Category Archives: Saturday is Horror Day

Saturday is Horror Day #25 – Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave, The Lighthouse

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

The Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave

Just when you thought the zombies were a thing of the past…. Uncle Charles (Peter Coyote) is determined to make money from the cannisters of Trioxin he looted from the Army. He sells one to foreign agents, but they insist on a demonstration. To prove that this is the real deal, he injects a couple of dead bodies. Is anyone surprised when this goes horribly wrong? Little does anyone know that he has two more cannisters hidden away in his brother’s attic.

 

Charles has been raising his nephew Julian (John Keefe) since the death of their parents. Naturally Julian is devastated to be handed at note, while at school, telling him of the death of his uncle. Alone in his late parents’ house, he begins to tidy things up and comes across something weird in the attic. Looks like something was dragged, but to where? He enters a secret door only to discover two strange metal cannisters.

Julian calls his girlfriend Jenny (Jenny Mollen) and then they decide to consult with their nerd friend 

Cody (Cody Hardrict). Cody runs some tests and determines that the liquid inside the cannister has some properties very similar to ecstasy. Against Julian’s wishes, he produces large quantities of the stuff in order to make some money. Luckily for him, raves are popular, and Halloween is only a week away. Jenny’s brother, Jeremy (Cain Manoli) is throwing a huge rave. What better way to turn people on and make money? Unbeknownst to all of them, though, two Russian Interpol agents are on the case, Aldo (Claudiu Bleont) and Gino (Sorin Cocis). 

I am really glad that this is the last of this series, cause it’s really abysmal. I suspect they were going for a combination of humor and horror, but what they came up with was just cringe and suck. Some people might consider it so stupid it’s funny, but I’m not one of them. First off, these are the same characters from the last film and yet none of the kids remember the zombies, seemingly, and seem shocked at what they discover in the cannister. Also, what happened to Julian’s little brother Jake? Nowhere to be seen. 

In each film the zombies get worse and worse. But in this one, they are using the drug known as Z and producing zombies out of live people, which makes no sense. If zombies are dead people brought back to “life” – and I use the term loosely – then how can you take living people and create zombies?

The Interpol agents are ridiculous and cartoonish, but I suspect they are meant to double as comic relief. But I did some digging and I discovered that Interpol works with government agencies, but does not have its own agents. It’s purpose is intelligence, not enforcement. So that whole subplot sucks from the start. Not to mention the ridiculous shooting that goes on.

Another thing I disliked was that the filmmaker took every opportunity he could find – even if he had to create them – to show naked boobs. Like a college frat boy gone wild, as though he’s never seen them before (who knows, maybe he hasn’t).

This film isn’t funny and it isn’t scary, and I would not recommend it. I’m giving it a very shaky 1 Star just because someone might appreciate the stupidity.

The Lighthouse

Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) and Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) arrived together on a remote island to serve a four week maintenance shift. Wake is a veteran lightkeeper, while Winslow is new at the task, having previously been a lumberjack. He is to replace a former partner of Wake, who went mad.

 

 

The cantankerous Wake is quick to let Winslow know how it’s going to be, and he will be the one in charge, no matter what the manual says. And that includes keeping watch in the lamp. Winslow grumbles but there isn’t anything he can do about it. The older man is a harsh taskmaster and bullies his young assistant, forcing him to work harder and harder. Winslow is stewing, both about his treatment, and because of lack of access to the lamp, which bothers him no end.

 

Winslow can’t help but wonder what is happening up in the lamp, but Wake keeps it locked and Winslow can’t get to the key. A teetotaler when he arrived, Wake has him drinking more and more until they become regular drinking buddies. Winslow found a small figuring of a mermaid, and in his quieter moments, he masturbates to its image. One time he caught a glimpse inside the lamp, and oh what he saw….

Bothered by a sea gull, Winslow kills it, despite having been told by Wake that that is the worst thing a sailor can do. And sure enough, a rough wind begins to blow, bringing a terrible storm, and they are unable to get off the island when they’re supposed to because no ship can get close enough. It’s only a matter of time until truths come out, and true ugliness is revealed.

 

This is one unusual film. Directed by Robert Eggers, and written by Robert and Max Eggers, it is a deep look into the psyche of two men whom circumstances bring together, and whose very isolation threatens them both. The film is shot in black and white, which only enhances the eerie quality of the story. There is some damn fine photography here, so let me give a shout out to the director of photography, Jarin Blaschke.  And the film editor, Louise Ford. These are two very fine performances by Dafoe and Pattinson, for which I understand they received no recognition at all from the Oscars. Not surprising if you consider that those awards are so politically based it’s not funny, and an Oscar is basically meaningless anymore.

If you watch the film and have to look up what the ending means, don’t feel bad, I did too. But wait until it’s over, let it sink in for a moment, then read to your heart’s content. This is a very fine film, and I’ll give it a string 4.5 Stars.

Saturday is Horror Day #24 – The Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis, The Hole in the Ground, A Christmas Horror Story

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis

Julian Garrison (John Keefe) and his brother Jake (Alexandru Geoana) are orphans, their parents having died in a car accident. The boys are being raised by their Uncle Charles (Peter Coyote), who doesn’t seem to know or care anything about kids. Charles works at Hybra Tech, a huge  conglomerate that does everything from making food to making chemicals, boasting the latest in cutting edge technology.

 

Julian hangs out with a group of kids, including his “best” friend Zeke Borden (Elvin Dandel), who insists that Julian has the hots for Zeke’s girlfriend, Katie (Jana Kramer), who also works at Hybra Tech, earning money for college. Zeke is something of a bully, who makes fun of Julian when he doesn’t want to take his motorbike up a ramp and jump it. Not surprising since he took a nasty spill last time he attempted the jump. Showing off, Zeke does the jump and it doesn’t turn out well. He ends up knocked out, so the kids call an ambulance.

