31 In 31: Tales From The Crypt: Demon Knight

Seeing as we had a Tales From The Crypt ripoff reviewed, why not review a Tales From The Crypt film.

Frank Brayker (William Sadler) is on the run from The Collector (Billy Zane). In Frank's possession is an artifact shaped like a key. Taking shelter in a boarding house with a various assortment of cliches, including: ex-con Jeryline, (Jada Pinkett) town drunk Uncle Willie, (Dick Miller) antagonistic cook Roach (Thomas Haden Church) and boarding house owner Irene (CCH Pounder).

Meanwhile, The Collector notifies two police officers that Frank is a threat. The three then head out and locate Frank. Before long, The Collector reveals himself to be evil by killing one of the officers and demanding the key artifact. Frank uses a liquid inside the artifact to keep The Collector at bay. The Collector then summons his own batch of demons to invade the boarding house and retrieve the key at any cost.

This is a fun little film that takes the best elements from the Tales From The Crypt television show and incorporates them into a film. You got yourself over the top violence, random sex, swearing and an entertaining plot.... even if it makes no sense.

The plot consists of something about demons roaming the world in darkness and using seven of the key artifacts to control the power. God intervened and scattered the keys so that light in the world... you know what, instead here is the back story from Wikipedia: "Following the creation of Earth by God, there were demons in the darkness who used seven keys for focus the power of the cosmos into their hands. When discovered, God created light that scattered the demons and the keys across the universe. The artifact that Brayker holds is the last key they need to reclaim power, and to protect it God had a thief named Sirach fill the artifact with the blood of Jesus Christ at the crucifixion, which is what creates the seals that repel the demons and prevents them from touching it. The guardians of the key, immortal while holding it, have since been passing it on, refilling it with their own blood when they die; Brayker received the key from his superior officer duringWorld War I"

Still makes no sense, but what does it matter? When you go to a movie with Tales From The Crypt in the title, you don't go for plot. Instead, the movie delivers on many of its (low) standards and promises. The film is not longer than it should be and all the actors in this film seem to know what type of film they are in as all of them have fun with their roles.

The role of roles though, goes to Billy Zane's Collector. I know I can be crucified for this, but Zane's performance steals the show so much, it could almost be Oscar-worthy. This is the role Billy Zane was made for and he embellishes every second of it. Using his persuasiveness, The Collector is equal parts charming, funny, terrifying or combinations of both. This is truly Billy Zane's film.

In the end, this is an awful movie, but for a Tales From The Crypt movie, this is top notch. With decent directing from Ernest Dickerson, an imaginative (if convoluted) plot and all actors bringing fun to the movie, this is a very entertaining affair.

Plus, Billy Zane is truly amazing in this film.

31 In 31: Tales From The Hood

What would a review of Halloween films be without a Tales From The Crypt rip-off?

What we have here are four stories with a wrap-around segment. As I did with my prior review about V/H/S I will review each story separately.

Welcome to my Mortuary

The wrap-around segment consists of three stereotypical gang members who arrive at a local funeral home looking for "shit". What is "the shit"? It's never explained, though one can assume drugs. If it is drugs, why not just say that? I mean if some stereotypical gang members come up asking me about "shit" I'd be dead cause I have no idea what they are talking about. Whatever this "shit" is, the gang members know that the "shit" is in the funeral home and want it badly. Unfortunately, the funeral owner Mr. Simms (Clarence Williams III) is very eccentric and decides to tell them spooky tales first while the gang members fumble around the place. Eventually, the final story ties into the three gang members' story and it is revealed in predictable fashion that they are dead, Mr. Simms is Satan and no one gets any "shit". Sorry.

