Tag Archives: horror movie reviews

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 #20 – The Hills Have Eyes 2 (2007)

 The Hills Have Eyes 2 (2007)

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes


As this film opens, a naked restrained woman on a bad writhes in agony. It soon becomes clear she is in the throes of labor. And when she finally delivers, she can’t believe what she sees.

On an undisclosed and hidden site thought to be long abandoned, technicians are installing listening devices, but to what end? There’s no one out there… or is there?

 

 

It’s the last day of training for a young group of sassy National Guard trainees. Out in the middle of the desert, they find a deserted research camp. Where is everyone, and what is going on? They receive a distress call that seems to be coming from the hills and decide to investigate. Can this end well for anyone?

 

This is the sequel to The Hills Have Eyes (2006), which was a remake of the original 1977 West Craven film of the same name. The story is not just a rehash of the first sequel, luckily, and is much better made. Again we see the mutants, who were better explained in the 2006 film. Apparently they’re still intent on reproducing to replace their dwindling numbers (guess they aren’t concerned with further genetic mutations). 

The National Guard trainees as characters are a diverse and interesting group, and the story is 


sufficiently creepy and cringy to warrant a view. Although I have to wonder why the military, who obviously knows about these people, doesn’t just come in and deal with the situation. I mean, why eavesdrop? And the ending is somewhat ambiguous. Do they intend to make more? Your guess is as good as mine.

 On the whole, I’ll give this film a good 3.5 Stars. Worth taking a look.

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.

Saturday is Horror Day #15 – Night of the Living Dead (1968), Brahms: The Boy 2

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Barbra and her brother Johnny make a yearly pilgrimage to their father’s grave on behalf of their mother, in order to place flowers on his grave, despite the fact that it’s a six hour round trip. And they only stay for a few minutes, while placing the flowers.

 

 

Johnny is a playful brother and likes to tease his sister by scaring her, telling her that people are coming to

get her. He points at a lone man who is slowly making his way through the cemetery, and tells her “They’re coming to get you, Barbra!” Laughing, he turns away, but his laughter ends abruptly when Barbra is attacked by the man. Johnny goes to her rescue, only to be thrown violently down, hitting his head on a tombstone.

Barbra runs for her life but can’t get far in the car, because Johnny has the keys. She coasts as far as she can then runs to the nearest home. She enters the farmhouse and looks around but there is no sign of life. Heading upstairs, she makes a gruesome discover – a grisly corpse, looking much the worse for wear. Terrified, she runs, only to see headlights and then a man comes rushing in. His name is Ben and he needs gas and stopped there, seeing the gas pump behind the house. Unfortunately, Barbra has no idea where the key is. And the number of people outside only seems to be growing, as they work at getting inside, trying to kill Barbra and Ben.

 

It turns out that there are people hiding in the cellar. Mr. Cooper and his wife and ill daughter, and Tom and his girlfriend Judy. Cooper doesn’t see the point in leaving the cellar, but Ben says they’ll be sitting ducks there. As night falls, things go from bad to worse…

Director George Romero’s film started a trend in horror films that continues to this very day, namely the zombie film. Although over forty years old, this film withstands the test of time. It was a very low budget film, and the zombies were played by friends and relatives. I’m willing to bet you won’t soon forget the final ironic scene. Worth revisiting, for sure. I give it a solid 4 stars.

Brahms: The Boy 2

After a horrific home invasion, Liza (Katie Holmes) and Sean (Owain Yeoman) decide to make a fresh start somewhere else, so they move into the remote English countryside, along with their son Jude (Christopher Convery). Ever since the incident, Jude hasn’t spoken, communicating only with the use of his writing pad, and his parents are naturally concerned.

 

 

Delighted with their new home, they decide to explore the area around it. Jude spies a hand sticking up from the dirt. He unearths it to discover a most unusual doll. He takes it home and they clean it up. Jude seems to like the doll, which bodes well for his recovery, right? When asked his name, Jude writes that it is Brahms… and that the doll told him this. Of course his parents chalked that up to their son having a great imagination.

Or does he?

 

Jude seems to be growing more and more defiant after presenting his family with the rules according to Brahms. Of course no one in their right minds would go along with such rules. Not to mention it’s only a doll, right? But Liza becomes very concerned when she finds pictures Jude has drawn, showing him standing over the dead bodies of his parents, holding a shot gun. She confides her concerns to Jude’s therapist, with whom he remains in contact via Facetime

Jude tries to tell them that Brahms will hurt them if they don’t follow the rules. Accidents happen, but are they really accidents? Is Jude acting up in Brahms’ name… or is there something more sinister going on?