 

The trouble starts when Julian goes to the hospital to check on Zeke, they tell him his friend died in the ambulance. Strange thing, when he calls Katie at work to tell her the bad news, she tells Julian that she just saw Zeke being brought to Hybra in an ambulance. So what is going on here?

Julian asks his uncle, who denies that Zeke is there. But Cody (Cory Hardrict) hacks into Hybra’s 

computers and finds that Zeke is indeed there. The teens decide to go into action to rescue Zeke.

Oh, did I mention here be zombies? Courtesy of the Army, of course, with the help of Uncle Charles.

So let me just say that every entry in the Return of the Living Dead series is weaker than the one before. Hard to believe, I know. I loved the first two, not to much the next two.

The plot is contrived and ridiculous. And we still don’t know why the hell the army keeps these zombies around. Are they thinking of recruiting future soldiers from the dead? Save on pay and food? If that’s the case, they better find a manual on zombie control, because they don’t have it. The acting isn’t particularly good, not even Peter Coyote (who has done better films). There is one scene where a teen cries over a death, and his crying sounded incredibly fake/forced.

The soundtrack wasn’t particularly memorable, being part of the school of let’s slap some sort of heavy metal onto this and call it done. Real teenagers would not be this stupid, either. I don’t recommend watching this. I even lost track of the action a couple times because I was bored. I’ll give this a very shaky 1.5 Stars.

The Hole in the Ground

Single mother Sarah (Seána Kerslake) moves her son Chris (James Quinn Markey) and herself to the Irish countryside, presumably to start over. Chris is something of an introvert, and frightened of spiders, but very close to his mother. On the way to their home, they have an unsettling encounter with their neighbor, Noreen (Kati Outinen). The older woman, who appears to be demented in some way, besides appearing out of nowhere and almost causing an accident insists that Chris is not Sarah’s son!

Exploring the land around their home, Sarah comes across an enormous sinkhole, and finds herself concerned for her son’s well-being. The old woman’s words continue to haunt her, which isn’t helped by the woman’s unexpected death. Suddenly, Sarah seems to see Chris differently, and she doesn’t like what she sees. Soon, she is doubting whether he is her son or not.

 

This is a very well-made psychological thriller, one which can make you look at your children differently and wonder. This is a real woman in a terrifying situation. You have to feel for her. What would you do if you began to think your child wasn’t really your child? Who could you confide in, when most people would think you were crazy for even suggesting such a thing. Director Lee Cronin has done a splendid job. Direction and cinematography are great, and so is the acting. 

Granted, by the end of the film, I still had some questions which went unanswered, such as why has no

one reported this sinkhole or warned her about it? Surely such a thing would need to be filled in or something, right? Still, those matters aside, it’s a riveting watch and well worth the view. I give this film a solid 4 Stars.

A Christmas Horror Story

This is an anthology film with four intertwined stories that all take plus on Christmas Eve… or Krampusnacht, if you will. Santa Claus faces down a group of zombie elves, a desperate family makes a last ditch appeal to a rich relative, teenagers film a documentary of the gruesome murders that occurred at their school a year ago, and a family in crisis tries to have a normal Christmas.

 

The common thread within these stories, other than the particular night, is the ongoing narrative by a disc jockey who is stuck working on Christmas Eve, played by William Shatner. His co-worker has left the building, after giving the dj a disparaging message, and hopefully leaves to cover the food drive at the mall. Dan (William Shatner) just keeps on going.

 

Taylor (Jeff Clarke) takes his wife and two children to visit his elderly Aunt Edda (Corinne Conley), in the hopes of being able to get some money from her. What his family doesn’t know is that she has no idea they’re coming… he’s basically waylaying her. Is it surprising that she is less than enthusiastic and can see right through him from the moment of his arrival?

Molly (Zoe De Grand Maison), Dylan (Shannon Kook), and Ben (Alex Ozerov) are filming a student documentary on the disturbing events that happened at their school. But when they find themselves locked into the school at night, things take a sinister turn. Is it possible that what killed the two students still lurks inside the building?

Scott (Adrian Holmes) was the first officer on the scene of the horrific killing, and the discovery has

taken a toll, not just on him, but on his family. In an effort to put a sense of normalcy back in their lives, he proposes they go together to chop down a Chrismtas tree. However, the land he intends to do that on is marked do not tresspass. His wife Kim (Oluniká Adeliyi) doesn’t like the idea, but puts up with it for the sake of their son Will (Orion John). The parents begin to panic when Will disappears into the forest. They find him unharmed inside of a huge hollow tree. But something isn’t quite right…

You don’t usually see Christmas and horror in the same film, but you see plenty of it here, and well done at that. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was very happily surprised by what I saw. Each story is well told and well acted. We move from one to another, back and forth, as the tales unfold before our eyes. Each one is riveting and original, not your standard horror fare or Christmas either, an interesting and unique hybrid. There are plenty of scares here, lots of blood, and yet some laughter as well, albeit a mite unsettling. I bet you’ve never heard elves use the language some of these do!

William Shatner is the icing on the cake, the lone DJ who is just trying to get through the night and keep his audience entertained, while wondering where the hell his co-anchor has gotten to and why isn’t he doing what he’s supposed to. He’s very funny, and it’s always good to see him in anything.

The ending… well, I won’t give it away, I’ll just say I never saw that coming in a million years. This was a thoroughly enjoyable film, and I hope these guys make more like this. I’ll give this a strong 4.5 Stars.