Rogue Cop Revelation

What an awful title for this segment. Anyway, four stereotypical white cops who also happen to be racists... yeah, I was shocked too, led by Newton (Michael Massee) along with a new cop who is black, Clarence Smith (Anthony Griffith) and is not racist... again, I was shocked, all arrive at a routine traffic stop of black politician, Martin Moorehouse (Tom Wright). The stop does not go as planned and the cops kill the politician, plant drugs on him and send him into the water. One year later, Clarence is no longer a cop, an alcoholic and suffers from guilt. All the cops, with Clarence, gather at the grave of Martin who is then resurrected. Martin exacts his revenge on the four, white cops then berates Clarence for not doing anything to stop his death. Martin then makes it appear that Clarence killed everyone. Nothing new and very, very predictable. Fin.

Boys Do Get Bruised

Writer and Director Rusty Cundieff stars as Richard Garvy, a sensitive teacher to Walter (Brandon Hammond) who, on a daily basis, sports new bruises on his body. Walter continuously mentions being tormented by a monster, who Richard brings up to his mother Sissy (Paula Jai Parker) and her boyfriend Carl (David Alan Grier). I am not a David Alan Grier fan, but his, albeit, brief performance in this story steals the show. His role is dark and frightening and pulled off very well. Considering the types of horror stories in this film, this is probably the best as for the most part, the horror of this film is really grounded.

KKK Comeuppance

Alright, the corny segments return with Corbin Bernsen playing Duke Metger: stereotypical Southern, racist senator. Duke resides in a former plantation which Black and Jewish persons protest on a daily basis. Duke has a large painting of a voodoo witch on one of his walls. After the death of his image maker, dolls of the witch appear and attempt to extract revenge on the racist Duke. Corbin Bernsen hams it up as his anger against the revenge-seeking dolls becomes more violent. This is one of the more predictable stories of the bunch and the only entertainment of this film is the cheese ball factor. Nothing special here.

Hard-Core Convert

Stereotypical gang member Crazy K (Lamont Bentley) attempts to kill and old rival. Instead he is almost killed by three stereotypical gang members (I wonder who they are?). After recovering, Crazy K is serving life in prison when he is visited by Dr. Cushing (Rosalind Cash) who transfers him to a separate facility. Here, Crazy K is put in place with a crazy white supremacist (Not Corbin Bernsen) then placed into a sensory deprivation chamber where all the persons he has killed haunt him. Dr. Cushing offers him a chance to forgive and save his soul. Crazy K defies her with his arrogance and it is revealed that these are his final moments on the street after being shot. A decent attempt at a morality tale.

Overall, this is a mixed bag of a film that worked better when I was younger and didn't know better. As it is, there is a decent mood and about two stories are worth watching and a really good performance from David Alan Grier. If you can get past the annoying wrap around where gang members supposedly use about four words in their entire vocabulary, you might find yourself a decent horror anthology. Unfortunately, an attempt could have been made to not be so stereotypical regarding just about every character in the film. This could have been better, but certainly could have been worse. Just don't expect the reinvention of the wheel.


Ben Affleck makes it three for three in the directing department.

Set in 1979 during the Iranian hostage crisis, Argo follows six embassy staff members who escape from the U.S. Embassy in Iran and take refuge in the home of Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor (Victor Garber). The Iranians who have taken over the embassy are working to verify if anyone has escaped their takeover. The Canadian Ambassador knows if he is caught harboring the six escapees; the six, himself and all inside the home will be killed. The State Department understands that this is a time sensitive issue and contacts CIA specialist Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) to assist with an extraction process.

After shooting down various ways to get the six out of Iran, Tony brings forth an idea to set up a fake movie that wants to shoot in Iran and include the six staff members as the film crew. Tony enlists Hollywood makeup artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) with creating all that is needed for the fake, science fiction film: Argo.

Once set up, Tony then flies to Iran and meets up with the six staff members at Ken Taylor's home. He informs them of the plan, and with the help of his superior, Jack O'Donnell, (Bryan Cranston) Tony attempts to lead the six staff members through Iran posing as the film crew and out of Iran without being captured or killed.

Ben Affleck directs this film with a mostly solid eye, and does not often let the film meander too far from the two major plots that are going on. If there was one issue with the film, it lies with the fact that too many unnecessary characters are included. We are introduced to various characters for one scene, only to never be seen again. I understand that each character does serve a purpose, but some things could have easily been cut for the sake of time.

