a flow that made it feel as if it just came out of nowhere.

Having said all of these negatives, these young boys did a good job with their roles. Unlike the Children of the Corn, these boys brought emotion and skill to their parts, even those that were small and not deeply developed.

The shots on the island were done well and the music added to the tone of each shot. The look of the movie was top notch and helped balance out some of the other parts that may not have been as solid.

This did take a step back from where I saw it back in the early 1990s, but it was still a good effort and the positives do stand out.

Children of the Corn (1984)

The next film in the EYG Halloween Horror Bingefest is the 1984 cult classic, Children of the Corn, from Stephen King. Like many other films that reach cult film classic level, this film is not very good. However, I have to say that I enjoyed watching it this morning despite its many (many) flaws. I just do not think that I enjoyed this in the manner that they had intended.

Newly minted doctor Burt (Peter Horton) and his girlfriend Vicky (Linda Hamilton) are driving to their new lives when a young boy appeared in the road before them. The boy is struck by the car and dies, but Dr. Burt discovered that the boy’s throat had already been slit.

The couple drives into the small town of Gatlin to try to call for help, only to discover that the adults of the town were missing and that the town had been overtaken by a crazed religious cult of the children, lead by the weird sounding Isaac (John Franklin).

The cult was beginning their latest sacrifice to their lord and they wanted to add the “Outlanders” to the bill.

Though the beginning of the film started out well, the last half or so really stretched credibility and descended into silliness and campy behavior. Honestly, I am not sure what was happening at the end as monsters began appearing, despite very little groundwork being laid for this result. Characters and their choices felt inconsistent and seemed to change whenever the plot needed it to.

The acting was, at best, poor. The problem with having such a large cast of children involved is that you risk the danger of bringing wooden performances and, sadly, that is what happened here. I don’t fault them, because they are clearly trying their best, but there are not any standout future stars among the child actors here.

Linda Hamilton is here, bringing her own reputation to the film, but her character is not much more than a female stereotype of the time. She was a woman in need of rescue and even the young kid Job (Robby Kiger, who would play Patrick in the Monster Squad) got to be more heroic. It was a definite sign of the times.

There were some interesting ideas that were barely touched upon, such as Job’s sister Sarah (Anne Marie McEvoy) and her ability to see the future by drawing it. This power was just touched upon and was not important in the finale at all.

Still, I was entertained by the silliness. It feels like a B movie that is not to be taken seriously and in that vein, this works. If you are really looking for good character work or a comprehensive and understandable story, this does not work.

The Clovehitch Killer (2018)

The next film in the EYG Halloween Horror Bingefest is a film that I just found out about today. After watching Charlie Plummer in Spontaneous, I found this one on his IMDB page and it sounded fascinating. I have always had an interest in serial killers, and yes, I know that sounds weird. Yet, they intrigue me and the synopsis of this movie fell right into place. Tyler Burnside (Charlie Plummer) is a normal teen whose life seems too perfect. He is a Boy Scout and his father Don (Dylan McDermott) is the Scoutmaster. In order to impress his girlfriend, Tyler “borrowed” his dad’s new truck, but, when his girlfriend discovered a weird bondage pic in the truck, Tyler gained a reputation as the pervert. Tyler did not understand how that picture got in the truck, so he did a little investigating on his own. During this time, he uncovered evidence that suggested that his father was the infamous Cloverhitch Killer, a serial killer from years ago that was inactive. Tyler teamed up with another girl, Kassi (Madisen Beaty), who had been known to be looking into the Clovehitch case. The tension in this movie is high level and it builds slowly as the film progresses. You think you know what is happening, but there is always a kernel of doubt in your mind. What if Tyler is wrong and he is misinterpreting the evidence? The film does a solid job of keeping the audience on its toes as the suspense builds. Dylan McDermott and Charlie Plummer are fantastic in these roles that take a truly challenging subject and place these characters square in the center. This relationship needed to work for this story to be effective and the connection between father and son is clear here. The imagery of the film is done well and creates an unsettling mood that carries through the movie.  There are some claustrophobic feelings here as the truth begins to come to the surface. The third act changes the format some as we flashback to see Tyler and Kassi’s movements over a time period that we had already seen.  This technique has been used very effectively over the years, and this works here too.  The conclusion of the film is controversial and I can see where some viewers may not have enjoyed it.  I do not want to spoil it, but the conclusion could be divisive.  It did seem to be out of character and made me worry for the future of said character. This is a quiet little movie that deals with some strong character work with some talented actors.  The film does a great job in unnerving the audience and keeps you just uncertain enough to make you question what you know.

3.9 stars   

Creepshow (1982)

The EYG Horror Halloween Bingefest resumed this week with a horror/comedy anthology movie called Creepshow, directed by George A. Romero and written by Stephen King.

Creepshow is a compilation of five short stories brought together with the framing technique of stories from a horror comic owned by a young boy (Joe King) that had been thrown out by his loud and obnoxious father (Tom Atkins).

From there we move around to the different stories that feature a plethora of big time stars. The cast included Hal Holbrook, Leslie Nielson, Ted Danson, Ed Harris, Adrienne Barbeau, Stephen King, E.G. Marshall, Fritz Weaver, Don Keefer among others.

The movie was a serious slice of 1980s. There is no doubt which decade this film was created in. Watching it now gave me a huge feeling of nostalgia and that helped the presentation of the stories. The dark humor was funny as well, with a lot of irony cutting through the darkness.

My personal favorites of the anthology were “Something to Tide You Over” with Leslie Nielson looking to exact some revenge on Ted Danson, and “The Crate” where a certain monstrous creature arrives in a crate and goes about killing several people. Both of these were a hoot to watch.

The film was uneven, as some of the moments of Creepshow were not up to par as some others, but it was a lot of fun to watch. I especially enjoyed the comic book motif that was scattered throughout the film.

Certainly a horror/comedy classic and you may never look at a cockroach the same way again.

The Lie

The-Lie-poster - Daily Dead

The second movie from Blumhouse released on Amazon Prime this October is a huge step down from the first one that I watched. In fact, i would go as far as to say that The Lie is a truly gross movie.

Jay (Peter Sarsgaard) has to take his daughter Kayla (Joey King) to a dance camp in place of his ex-wife Rebecca (Mireille Enos). Along the way, they pick up one of Kayla’s friends Britney (Devery Jacobs) who was also heading to the dance camp. However, this moment lead to a terrible circumstance that would change the balance of their relationship forever.

I really did not like this movie. The situation was just ripe with nothing more than melodrama and ridiculous choices. When Jay and Rebecca began covering up for their daughter, the levels of plausibility just went through the roof and you could see that they were doing things that no right thinking person would do. There is better decision making on soap operas.

Jay and Rebecca did not seem to worry too much about their daughter and the fact that she appeared to be quite sociopathic at worst and manipulative at best. When Rebecca’s father (Cas Anvar) showed up, the film took an even worse route with Jay and Rebecca doing some of the most horrific things.

As if that was not enough, the film tossed in a little police racism, with one of the investigating officers, Detective Barnes (Nicholas Lea), asking about his nationality.

Then, there was a twist ending that totally came out of nowhere and that made zero sense. In fact, the way this film ended gave us even more proof that Kayla was sociopathic. She needs immediate and repetitive therapy.

The film debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2018, but had not been released until this month. There is an obvious reason why the movie had this long of a wait to be released. It was just a repulsive film with some of the most obnoxious characters as lead roles you have seen in a long time. Performances were okay, at best, but honestly, some of the shrieks were so over the top I did not believe any of them were real. Motivations were muddled and choices were brazen. Watch Black Box instead.

1.6 stars