Saturday is Horror Day #23 – Krampus: The Christmas Devil, Krampus (2015)

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Krampus: The Christmas Devil

As a child,  police officer Jeremy Duffin (A.J. Leslie) was abducted, dragged in a sack and tossed into a frozen lake from which he managed to escape. It’s thirty years later, and he still can’t forget. Not to mention, he is convinced that the perpetrator of that crime is still out there, and every ten years he repeats the cycle. What’s a cop gonna do?

 

 

Sure enough, it’s happening again, and Jeremy has to do something about it.  Christmas is almost upon them, and all children know that Santa wants them to be good. What they may not know is that the flip side of Santa, who deals with naughty children, is the Krampus. He’s got a list…. and he knows how to use it. Where does he get that list? From Santa Claus, of course, his brother!

 

As if this isn’t bad enough, a criminal that Jeremy put away, Brian Hatt (Bill Oberst Jr) has just been

released from prison after ten years, and of course he has revenge on his mind. Who wouldn’t, right? Which puts not only Jeremy but his wife and daughter at risk. Unbeknownst to Jeremy, his daughter Heather (Samantha Hoepfl) has also made the top of Krampus’ list! Which evil is he going to have to fight off first?

So, what can I say about this movie? I had high hopes for it which were quickly dashed. Right off the bat, the acting sucks. Big time. I’ve seen better acting from high school students. Granted, I’m sure they all tried, but they failed, rather miserably. The best acting I saw was from a minor character in the bar, and I forget his name. As bad as Jeremy is, the actress playing his wife was worse.

What else? Oh yes, the writing was horrible. Terrible script. And the fight scenes were badly choreographed and virtually non-existent. The action would always cut away so you wouldn’t really see anything and would cut back so you could view the end result. The blood looks like strawberry syrup, btw, and not the good stuff.

Krampus himself is not scary. Weird, sure. Creepy? Definitely. He is holed up in a cave or something, and keeps a child in a cage. He also has a half naked woman chained to the wall that he likes to… play with. Seriously? Wth? Why even bring that up? He’s a demon, right? I have no idea.

From the start, this movie is ridiculous and not the least bit scary. The scariest thing to me was wondering how this even got made, who wasted good money on making it. And why were there sequels? Guess I’ll find out when I watch the next one. It has to be better, right? One can hope. On that basis, I’ll give Krampus: The Christmas Devil 1 flimsy Star, and that is being generous. This isn’t a horror movie, it’s a horrible movie.

Krampus (2015)

Christmas is almost here, and it should be a time of great cheer! But young Max (Emjay Anthony) feels otherwise, since it means his horrible cousins and their parents are coming for the holiday.  Mom Sarah (Toni Collette) and dad Tom (Adam Scott) are trying to be good-natured about it, because they are family, after all. But some people are just hard to take. And as if to make matters worse, Sarah’s sister Linda (Allison Tolman) has brought along Aunt Dorothy (Conchata Ferrell). Can things get any worse?

Hell yes, it can.

It begins at dinner when Max’s cousins reveal that they’ve found Max’s letter to Santa Claus and proceed to read it in front of everyone, to Max’s mortification. Lots of personal stuff in it regarding his family and theirs, and of course the two girls don’t like what he’s said about them. A fight ensues, and ends with Max taking refuge in his room. He takes the offending letter and tears it up, then throws it out his window, where it scatters to the winds.

 

It begins with a power outage. Although technically it began with the arrival of some unexpected gifts on the porch. Sitting in the dark is not how anyone had envisioned their Christmas. Max’s sister Beth (Stefania LaVie Owen) is worried about her boyfriend, who lives nearby. Despite the weather, she gets permission to check on him, since he isn’t responding to her texts. What she finds is horrifying, and as she attempts to race home, to safety, she sees some very strange things.

Meanwhile, back at the house, everyone huddles together in the living room for warmth in front of the 

fireplace, attempting to sleep. But something strange is happening when a chain drops through the chimney, with a strange creature on it, which draws the attention of Max’s cousin Howie Jr (Maverick Flack). The other wake up just in time to see him being sucked up the chimney.

This version of the Krampus legend is as different from the first one as night and day. This one has a solid cast, good writing, good direction, and an interesting story. Darkly humorous, it doesn’t lag. I could easily identify with Max’s parents, doing their best to get through the holidays despite having douchey relatives in the house. Tom’s mother, whom they call Omi, is also there. She is Max’s anchor, and she is the only one with a clue about what’s happening.

 

The story is funny and also scary, it has a unique take on Christmas, and has all the elements of a good horror film. There are more sequels in this series and I intend to watch the ones I can find, except for the sequel to the first one. Same writer and cast, so I’m gonna just call it quits on that while I’m ahead, expecting nothing better. But I’ll keep you posted on the others. I am giving Krampus (2015) a solid 4 Stars.

Saturday is Horror Day #23 – The Hoarder, Return of the Living Dead 3, Willy’s Wonderland

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 The Hoarder

 


Ella (Mischa Barton) is mistrustful of her fiance. Having been screwed over by men before, she thinks she’s found evidence that he’s been unfaithful. But when the evidence suddenly vanishes, where else can it be but his storage unit, located way out in the middle of nowhere. Ella enlists the aid of her friend Molly (Emily Atack), because that’s what best friends are for, right? Especially friends who know how to get into places they shouldn’t.

 

The two young women bullshit their way past the clerk on duty, Stephen (Andrew Buckley), and take the elevator down to the fourth level. Seems as though everything is underground. And not only is this level dark and creepy, but it has an unfinished look to it. Undeterred the girls find the fiance’s unit and, with some difficulty, open the door, only to be confronted by… what was that? Something just snatched Molly and dragged her inside, shutting the door securely behind!