And speaking of the sake of time, Ben Affleck occasionally cuts back to the Iranian hostage crisis at the U.S. Embassy to focus on the hostages. As the plot is about the six staff members that escaped, it feels like Ben Affleck would occasionally lose focus of the plot about the six and want to cover the entire Iranian hostage crisis. This only occurs a few times, but each time it jarringly pulls you out of the film, even if it is only briefly.

This film could have used another run through by the editor, but overall this is an exceptional film. Ben Affleck gives the feel of a 1970's thriller as the film is focused on the plot and not a lot of sensational elements. Some criticism has been made about why Ben Affleck plays the role of someone who in real life was Latino. I have no clue as to why, but his performance in this film is well done. Also well done are the film's opening and penultimate scenes that depict the initial takeover of the U.S. Embassy and the attempted escape by Tony and the six staff members.

Argo deserves the praise it is getting as the film is well acted, directed and one of the best films of the year.



Tim Burton makes his best film since 1996's Mars Attacks... unfortunately, it came from an idea he had in 1984.

Frankenweenie tells the story of young Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) and his beloved dog Sparky; living in the quaint town of New Holland. Victor is an exceptionally smart kid, but also a lonely one. His father Edward (Martin Short) suggests that Victor play baseball in an effort to be a more personable kid. Victor gives it a whirl, and while playing, loyal Sparky ends up on the wrong end of a car accident.

Missing his best friend, Victor takes an idea from the local science teacher, Mr. Rzykruski (Martin Landau) and decides to try and reanimate Sparky. Victor being the smart kid he is, brings Sparky back to life and the two friends reunite. As bringing Sparky back to life might upset certain people, Victor decides that he has to hide Sparky.

Determined to not stay hidden for long, Sparky makes his way about town and is discovered by a local kid Edgar E. Gore (Atticus Shaffer). In exchange for keeping quiet, Edgar demands from Victor to help him reanimate another animal so Edgar has a project for the local science fair. Victor complies, but this attempt at reanimation does not go entirely as planned. Soon, Victor's secret leaks about town and he must find a way to keep the locals calm, control other students attempts at reanimation and rescue the entire town.

As stated, Frankenweenie is a really good film and feels like old school Tim Burton. The one thing that disappoints me is that this idea is almost 30 years old, right around when Tim Burton was beginning to make his name in Hollywood. The original idea was a 30 minute live action short made in 1984. The same basic premise stays, but has been elongated to fill a feature length running time.

My quibble about the film not being a new and fresh idea aside, this is a very lovely stop motion, animated film. The simple story involving a boy who loves his dog even after death is simple enough. As the film goes on, though, that basic idea is almost cast aside in favor of turning the film into a classic 50's monster film. This is not a bad idea, as I am not sure if Victor and his dog would be able to fill the runtime adequately. As the film speeds into its third act, the film changes, but in a very entertaining way.

Overall, a welcome return for Tim Burton and a film that is thoroughly enjoyable as a fantasy, comedy and horror film.



31 In 31: The Thing

I know I have been away for a while. Things have come up and have taken my time away from reviews, but I will try to provide some 31 In 31 reviews plus a couple of new films as well.

Onward, though, with one of the greatest horror films of all time: John Carpenter's The Thing.

Kurt Russell stars as R.J. MacReady; helicopter pilot for Antarctic research facility Outpost 31. Him and a various assortment of blue collar workers are doing research when their work is interrupted by the appearance of local Norwegian scientists.

The scientists are vigorously pursuing a dog in their helicopter, using a sniper rifle and dynamite. The helicopter and its pilot are blown up while the rifleman wounds a member of Outpost 31 before being killed by station commander Garry (Donald Moffat). The dog survives and becomes close to loner, Clark (Richard Masur).

