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The Watcher 7 - Halloween-Edition
Tiny Movie Reviews for When Evil Lurks / Toxic Avenger / The Hidden / Ganja & Hess / Suitable Flesh / Five Nights at Freddy's / Werewolf of London / Alone in the Dark and many more. Boo!
Tiny and not so tiny reviews for these spooky and not so spooky films i watched this Halloween:
When Evil Lurks (Argentina 2023, Demián Rugna) ★★★★★
Toxic Avenger (US 1985, Lloyd Kaufman & Michael Herz) ★★★★★
The Hidden (US 1987, Jack Sholder) ★★★★☆
The Cat and the Canary (US 1939, Elliott Nugent) ★★★★☆
The Royal Hotel (Australia 2023, Kitty Green) ★★★★☆
The Mark of the Vampire (US 1935, Tod Browning) ★★★★☆
The Bloodstained Butterfly (Italy 1971, Duccio Tessari) ★★★★☆
Ganja & Hess (US 1973, Bill Gunn) ★★★☆☆
Suitable Flesh (US 2023, Joe Lynch) ★★★☆☆
The Borrower (US 1990, John McNaughton) ★★★☆☆
Werewolf of London (US 1935) ★★★☆☆
Alone in the Dark (US 1982, Jack Sholder) ★★★☆☆
Five Nights at Freddy's (US 2023, Joe Lynch) ★★☆☆☆
The Cat Creeps (US 1946) ★★☆☆☆
The Devil Bat (US 1940) ★★☆☆☆
The Vampire (US 1957, Paul Landres) ★★☆☆☆
Black Magic (China 1974, Ho Meng-Hua) ★☆☆☆☆
When Evil Lurks (Argentina 2023, Demián Rugna) ★★★★★ Two brothers find a man possessed by the rot in the neighborhood of a town in rural Argentina. When they try to get rid of evil, it spreads and infects the whole town. I love this movie. In the first act a high octane horrorfest which keeps you thrilled with fresh ideas and some really hard hitting splatter scenes. I especially dig the ideas around supernatural evil and demons spreading through body fluids and odor. The movie can't quite keep up the pace of it's first half and somewhat runs out of ideas towards the end, but that doesn't diminish the joy you get out of it as a horrorhead. Great direction and camera, good acting and some grim FX make this one of the best and innovative genre entries of recent times.
Toxic Avenger (US 1985, Lloyd Kaufman & Michael Herz) ★★★★★ Bozo and his psycho gang sure do hate Melvin the mob boy, so they play a little prank on him which, ofcourse, goes horribly wrong and poor Melvin lands in the midst of a toxic waste truck driven by jerks high on coke. He's catching fire and under pain and agony, Melvin mutates into the Toxic Avenger -- "He must have finally reached puberty" --, going on a gruesome revenge spree in a tutu all while he becomes the hero of the local community. I haven't watched Toxie in quite some time and totally forgotten just how much of a blast it is. It's full of the most ridiculous action -- Eyes get poked out, heads smashed, people are turned into bloody sundae ice cream, hands get fried and a tons of cars get smashed -- in the name of justice for freaks and outsiders of all kinds. It's maybe the quintessential Troma, zero-fucks-given, with everybody involved having so much fun, it's visible in every second on screen and for what it wants to be, trash fun with tons of gore and a big big heart, it's pretty much perfect. Great Soundtrack too. If you only watch one trash movie in your life, make it Toxie.
The Hidden (US 1987, Jack Sholder) ★★★★☆ A bodyswitching alien is causing humans to go on violent rampages. The local police investigates with the help of a FBI freshman with a secret. A high octane horror action flick with Kyle MacLachnan once more as an awkward FBI agent, this movie is a thrilling ride all along with some minor flaws. It has some great FX work and stays gripping until the end, albeit getting a bit repetitive after the second act and ending on a maybe too cheesy note.
The Cat and the Canary (US 1939, Elliott Nugent) ★★★★☆ Ten years after the death of a wealthy man, his family meets at his mansion for the reading of his will and a maniac murderer escapes from the asylum. The Cat and the Canary is a lighthearted, classy murder mystery with fantastic sets and a lot of things going on. We get screetching doors and flickering light, the obligatory black cat, secret passages, crazy killers lurking in the dark, hidden treasures, all held together by Bob Hope and love interest Paulette Goddard tumbling from one spooky situation to the next. It's a fun ride and pretty much delivered the blueprint for all the murder mysteries in dark houses which followed. I wish it was a bit more concise and to the point, but it's also a technical marvel of it's time with near perfect lighting and a few actually creepy shots. A classic not to be missed.