 

An alarmed Ella runs back to the elevator as the lights, which are on timers, go off around her. But


something is in pursuit and she barely makes it inside. The elevator refuses to move, though, and she climbs out the top and up the cable to the next floor where her cries for help draw the attention of Vince (Robert Knepper), who helps her out. He’s skeptical of her tale, but luckily he’s a cop, and willing to help. Soon they run across Willow (Valene Kane) and then Ian (John Sackville). Ian was in the process of splitting the contents of his storage unit with his soon-to-be ex Sarah (Charlotte Salt). But Sarah disappeared and he’s looking for her, which makes him suspect in Vince’s eyes.

 

The group tries to make its way up the stairs, but the doors at each level are locked. And there’s something in the dark that’s killing people…

 

This film was made in 2015. I’ll admit the big reason I was drawn to watch it is because I really like Robert Knepper. To some extent it’s a character-driven horror film, as we met the protagonists and hear their stories. Ordinary people leading ordinary lives. But it soon develops into true horror as a… creature… begins to claim more and more victims. There is a certain amount of tension, not knowing where this thing is or what it wants… or even something as basic as how to survive and get out of this death trap. The premise isn’t bad, the acting is fairly decent. And of course, Robert Knepper plays his role very well. Naturally, he isn’t necessarily what he appears to be, but would you expect less of him?

My biggest problem with this lies in the finale, once we learn who is behind everything, because there really is no why, no explanation of what we’ve been watching. Of course, based on certain stereostypes that aren’t exactly new in the genre, we can extrapolate the reasons. But I have to believe there is more to it than that, and the film misses the mark on that score. Plus it’s rather one-dimensional in that regard. Like Escape Room, but without the clever twists. It wasn’t a bad film, but it could have been better. Mischa Barton’s acting is less than spectacular but because of Robert Knepper, I am giving this 3 Stars.

Return of the Living Dead 3


Some things never change. Even after the fiasco involving the walking dead, the military can’t get enough of playing around with these new playthings because, of course, they know best. Colonel Reynolds (Kent McCord) is no exception to this rule, as he and his group work at re-animating the dead. His son Curt (J Trevor Edmond) and his girlfriend Julie (Melinda Clarke) use dad’s pass to sneak onto base, and they become unwitting witnesses of what transpires. The experiments lead to the colonel’s reassignment. But when he tells his son, Curt rebels, and runs off with Julie on his motorcycle.

Julie gets a little frisky on the motorcycle, distracting her boyfriend, which results in an accident which kills Julie. The griefstricken Curt is beside himself and sneaks her body back onto the base, so he can revive her with the same stuff his dad and his group were using. This can’t possibly go wrong, can it?

 

Julie begins to show symptoms of being dead, and experiences intense hunger pains. Curt takes her to a convenience store where she gorges on junk. Meanwhile a local gang is there, and trouble ensues, resulting in the shop owner’s death, and one of the gang being bitten by Julie. Curt and Julie escape and make their way to the area of the sewers, where a homeless man unexpectedly aids them. But even he realizes there is something off about Julie.

The gang members are pissed at what happened and follow the young lovers, determined to have 


revenge. Curt’s father is also looking for his son, having been relieved of his command. He’s determined not to come back until he finds him.

This is the third entry in the Return of the Living Dead franchise, and it is by far the weakest link so far. It possesses none of the humor or fun of the first two films (maybe because it’s lacking James Karen and Thom Matthews, just a thought). Different director and different writer result in a different film, and the change is definitely not for the better.

 

I think a large part of the problem is the script, which isn’t very good. Also, I think the film takes itself too seriously but lacks any heart. We have no emotional ties to any of the characters, so it’s kind of hard to care what happens to any of them. Like dispassionately watching a science experiment to take note of the results. But in this case, these are (or were) living breathing human beings, now the re-animated dead.

 

Another thing that irked me greatly was that they changed the rules of the universe in which they were playing. Julie becomes a zombie early on but she still retains her full ability to speak, although she does display many of the classic symptoms of the other walking dead. Tortured by the changes, she hurts herself in order to keep the hunger at bay, but she thinks that won’t work forever and she’s afraid she’ll end up hurting Curt. She ends up making a weapon of herself (see above). So there’s that. I think that’s more of an excuse to show her half-naked body, but that’s just my opinion.

Kent McCord… well, I loved him in Adam 12, but he doesn’t really come across here as the classic father who was never around and doesn’t know how to show his emotions. His portrayal is too cold and too rigid to get a real feel for this character, especially after seeing the experiment he was involved in.

All in all, this was a disappointment. I’m going to give it 2 Stars.

Willy’s Wonderland


In the sleepy little town of Hayesville – one of those blink and you miss’em communities – sits the locked and abandoned one-time children’s play place known as Willy’s Wonderland, named after Willy the Weasel, one of its animatronic attractions. Liv (Emily Tosta) knows what evil lurks therein and intends to burn the place to the ground. But she’s caught in the act by Sheriff Lund (Beth Grant), who is also her foster mother, and placed in handcuffs inside their home… for her own good.

 

Speed traps in small towns are not uncommon, and Hayesville is no exception. A sports car driven by Nic Cage runs over a set of spikes that blow out all four tires. As he stands by his car, a tow truck miraculously appears. When the driver tows Cage to his garage and assesses the damage, including the tow it will come to a thousand dollars. They have no Internet, so can’t pay by credit card. He doesn’t take checks, and the ATM doesn’t work. Cash on the barrel head. Of course the silent Cage doesn’t have a grand in his pocket. So the tow truck driver offers him a deal. He knows a place that needs help. He can spend the night there, cleaning, and in the morning, his car will be ready to go. Cage has no choice but to accept.