Unknown to the inhabitants of Outpost 31, that the dog is an alien that has assimilated the dog and can imitate anything it touches. Before long, The Thing begins taking shape of some of the residents of Outpost 31, prompting paranoia amongst the rest over who is human.

Why am I going over the plot for this film? This is a brilliant film directed by John Carpenter and should be watched immediately if not seen before. The amount of dread and paranoia that John Carpenter, the actors and film crew are able to produce is amazing in itself. The film is mainly contained to within the confines of Outpost 31.

We are subjected to spending time with the few members of Outpost 31, not knowing if we are watching the actual character, or a Thing. And that is the main reason for the power of this film. We, the audience, never know who is who. Even at the end, doubts linger as to who might still be The Thing, if anyone at all.

Top that off with a great, bleak ending, you have yourself a great horror film that should be seen. And if you have seen it, certainly warrants repeat viewings.


31 In 31: A Simple Plan

Not what some might consider a horror film, Sam Raimi's adaptation of the book of the same name provides enough horror and tension to be warranted.

Brothers Hank and Jacob Mitchell (Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton) along with Jacob's friend Lou (Brent Briscoe), discover a crashed plane deep in the woods. Inside, Hank discovers a dead pilot and a bad containing 4.4 million dollars in bills. The three friends make a pact to keep the money, but wait until Spring to split the money just in case someone begins to look for the money. As Lou is the town drunk and Jacob is dim-witted, Hank decides to keep the stash of money at his house with his wife, Sarah (Bridget Fonda).

Sarah loves the idea of having the money as Sarah and Hank barely get by with their incomes. Hank still tries to be responsible and keep the money closely guarded, but when Lou drunkenly keeps bothering Hank for some of the money and Jacob is unable to keep his mouth shut, especially around Sheriff Carl Jenkins (Chelcie Ross), Hank begins to turn to desperate measures to ensure they are able to keep the money.

Sam Raimi brings us a cold, dark film that really works. All the actors bring their game and you buy their personalities. Filling the screen with crows, snow and dead trees, Raimi ensures that the audience does not have a good time and consistently lays on the feeling of dread and despair.

The one minor quibble I do have with this story is regarding Sarah. Almost immediately within Hank bringing the money into their house, she is absolutely gung-ho about keeping the money. She acts almost as Hank's devil on his shoulder as she keeps mentioning to Hank what he needs to do in order to keep the money safe and in  their hands. The way her character turns absolutely evil right from the get-go does not feel natural to me.

Overall, though, Sam Raimi and his cast provide a great thriller. Though low on blood, guts and gore, there is no reason this film should be considered less than a great horror film.

31 In 31: Killer Klowns From Outer Space

Is it a comedy or a horror film? A good mix of both.

In 1988, The Chiodo Brothers wrote and directed what is now considered a cult classic. The film tells the tale of a small town that has to band together to fight a race of aliens that resemble clowns. The aliens capture humans inside cotton candy-shaped cocoons and harvest them by drinking their blood.

Beyond that, the film is filled with great make up effects and a nice sense of dark humor. Just about every cliche about clowns that you can think of is thrown into this film. From the aforementioned cotton candy cocoons to a circus tent space ship to balloon animals. All those gags are here and used to (somewhat) gruesome effect for a PG-13 film.

The humans are your stereotypical bunch including the town lovebirds who stumble upon the clowns. You got the local sheriff and the police officer who does not believe a word about these homicidal clowns. You even have an ice cream truck driver. All the wacky characters and stock archetypes of a cheesy b-movie film are here.

The standouts in the film, though, are the clowns and their accessories used within the film. The designs of the clowns themselves are impressive, especially considering the low budget of the film. This film is a perfect type  of a fun, low budget horror film. Even with the shoddy acting, this film has plenty of charm. The tone of the film straddles goofy comedy and obscure horror.

The Chiodo Brothers make a loving, low budget film that never feels forced. With an interesting idea and some great practical effects, this is a really fun film that needs to keep finding more of an audience.


31 In 31: Event Horizon

Did Paul W.S. Anderson actually make a good film? No.