Liza is determined to get to the bottom of things. They live near a manor house known as Heelshire,

abandoned and desolate. Liza follows Jude there and discovers a small entrance that leads behind the walls. Later, the caretaker/man in the woods tells her about the previous family, whose son killed a young girl and then lived for thirty years behind those walls. What was the boy’s name, she asks. 

Brahms.

Liza knows she has to do something or she’ll lose her son – and maybe her whole family – forever.

This is the sequel to The Boy, which I recently reviewed. And what made the first film interesting has been completely changed, but into what?  ****SPOILERS FOR THE BOY ahead*** In the first film, the doll turned out to be just a doll, and Brahms was actually alive and living in the walls. Much creepier than believing in a strange doll entity, right? But in the second film, there is no such explanation, and it’s all on the doll.

How does that even work? I don’t know, but stretches credulity. The film itself isn’t badly made or directed, despite the thin plot. However, Katie Holmes doesn’t give a particularly strong performance. Christopher Convery as Jude is sufficiently creepy, and so is the caretaker, played by Ralph Ineson, whom I never could decide if he was safe or sound or batshit crazy.

At the end of the film, Liza discovers that this doll goes back a long time, which seems to negate the premise of the first film.  Although the two films share the same director, I think someone else wrote the second, which explains much. I’m not sure what sort of vibe they were going for, but if it was supposed to be scary, it failed. 

Okay, I just read something about the ending explained. Let’s just say, it missed the mark, at least for me. I hope they’re done with this franchise. There are better films to watch. I’ll give this 2.5 stars, and shaky ones at that.

Saturday is Horror Day #14 – The Boy, The Hills Have Eyes (1977) (x-posted at Full Moon Dreaming)

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

The Boy

In order to escape from a bad situation at home, Greta, an American nanny (Lauren Cohan) takes a job in a large house in a remote village in the English countryside. Upon arrival, she meets Malcolm (Rupert Evans), who works as the handyman for the elderly couple who have hired her. Although she is not open to any sort of relationship, he assures her that he won’t press, and she relaxes into a friendship with the likeable Malcolm.

 

The couple who hired her are the Heelshires, and when they introduce her to their son Brahms, Greta is

shocked to discover that their “son” is a doll. An actual, doll. Although she is creeped out by this, she remains polite as the mother and father treat the doll as though he were real. They are going on their first vacation in many years and can’t wait to get away, leaving her with a list of rules that must be followed.

From the beginning, Greta finds the house to be spooky, and not only does she hear things behind the walls, but the doll seems to shift locations on its own. Some of her things disappear too, and once she finds herself trapped in the attic.

 

Some of the rules are even creepy, such as reading to Brahms in a loud voice. Also, he loves to listen to his music loud as well. The couple don’t throw leftovers away but freeze them instead. But when Greta contacts her sister who sent her there, her sister tells her she’s imagining things and to tough it out. Meanwhile, she finds herself being drawn more and more to Malcolm.

And then Greta finally discovers the truth. Now what’s she supposed to do?

At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of this film. I mean the idea that this old couple would treat a doll like a flesh and blood child, and then pay for a nanny just so they could go on vacation, seems absurd and maybe a little idiotic. But keep watching, and things fall into place. There are even well-placed subtle clues if you know where to look.

There is a certain creepy factor to this story which only adds to the atmosphere. What could have been something trite and stupid is actually rather unique, and it stands out from other horror films in not being the same old same old. This was definitely worth watching, and I give it a solid 3.5 stars.

The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

While en route to California, a family vacation is sidetracked when the father decides to search for a rumored silver mine. Misfortune follows when their car runs off the road, stranding them in the middle of nowhere. The problem is they are far from anywhere, but they are far from alone.

 

 

There are people in the hills, uncivilized backwoodsmen who have an appetite for meat… of any kind. The situation quickly becomes a survival of the fittest, as the family fight for their lives against people who have no problem with killing everyone they see.