 

The place turns out to be Willy’s Wonderland.

Meanwhile, some of Liv’s friends are looking for her and find her handcuffed and help her to break out.


She is intent on finishing what she started, especially since she saw the man with the tow truck driver and she knows where he’s being taken and why. And she is determined that is not going to happen.

Meanwhile, Cage goes to work to do what he’s agreed to. He’s been told to remember to take breaks, so he sets his watch as a reminder to do so. Willy’s is creepy, in large part due to the animatronics which seem to move… and more. But Cage is more than a match for them and dispatches a couple quite handily. When he tries to throw their remains outside, he learns for the first time that he has been locked in.

 

Liv knocks on the window to tell him he has to get out of there, before they set the building on fire, but he turns and ignores her. Exasperated, she decides to find a way inside and tells her friends to wait for her. But Fate has other ideas, and all the teens find themselves inside Willy’s.

I am a huge Nic Cage fan, so when  I found out about this film, which just came out in 2021, I had to see it. What got me really hooked was a line in the preview, when Liv says “He’s not trapped in there with them. They’re trapped in there with him.”

This story was very original, sort of a Chucky Cheese meets Psycho. Nic Cage is a character known only as The Janitor. We never learn his name or his story, and he never speaks. Even so, his actions speak volumes as we watch him do battle with the evil animatronics without batting an eye. And the story is told with a certain amount of humor, which I love. 

Liv is a great character, who has personal reasons for wanting this place to go. The town has its own reasons for doing what they do as well. Liv is the leader among her friends, the alpha if you will, and a very strong character.  I was pretty well riveted to the screen the whole time. I’d call it very bloody, except the animatronics don’t have blood. But then again Liv’s friends do. Nuff said.

 

I enjoyed this movie pretty much. My opinion of Nic Cage hasn’t changed a bit. He’s good in whatever he does. I would recommend this movie, and I will give it a solid 4 Stars.

Saturday is Horror Day #22 – Night of the Living Dead 2

Return of the Living Dead II – 

Jesse (Michael Kenworthy) is bullied by two other boys into joining their club. Billy (Thorn Van Lingen) forces him to go to their clubhouse, which turns out to be a crypt in the cemetery. There they find some old army cannisters, and Billy claims them. Jesse wants nothing to do with them and makes his escape, but the other boys aren’t as luck as they accidentally break the seal and are overcome by an obnoxious gas.

Ed  (James Karen) and Joey (Thom Mathews) work together, their job being to rob graves for body parts which they sell. supposedly in the name of research. They come across Jesse, who is hiding in a crypt.  He eludes them and runs off, but quickly discovers that things are not what they should. Dead people are rising, and they’re hungry.

Jesse races home and wants to call the number he found on the cannister, because surely the army can

help them, but his sister Lucy (Marsha Dietlein), who is babysitting him, has other ideas. When a young, good-looking cable installer, Tom (Dana Ashbrook) shows up, she is really determined to keep her brother under control.

But the dead have other ideas…

The sequel to The Return of the Living Dead  has some of the wit and charm of the first movie, but no Dan O’Bannion, alas. But the good news is that we have the return of James Karen and Thom Matthews, who did much to make the first film memorable. They’re working together again but they’re playing different characters, yet they’re very similar to the first ones. If you’ve seen the first film, you’ll remember this line: “Watch your tongue, boy, if you like this job!”

While still interesting and comedic, it lacks a bit of what made the first one so good. Even so, it’s a good watch and well worth the effort. You might remember Dana Ashbrook, who will later go on to play in Twin Peaks as Bobby Briggs.  Also, keep an eye out for the Michael Jackson zombie toward sthe end. All in all, I give this a solid 3.75 Stars.

Saturday is Horror Day #21 – The Return of the Living Dead, The City of the Dead

The Return of the Living Dead

Freddy (Thom Matthews) has just begun a new job at a medical supply company, joining the ranks of the gainfully employed. His boss, Burt (Clu Gulager) seems like a good guy, and leaves Freddy in the hands of his co-worker, Frank (James Karen). Frank proceeds to show Freddy the ropes. The company has all sort of odd items, such as skeletons for medical schools, and half dogs, for veterinarian schools, and even fresh cadavers in the walk-in. While swapping strange stories, Frank tells Freddy about the weird cannisters that are stored there, something to do with the army. Of course Freddy wants to see them, who wouldn’t? But things go horribly wrong when Frank accidental strikes one of the tanks, releasing some kind of noxious gas.

Freddy’s girlfriend Tina (Beverly Randolph) is riding around with some of her friends, trying to figure out what to do. A rather eclectic group, running the gamut from Goth to glam, they’re bored, and the driver refuses to go anywhere without receiving gas money. Tina suggests they pick up Freddy from work, which idea is enthusiastically received as he always knows where there’s a part. But he won’t get off for two hours, so they head to Resurrection Cemetery to hang out, right across the street from the medical supply house.

There, Trash (Linnea Quigley) reveals to Spider (Miguel A. Nunez Jr) her fantasies about death, and her fears of dying surrounded by old men who eat her. This leads to her getting naked on top of a crypt.  In the meantime, Frank and Freddy become freaked out, not just by what they did, but by strange sounds inside the warehouse. Imagine their surprise to find one of the half dogs barking! And the cadavers are trying to break out of the walk-in cooler, just like in the story Frank had told Freedy.