Riding the success of Mortal Kombat, W.S. took on an R-rated horror film in space about a crew led by Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne) to board the Event Horizon, a ship that disappeared for seven years. Along with the rag tag crew of cliches is the ship's designer Dr. William Weir (Sam Neill).

Where the ship has been and what happened to the ship's crew are the main points of order for Miller and his crew aboard the Lewis and Clark. Once on board the ship, however, they see no signs of the crew but find evidence that they are not alone.

Event Horizon is basically Hellraiser in space. Obviously, being W.S., this film is nowhere near on par with the original Hellraiser and its creator, Clive Barker. What we do have, though, is a decent horror film with a lot of style and energy. Paul W.S. Anderson makes good use of his sets and lighting to create a somewhat effective horror film.

The two lead actors, Laurence Fishburne and Sam Neill provide some weight to a corny script, though as the film progresses, the acting gets more over the top. Sam Neill especially becomes more over the top as the film goes along. Having to recite some of the over the top dialogue that Laurence Oilvier couldn't say without getting a chuckle out of the audience.

The awful dialogue comes courtesy of Philip Eisner, with an uncredited rewrite by Andrew Kevin Walker. It is unknown how much AKW brought to the script, but as Eisner is the only writer credited, one can wonder. Either way, this is not a script that I would want at the top of my resume.

Not a lot more can be said about this film. It is nowhere near a classic in the horror genre, but it serves its purpose and doesn't hang around too long. Plus, in Paul W.S. Anderson's career, this is much better than the Resident Evil films and Death Race. A win for W.S. I guess.

Along with Sam Neill, Event Horizon is kind enough to provide us with Richard T. Jones and Jack Noseworthy. A win for the audience.

31 In 31: Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare

Yes, the tagline for this film is "They Saved the Best for Last"....

Like usual, advertising lies. Rachel Talalay brings us probably the most incomprehensible Nightmare on Elm Street film in the entire franchise. Freddy Kruger (Robert Englund) is stuck in Springwood, Ohio and all of the kids in town are dead; save for one mysterious guy who goes by John Doe (Shon Greenblatt).

John is thrust out of Springwood with no recollection of who he is and what is going on. He stumbles to a local  youth shelter where he meets with care giver Maggie Burroughs (Lisa Zane) and misfits Spencer, Tracy and Carlos (Breckin Meyer, Lezlie Deane and Ricky Dean Logan). Maggie attempts to have John try to remember details about his life by dreaming, wherein he begins to dream about Freddy and Springwood.

Maggie decides to take John to Springwood, accidentally bringing Spencer, Tracy and Carlos along to be Freddy's fodder. A plot that makes no sense later, Maggie, John and the kids must struggle to get out of Springwood and destroy Freddy Kruger once and for all.

Make no mistake, this is a god awful film. The script makes no sense; something about Freddy struggling to leave Springwood and take his show on the road... I really don't know. Along with that, director Talalay infuses the film with an intense supply of humor ranging from sight gags to cameos for no reason (including Tom Arnold, Roseanne Barr, Johnny Depp and Alice Cooper to name a few). The humor really does not work and due to the large amounts of humor heaped onto this film, horror and suspense falls by the wayside.

Possibly the worst aspect of this film is the end. Freddy's final battle and how that is resolved is horrendous. From the lame use of 3-D to the dream demons and onward to Freddy's end all feel very uninspired. It is sad to look at where A Nightmare on Elm Street started and, at the time, this was how it was going to end. "Kids..."

Now, on the flip side, I still find this film somewhat enjoyable on a purely dumb level. Most of the gags fall flat, but some of them are entertaining... maybe because the rest of the film is that bad. The recurring house sequence, and Spencer's dream including the infamous "Power Glove" line are some of the so bad, it's good segments. Not to say that they are good by any means, but they stand out more than the rest of this cluster of a film.

Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare is a mixed bag of awful and less awful segments. On the plus side, I still think it is better than Nightmare 2 and 5. That has to count for something, right? Yes?