 

 

This film is an early Wes Craven, after his debut with The Last House on the Left. Like that, this film has scenes of harsh violence and there is a definite creepiness factor with this family of savages in the desert. It’s an interesting watch, especially for the 70’s, as the stranded family struggles to survive when there seems no help of rescue. Look for Dee Wallace as the mother with the young baby in this (you might remember her as the mother in ET).  I plan to watch the sequel, and then the updated versions, done in 2006. I do recommend watching this, and I give it a solid 3 stars.

 

Saturday is Horror Day – Suspiria (1977), Train to Busan

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 Suspiria (1977)

On a dark and stormy night, American Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) arrives at the prestigious German ballet school where she has been accepted as a student only to be told by a voice over the  intercom to go away. Just as she arrives, she sees another young woman rush out of the building, who mutters some strange words before disappearing into the night. Suzy Bannion returns the next day to a much better reception.

 

From the beginning, Suzy shows herself to be strong-minded, a trait not necessarily desirable at the

school, which seems to be oddly controlling. Since a room is not immediately available for her, Suzy makes arrangements to sleep elsewhere and is settled in before going to her first rehearsal. There she falls perilously ill. Despite her protestations, the autocratic dance mistress pushes her until she collapses. The proprietress of the school, Madame Blanc (Joan Bennett) is very solicitous and Suzy is cared for the school’s Professor Milius (Rudolf Schundler) who puts her on bedrest and a bland diet, although he prescribes wine to build up her blood. While she is asleep, someone has gone to her lodgings and brought her things back although Suzy was very clear that she did not want that!

Strange things are happening at the school, including an infestation of grotesque maggots on the floor just below the attic, which necessitates the girls on that floor sleep downstairs in a makeshift dormitory arrangement. Suzy befriends another girl, Sara (Stefania Casini), who tells her a story about a strange snoring noise. Sara wonders where the teachers go at night, since they all leave at 8:30, and what do they do?

 

The blind piano player for the school is cruelly dismissed by the dance mistress, and ends up meeting a horrible death. Suzy and Sara are determined to get to the bottom of whatever is going on at this school But at what price?

This movie was recommended to me, I forget by which site, as a  horror gem, but for the life of me I am not sure why it has garnered such great reviews. The sets are uniquely strange, and the cinematography isn’t bad, sometimes rather effective. Ditto for the background music, with performances by a group called Goblin. The plot is more shocking than scary, and that has to be some of the worst movie blood I’ve ever seen. Straight up looked like red paint.

 

And the acting… oh, the acting…. Sorry, but it was horrible. I think I could do better, and I don’t act. Joan Bennett you may remember from Dark Shadows. I also remember her from an old version of The Man in the Iron Mask. But her delivery has always been rather stiff and stilted, and nothing has changed there. Apparently, this was her last film. The lead, Jessica Harper,  turned down in a part in Annie Hall to do this film. I wonder how she felt about that later.

I read that the actors spoke different languages while shooting and all was dubbed into English later, which accounts for the bad sound of the dialogue. The ending doesn’t provide a satisfactory explanation of what just happened. I leave it to you whether to even bother watching. I’ll just give it a shaky 3 stars out of 5, and hope that the 2018 remake is better.

Train to Busan

Su-an Kim is a young girl who lives with her father, as her parents are currently separated. Her mother lives in Busan, and Su-an misses her greatly. But her father is a busy man, and he doesn’t have time to take her to visit her mother. Seems like he doesn’t have time for a lot of things. Su-an secretly telephones her mother and says she wants to see her the next day, and swears she can take the train alone. Her father overhears, and tries to placate her by giving her her birthday present early. Turns out Dad wasn’t paying attention, and Su-an already has a Wii. So he finds himself agreeing to take his daughter to Busan to visit her mother.

As the train prepares to leave, a young lady manages to climb aboard, but she seems to be in a bad way. And as the train pulls out of the station, something very odd seems to be happening.

 

What began as a simple train ride becomes a fight for survival, as people become rabid zombies right before everyone’s eyes. And this strange phenomenon is happening everywhere. Why and how did this start? And how can anyone survive/ Is there any place that is safe?

 

This was a very unusual zombie film, and I loved it. More than a simple horror film, it is about people and about survival, about working together for the common good. But the situation also brings out the selfish and the brutal in people, who can only see as far as their own needs. Everything in this Korean film is excellent, from direction to acting to story to cinematography. I am looking forward to seeing the sequel.

Word of advice – keep some Kleenex handy for this one, you’ll need it. I give this film a very strong 5 star rating.