The two men try to handle the situation, but finally give up and call Burt to come back to work. When

he finds out what happened, he is appalled, having warned Frank many times to stay away from those tanks! Be that as it may, they have to deal with what’s going on, so Burt calls on his good friend Ernie (Don Calfa), who has the mortuary across the street. They try to pawn off a story about rabid weasels on Ernie, but that doesn’t fly, and they are forced to not only tell him but truth, but show him. The only thing he can think to do is to burn the evidence in the crematorium, which of course sends the smoke up into the air, and then the toxic chemicals end up being rained back down and seeping into the ground… reanimating the corpses in the cemetery!

This movie is both a horror film and a comedy, and I have to say I think it’s better than most of George Romero’s films (except for the original Night of the Living Dead). These zombies are not shambling brainless hulks, they are cleverer than some of the teens, and are smart enough to realize how to get people to send more fresh meat.

Frank and Freddy are hilarious as the duo who start this entire zombie apocalypse, and Clu Gulager does a great job as Burt and ditto for Don Calfa as Ernie. And c’mon, it’s Burt and Ernie. You don’t think that’s a coincidence, right? That reminds me of a Burt and Ernie in the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life, which obviously predates Sesame Street, and I believe the Sesame Street writers got the names of their characters from there.

The music is fitting, some kind of punk, I think, and helps drive this film along. The writing is most excellent, and how surprising is that since this is a Dan O’Bannion film!  You remember Dan from Alien, right? The movie ends with the protagonists appealing to the army to help them, as per the phone number on the tanks. But you can only imagine the sort of help the military is willing to give when it comes to covering up a mistake. The ending leaves no doubt there is more to the story…. and there is.

I give this film a solid 4.5 Stars.

Before I go to the next review, I just want to mention that I tried to watch George Romero’s Day of the Dead, but I turned it off because it bored me. So I can’t really give it a review, since I didn’t finish it, but maybe that says enough.

The City of the Dead

When a woman accused of witchcraft is burned at the stake in 1692, she curses the village that condemned her even as she makes a pact with Lucifer.

Nan Barlow (Venetia Stevenson) is a young college coed with a bright future ahead of her. Determined to attain her history degree, she intends to work on her paper as much as she can, even if she has to miss spending time with her boyfriend, Bill (Tom Naylor) in order to do so. Professor Alan Driscoll (Christopher Lee) suggests Nan go to the very small town he had just lectured about where a witch was burned years ago, and suggests she stay at the Whitewood Inn – just mention his name. Nan bids her boyfriend and her brother Dick (Dennis Lotis) a fond farewell and heads out to Whitewood.

Stopping for directions, she learns just how seldom this eerie road is traveled, and doesn’t heed his warning not to go on. She picks up a strange man who is hitchhiking, and is also headed to Whitewood. He has an odd way about him, and a deep, resonant voice. But on her arrival, the man has disappeared! Nan goes to the inn, and the proprietress, Mrs. Newless (Patricia Jessel) insists there is no room at the inn until Nan invokes Professor Driscoll’s name, and suddenly there is a room available, so Nan takes it. A young girl named Lottie works at the inn. Lottie is mute, but she seems as though she is trying to tell Nan something but Mrs Newless always finds a way to stop her.

Nan hears things in her room, and when she asks about the strange trap door in the floor, she is told that there is nothing beneath it but dirt. In exploring the town, she goes to the church, but the blind pastor, Reverend Russell, (Norman MacOwan) shoos her away. Borrowing a book about witchcraft from the pastor’s granddaughter, Patricia (Betta St. John), Nan finds out the truth, but it’s too late.

When Nan fails to return after two weeks, and no one has heard from her, her boyfriend and brother

decide enough is enough and trace her footsteps to Whitewood.  The question is will they make it out alive?

This movie is clearly a product of its times, no doubt about that. Having said that, though I wanted to like this film because… well, Christopher Lee… but things made that hard to do. My first question was why does no one in this town notice the perpetual rolling fog that covers the ground at all times (probably to disguise the fact that they’re on a set). But nothing is ever said, as if no one notices. Seriously?

None of this is scary stuff, but in all fairness, perhaps modern moviegoers have come to expect more and have seen this sort of thing a million times. Having said this, what happens comes as no surprise if you look for the signs that are about as bright and easy to see as Rudolf the Reindeer’s red nose! Lottie trying to warn Nan, the mysterious book, even the church, where I saw the name Driscoll on the sign outside but scratched through. The eerie innkeeper who bears a close resemblance to…. no spoilers, but I’m sure you’ll figure it out.

Some of the acting is better than others. Much as I love Christopher Lee, I can’t say this is his best performance, but he has others beat hands down. What’s worse than the scenery and the acting, though, is the writing. Just not good. The soundtrack is a strange sort of 50s jazz-like sound which seems at odds with what is going on. Predictable and poorly executed. I’ll give this a shaky 2 Stars, and mostly because I love Christopher Lee.

Saturday is Horror Day #19 – The Hills Have Eyes (2006), Host (2020)

The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

Big Bob (Ted Levine) and his wife Ethel (Kathleen Quinlan) have packed up their family for a drive to California to celebrate their anniversary. Their kids include little Bob (Dan Byrd), Brenda (Emilie de Ravin) and Lynn (Vinessa Shaw) and her husband Doug (Aaron Stanford) and their infant daughter Catherine. Stopping at a ramshackle gas station in the middle of nowhere, the creepy owner tells Big Bob of a short cut through the desert that will cut a couple of hours off their trip. He decides to go for it.

The trouble begins when their truck, which is hauling a large RV, runs over a line of spikes that have been deliberately set. The axle is bent beyond any simple repair. To compound their problems, there is no cell reception. Big Bob tells Doug that the two of them will head out, Bob back to the gas station, Doug ahead to the highway. Little do they know that there are people in these hills, and they are far from friendly.