31 In 31: Misery

Rob Reiner brings one of the best adaptations of Stephen King's work.

Paul Sheldon (James Caan) is a successful novelist who specializes in a series of boks featuring a character named Misery Chastain. After completing his latest novel, which does not include Misery, Paul sets out to Los Angeles during a blizzard. He loses control of his 1965 Mustang and crashes. Local resident Annie Wilkes "happens" to be near, drags Paul from his car and takes him to her house.

Annie is a nurse who bandages Paul up and provides medicine. She reveals herself to be Paul's number one fan; even naming her pet pig Misery. Annie lets Paul know that the phone lines are down and that all roads into town are blocked. Though, thankfully for Paul, Annie states that she will take care of Paul in the meantime.

Slowly, though, Paul realizes that Annie is an obsessed fan who is unhinged. Annie continues to make excuses as to why she hasn't taken him to the doctors and has random moments of outbursts at Paul, especially regarding Misery. After picking up the last book in the Misery saga, Misery's Child, Annie cannot take the idea that Paul killed off the Misery character to focus on book non-Misery-related. Annie decides to keep Paul at her house while Paul writes a new novel to bring Misery Chastain back to life.

As Paul is trapped within Annie' house, his publisher Marcia Sindell (Lauren Bacall) contacts local sheriff Buster (Richard Farnsworth) inquiring about him being missing. Buster begins looking into Paul's disappearance and he sets off on a path that will cross with both Paul Sheldon and Annie Wilkes.

Rob Reiner directs Misery like a play. Most of the main story takes place in Annie's house; mainly in Paul's bedroom. Reiner directs these scenes initially very loose, almost bordering on some light-hearted humor, but then surprises us when Annie's psychotic side comes out. When we follow Buster and his b-story, he interacts mainly with his on-screen partner and wife Virginia (Frances Sternhagen). The interactions between these two characters is jovial and cute as they flirt with each other while trying to solve the Paul Sheldon mystery.

As most Stephen King adaptations are horribly executed, it is always nice to enjoy a film that isn't (as someone close to me would say) complete balls. Anchored by two strong performances, including Kathy Bates and her Academy Award winning role and sure-handed direction, this is a very good horror film.


31 In 31: Saw II

In a time before the country was saturated with the Saw franchise, there was the first sequel.

Police detective Eric Matthews (Donnie not Mark Wahlberg) is a single father who has trouble communicating with his son, Daniel. Called to the scene of a completed Jigsaw trap, Eric is able to piece together, with his partner, Kerry (Dina Meyer) the location of John Kramer's (Tobin Bell) lair. John is considerably weak from his cancer, but states that he needs Eric to stay and talk with him as Daniel's life depends on it.

John reveals that a group of strangers are locked in a house that is slowly being filled with a nerve agent. John states that in 2 hours, all parties in the house including Jigsaw survivor Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith). While a SWAT team works to track the location of Daniel and the other in the house, John and Eric engage in conversation.

In the house, the survivors slowly learn that the house has been booby-trapped beyond the nerve agent seeping in. An antidote is also revealed to be located within the house, but the persons inside have to resort to a mob mentality to try and survive.

This is a film of 2 separate stories. The nerve agent house consists of 8 separate characters who are fighting to survive. The other is a battle of mind games between John Kramer and Eric Matthews. The nerve agent house sequences are the least interesting as they sum up what the Saw franchise turned into. We have traps, grisly deaths and lots of over-acting.

What sets this film apart are the sequences of dialogue between John and Eric. Tobin's performance as John in this film is what I feel is the pinnacle of the character. Unbeknownst to Eric, John is holding all of the cards. Eric feels that he can use his muscle to overpower the physically, but not mentally, weak John. The battle of wits between these 2 characters really elevates this film.

Overall, this is a solid entry into the Saw franchise. Not the best, but when this movie is good, it is really good. Tobin Bell, as he does with the entire franchise, anchors this film and gives weight to what could have been just another slasher film.