Lovecraftian Re-Lives (The Resurrected, 1991)

The_Resurrected_PosterThe wife of scientist Charles Dexter Ward has hired the private investigator John March ti find out what secret her husband has been hiding.  She knows he has been conducting mysterious experiments at an ancient home he has recently inherited.

What they discover is that his is exploring paths mankind should not dare…and the results are potentially blasphemous.

One of two films ever directed by Alien screen writer Dan O’Bannon, the Resurrected never gained the status of his other film, Return of the Living Dead. And, to a certain extent, I get it. Unlike Return of the Living Dead, this is based on a Lovecraft story.  It is also set in genre of a Detective Noir.

Lovecraft can be very tough to adapt, and the screenwriter Brent Friedman’s decision to make it a Detective Story allows the basic structure to stay in place, since the original story is a doctor investigating the disappearance of Ward.

The performances are good in the film, with the small cast being made up of familiar supporting players and headed up by Fright Night’s Chris Sarandon.

The visual effects are quite good, with some very good creature designs.

This was meant to be a theatrical release, but the studio that produced it went bankrupt, which led to a home video release. In addition, apparently, the studio made rather large edits against the wishes of O’Bannon.  But the released version is a good little supernatural detective yarn worth a watch.

Overwatch (The Sentinel, 1977)

The_Sentinel_PosterModel Alison Parker is looking to get a bit of space in her relationship with lawyer Michael. Her apartment search leads to an old building with furnished apartments that affordable.

After moving in she starts to have fainting spells while on photo shoots. She is also getting to know her rather eccentric neighbors. There is Charles, who tells her about the other tenants, Gerde and Sandra and the old priest they never see who lives upstairs.

In one very uncomfortable scene, Sandra starts masturbating as Alison tries to avoid watching. This scene is as awkward for the viewer as much as Alison. The police are investigating Alison’s situation, with an eye on her boyfriend, who they suspect may have killed his wife. MeanwhileMichael is looking into her neighbors and makes a disturbing discovery…but not quite as disturbing as the one Alison makes when speaking with the woman who showed her the apartment. She and the priest are the only two occupants.

Michael Winner, director of several Charles Bronson films (including the first three Death Wish movies) both wrote and directed this supernatural thriller. And it is pretty good.  The film has some genuinely solid scares. In one scene, Christina is walking through her building in the dark when suddenly a creepy pale and neatly naked figure walks past her unexpectedly.  She is horrified to realize it is her abusive father, who is recently deceased.

The film is a bit infamous for using people with very real deformities in the grand finale, and while it is startling, it also feels incredibly exploitive. Burgess Meredith make a fine creepy old guy who seems harmless and kind (if odd) when we first meet, only to discover he had sinister and cruel motives all along.

The film is also kind of notable for early film roles for Jeff Goldblum and Christopher Walken.

Winner has created a (very) minor horror classic in the vein of an old haunted house movie. It has some real chills and has a rather interesting ending.

Mid-Life Crisis (Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, 1993)

the-nightmare-before-christmas-posterAt the time when Disney was still experiencing their 2D Renaissance, Tim Burton and Director Henry Selick brought us this stop motion classic.

The story follows Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town (in a world where Holidays all have their own town).  As another Halloween comes to a close, the monsters of Halloween Town celebrate.  But Jack feels like life is missing something…and while wandering through a forest, he discovers Christmas Town.  Jack believes this is the answer he has been looking for and aims to step in and give Christmas Town some time off.

Jack has Halloween Town citizens creating toys and decorations…but because they are monsters, they make scary toys and decorations.  Of course, nothing quite goes the way Jack had hoped.  One citizen, Sally, is in love with Jack and tries to steer him from making a terrible mistake…but Jack is one determine skeleton.

Visually, The Nightmare Before Christmas is darkly beautiful.  The stop motion puppets have a delightful and yet scary design.  The songs, by Danny Elfman, are infectious (try and not get sucked into singing This Is Halloween or Making Christmas) and yet heartfelt.  Part of what makes it work is how earnest Jack is.  He is genuinely enthralled by Christmas Town.  He really thinks he is doing a good deed.

This is a real joy of a film, having earned it’s place as a Christmas Classic.

Boys and Ghouls Goes to the Movies Part 2 (Tales From the Crypt Presents Bordello of Blood, 1996)

TFtC_Bordello_PosterDemon Knight was received well enough to not deter the Tales From the Crypt Crew to keep on with their plan of a franchise with Bordello of Blood a year later.  The film had an all new story, though they included a tie to the last in that the magical macguffin is the “key” from the previous film.  But this time it is the only thing that can keep Lilith (Angie Everhart)  the Queen and Mother of All Vampires in check.

Bordello of Blood feels like a regular episode simply stretched to long and thin.  The little brother (Corey Feldman) of young Katherine Verdoux (Erika Eleniak) has disappeared.  She ends up enlisting skeevy P.I. Rafe Guttman (Dennis Miller in his first and really last leading role) to find her brother.  We viewers know he went to a new bordello (hint, it is the titular Bordello of Blood).  There we discovered that Lilith has apparently made a ton of attractive women into vampires who kill their customers.

Then there is a subplot involving Katherine’s employer.  She works for a megachurch televangelist named Reverend Current (he has an “electric” theme) played by Chris Sarandon.  He apparently employed man of adventure Vincent Prather (Phil Fondacaro in a role that is not all about his height, which is a nice surprise) to get Lilith for him.  So, the Preacher is controlling Lilith to be used in his battle against…Satan or…Something?

The film is more in line with the the TV series.  It has lots of slapstick type of jokes, gratuitous gore, and it has HBO’s trademarked “Tons O’ Nudity”.

According to one of the producers, Miller flat out stated he would not say any of the written dialog, instead making up his own, usually the day of.  If this is accurate at all, it only ended up hurting the film.  The jokes from everyone tend to fall flat. The plot makes little sense (What exactly does Reverend Current hope to accomplish with a vampire?!) and even by “Dumb Horror Film” standards, it is not entertaining even in a terrible way.

The characters are not particularly likable.  They are sleazy jerks, or in the case of Katherine, uptight and overly prudish.  Miller has his trademark snark in full display, but it works against him, because his character (technically our hero) is a real douche.

All the roles for women are based on being sexually desirable, which is frustrating, especially when you consider that in Demon Knight, character was more important and the roles for women were more substantial.

It is no surprise that the film franchise took a hit, and enough that the third movie was released with all hints of the franchise cut out.

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