This film is a remake of the 1978 version, which I reviewed previously (SIHD #14). While Wes Craven is credited as a writer, due to the first film, this one has a different director and writers. It’s the same characters, same scenario, but updated, and with an actual explanation of this mutant family in the desert. At the beginning of the movie, we learn about nuclear tests performed in New Mexico, with uncertainty regarding genetic effects. Well, I’m here to tell you, they aren’t pretty.

It’s obviously a more updated film, as is reflected in the language the characters use, and also that they even have cell phones, which certainly wasn’t a thin in 1978. The blood is definitely more realistic, as is the make-up of the cannibals. The acting is better too. Of course, you have Ted Levine leading the way, how can you go wrong? I think the writers have tightened the action and done a good job of bringing the story into more modern times.

Look for the scene in the nuclear test site dummy housing (if you saw the last and worst Indiana Jones movie, there is a similar scene, but far more awful). According to the sign at the entrance to the fake town, this was courtesy of the Department of Energy. If you are interested in the actual atomic testing, I suggest you read Bomb by Steve Sheinkin, and also find books about Robert Oppenheimer and Richard Feynman.
This version was pretty well done. I was very pleasantly surprised, especially considered how bad the sequel was. I have hopes for the modern sequel and will let you know. I give this version a solid 4 Stars.
Host (2020)
 

During the COVID lockdown, six friends hire a medium to hold a séance via Zoom. Jemma (Jemma Moore) decides to prank her friends with a fake story about a boy she knew who allegedly committed suicide. Little does she realize that by disrespecting the spirits, she has unintentionally invited in a random spirit. Whether good or evil remains to be seen.

This is the first film I’ve seen that actually is set during the pandemic. I’m sure there will be more to follow, and books as well. This one is rather realistic looking, as the friends all gather on their laptops on Zoom, with the usual Internet mishaps and foibles. Freezing in place, losing the Internet… all things we’ve seen before and can relate to.

At first, some of the friends take the séance more seriously than others, as is obvious by Jemma’s ill-timed prank. The medium finds herself without Internet so they go on without her guidance. But then strange things begin to happen, and little by little everything falls apart.

The dialogue is realistic, and a portion of it is actually improvised, which also lends to the air of reality.

There is a definite scary vibe to this film as everyone tries to grapple with what is happening. I absolutely love the tagline: Someone new has joined the meeting.  How perfect is that?

This film is a Shudder original, and I think it was well done. I have a subscription to Shudder. If you enjoy horror films, I recommend them. They have classic horror films as well as newer ones, and some you’ve probably never even heard. I give Host a solid 4 stars.

Saturday Day is Horror Day #18 – Dawn of the Dead (1978), Sinister 2

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

The zombie situation is only growing worse, with no idea how it started and how it can be stopped. The undead are growing in number and they are everywhere. Two guys from a Philadelpia S.W.A.T. team, along with a traffic reporter and his pregnant television executive girlfriend take shelter in a shopping mall in the seeming middle of nowhere. But, of course, the dead are everywhere.

 

 

At first they think they’re safe from the zombies outside of the mall, but that, of course, proves to be a false hope as the dead enter the building. Now it becomes a matter of surviving the restless horde so they can make some sort of escape. Things only grow worse when a motorcycle gang sees an opportunity and becomes part of the problem.

 

The second installment in George Romero’s Dead franchise is in color, but that isn’t necessarily an

improvement over the first film, which was in black-and-white. The blood is red, yes, but it’s obvious also that it isn’t blood. The effects and costumes are cheesy, and I kept wondering about these so-called zombies. I mean, they’re dead and they’re risen from the dead (no idea how any of them were killed or where they came from, but surely some at least were buried), and yet they are pristine. Clean clothes, no sign of blood (until someone shoots them which begs the question do zombies have blood circulation), and the gray shade of make-up on their faces that passes as a sign of death is lacking.

Attempts at humor are definitely made, such as the appearance of the young Hare Krishna as well as the nun, but I didn’t really find anything funny. I’m not sure if there is some sort of social commentary here either, maybe against consumerism. Such as the two S.W.A.T guys who go full-on thief mode and attempt to steal anything that’s not nailed down, and even knock over the bank in the mall (what do they think they can spend it on with the world in such chaos?) The pilot and his girlfriend get dressed up and have a candlelight dinner for two, and she also gives herself a makeover. Oh, did I mention she’s pregnant? My guess is that allows for the passage of time because she is like 3 or 4 months pregnant at the start, and a lot more by the end. Also, there is a horrible scene at the beginning where she is asleep, and Peter (Ken Foree), a S.W.A.T. guy and Stephen (David Emge) the pilot are discussing her pregnancy, and Peter asks Stephen does he want to terminate the pregnancy. Wtf? Seriously? I know it’s that infuriating 1978 way of thinking, but it was upsetting to me, so imagine how Francine (Gaylen Ross) must have felt.

 

This film lacks the things that made the first one interesting, including characters we care about. I didn’t care about anyone, honestly, and plot and character development was lacking. The zombies were more comical than scary, thus eliminating most of the horror element. I kind of figured out how it was bound to end, and I was right. All in all, this is a weak follow-up to the original. I hope the remake is better, but I’m going to follow the original franchise for now, so Day of the Dead should come next. I give this one 2.5 Stars.

Sinister 2

A single mother, Courtney Collins (Shannyn Sossamon) and her twin sons (Robert Daniel & Dartanian Sloan) move to a new home to escape her violent husband. She freaks out when a man seems to be watching them at the grocery store and uses the code word rutabaga, which tells them to run. The so-called stranger danger is actually the ex-deputy who had befriended the late author Ellison Oswalt. Unable to let Oswalt’s death go, he has been destroying the houses where the deceased families once lived.

Things are getting creepy at the new house. Dylan is having weird dreams. Worse than that, he sees the children of the deceased, the missing children. They force him to watch their home movies, each of which entails the gruesome death of each family. Dylan doesn’t like it but he feels helpless. He can’t even stand up to his own twin, Zach, who bullies him too often, much as Dylan’s father once did.

 

The ex-deputy finally convinces Courtney that he hasn’t been sent by her husband to take the boys, and explains that he is researching what happened to Ellison Oswalt. She agrees to let him look around, with the proviso that he tell no one they are there.

To make matters worse, the boys’ father, Clint (Lea Coco) shows up to take them back. The ex-deputy

talks him down – for now – but it’s just a matter of time until he returns. The children are pressuring Dylan to finish watching the movies, but he really doesn’t want to. They warn him that if he doesn’t, Bughuul (Nick King) will be very angry.

The sequel to Sinister carries on where the other left off, sometime after the death of Ellison Oswalt. You may remember the deputy from the first film. He was supposed to collaborate on the case with the author, but of course that can’t happen. If he wants to provide support to his theory of the children and their mysterious leader, he has to investigate himself.

I actually liked the second film more than the first. The kids who played the ghostly children did a good job of being creepy, as did Bughuul’s Nick King. The story seemed to make more sense, although we never did find out what Bughuul’s backstory is and why he kidnaps vulnerable children, like he’s the warped patron saint of little kids.

The scene where the ex-deputy prevents Courtney’s ex from taking the boys is great. There are more than a few jump scares to be had, as well as some strong creepy vibes. I am giving this a solid 4 stars.

Saturday is Horror Day #17 – Sinister

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 Sinister

Fame can be fleeting, as true crime writer Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawk) discovers. His last books have not achieved the success he’d hoped for, nowhere near the fame and fortune that Kentucky Blood brought. 

 

 

 

In order to work on a new book, Ellison uproots his wife and two children again, much to their disgruntlement. He insists that he needs to do this for the book, but they are less than understanding. In fact, they are prone to make fun of his failures, and warn him he better succeed this time. What Ellison hasn’t told even his wife, when she was concerned that they were living near a crime scene, is that they are living in the crime scene. Four members of a family were hanged in the back yard, and their daughter went missing. She’s still missing, in fact.

 

Ellison is determined to succeed, no matter what. When he discovers a box of old home movies up in the attic, he thinks he might be on to something. The local sheriff had warned him when they moved in that they should leave, but he hasn’t listened. One of the deputies(James Ransone) is a fan of Ellison’s and offers his assistance with the case. All he wants in return is to be remembered in the acknowledgements as having been of assistance. Ellison decides he can live with that.

The more he studies the movies, the more strange things are happening. His son begins having night

terrors again. His daughter is drawing strange pictures. When his wife Tracy (Juliet Rylance) learns about the house being the crime scene, she is lived and wants to leave, but Ellison refuses.

Ellison encounters a scorpion and then a snake in the attic. And although the children are strictly forbidden from going into their father’s office or to look at anything related to his work, someone keeps going in there and putting on the home movies. When Ellison discovers a common element to the murders, he begins to think they may be connect, and that something truly sinister is at work here.

 

At first, I wasn’t sure there was anything out of the ordinary about this film, but I grew to like it more the more I watched. There is a definite creepiness factor here. I kept wondering if Ellison would end up murdering his own family, sort of like Ronny DeFeo in The Amityville Horror. Luckily that didn’t happen. But what did happen was creepier.

I disliked his wife and kids for their lack of support or understanding of his work. Especially the wife, since she’s a grownup. Like she thought she could control what he wrote or something. Suggesting he forget true crime and go back to fiction. She was obviously disgusted with the whole idea of murder. Okay, maybe it wasn’t her thing, doesn’t mean she shouldn’t try to tell him what to write.

That being said, that’s nothing against the film, just the character. There is solid production value here, good acting, and decent writing. You might recognize the sheriff from Law and Order as Arthur Branch. Also, look for Vince D’Onofrio in an uncredited role.

The ending doesn’t exactly explain everything, at least in any way that makes sense. But hopefully, the next film will. I give this film a pretty solid 3.5 Stars.

Saturday is Horror Day #16 – The Hills Have Eyes 2 (1984)

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

The Hills Have Eyes 2 (1984)

While headed to a race, a group of bikers make the unfortunate decision to go off the beaten path in order to save time and get to the race before it starts. However, they soon find themselves being stalked by some of the locals, who just happen to be a family of survivalist inbred cannibals

Can this end well for anyone?

 

You know the saying, stupid is as stupid does. That pretty well sums up this film. Stupid people doing stupid things. Another saying goes You play stupid games, you win stupid prizes. That applies here as well. The decision to take a short cut despite posted signs that warn travelers not to leave the paved road was a terrible one. Especially since they are familiar with the story of the family who came to an untimely end there and they actually know of the survivors. Not to mention that one of the people with them is actually a member of that family! She should have known better, right?

 

On top of an unbelievable plot, add poor acting and a terrible script. While Papa Jupiter died in the first film, apparently his brother, The Reaper, has come to take his place. He doesn’t speak, just grunts a lot, unlike his nephew, Pluto, whom I don’t remember speaking very much in the first film. The plot is contrived at best, and unbelievable. Hard to believe Wes Craven is responsible for this garbage.

I don’t recommend watching it, seriously. I gave the first film 3 stars. I’ll give this one a shaky 2 stars, maybe even 1.5. These people deserved to die for being so stupid. But not the dog. I hope the remake of this franchise is better. I’m going to give it a go.