The Royal Hotel (Australia 2023, Kitty Green) ★★★★☆ Hanna and Liv run out of money while backpacking in Australia and get hired in a hotelbar in the outbacks, when the locals get drunk and more offensive by the hour. Nice thriller with a good script driving home it's message about subtle verbal and not so subtle physical violence against women. Without escalating the violence to it's usual conclusions, the film takes its time to develop a sparse but intense and increasing threat level with a spot on kickass ending.
Mark of the Vampire (US 1935, Tod Browning) ★★★★☆ Sir Borotyn is found murdered in his home with the titular marks of the vampire. Baron Otto suspects Count Mora and his daughter and calls in Professor Zelen, an expert in the occult. Tod Browning is parodying his own Dracula here, we even get a direct reshot of the famous open scene with Legosi stepping down the stairs of a spooky hall including weird animals, but here's an opossum instead of a bunch of armadillos. Long before Bud Abbott and Lou Costello shot the definitive parodies of the Universal Monster Lore this little flick is the first glimpse of some lighthearted selfaware entertainment which doesn't take itself too seriously, after the incredible classic horror movies from 1931s onwards which included Dracula, Frankenstein and The Mummy. Especially as a longtime fan of the original Universal Monsters, i loved this one a lot.
The Bloodstained Butterfly (Italy 1971, Duccio Tessari) ★★★★☆ A TV host gets accused of murdering a teenage girl in the park. While he's in court, the killer strikes again and more girls are murdered. Pretty decent Giallo based on a shortstory by Edgar Wallace called Secret of the Black Rose. Released at a time when the Giallo-genre was in full swing, the film has some minor flaws and shows the usual italian overacting. But it's beautifully shot, features some innovative camera work and intercutting editing techniques, aswell as great direction by Duccio Tessari and ends on a surprising twist i did not see coming.
Ganja & Hess (US 1973, Bill Gunn) ★★★☆☆ After Dr. Hess Green, portrayed by Duane Jones who we know from playing the main role in Night of the living Dead, gets stabbed three times with an ancient cursed dagger, he returns from the dead with a taste for blood and falls in love with Ganja. An experimental arthouse blaxploitation vampire drama which is demanding a lot of patience, but stays interesting for both its artistic imagination, inventiveness, its political undertones and last but not least, the great soundtrack by Sam Waymon -- the brother of Nina Simone btw, who also gets a shoutout in an easteregg in one scene. While the movie is not exactly pretentious and has a lot to say about the black experience, it also tries a little too hard at being respectable art, which ultimately stands in the way of the film. A tad more straightforward storytelling would've worked wonders on this one.
Suitable Flesh (US 2023, Joe Lynch) ★★★☆☆ When a supposedly schizophrenic patient enters the psychiatric practice of Dr. Elizabeth Derby, she soon finds about a body switching demon who uppends her life. Every movie that starts with Barbara Crampton looking down on you lying in a bodybag is a good movie, or so i thought. But this fun little horror flick suffers from some ADHS-camera work, an uneven production design and lighting which makes it look like TV. While i think Heather Graham has some considerable fun with her role, i also think she's miscast here in this story which very much feels like an episode of Tales from the Crypt. But the film delivers the goods towards the end and stays entertaining enough to make you forget it's inconsistent script. It even has one actually very clever shot, when she runs over the demon multiple times which we watch on the screen in her car from the perspective of the parking cam while she's doing it. A cool clever play with in screen and perspective in an otherwise just fun horror movie which thankfully never pretends to be anything but that.
The Borrower (US 1990, John McNaughton) ★★★☆☆ An alien is punished to live on earth and switches bodies by ripping off peoples' heads. This being a silly and weird trash flick, one has to wonder why John McNaughton took on this job, who with Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer delivered one of the modern genre classics, making a pretty serious and gruesome psychological study on the emergence of violence. Later in his career, McNaughton made one of the best erotic thrillers with Wild Things. This is not that. Even when McNaughton clearly has some fun with this silly plot -- alien killers with dog heads! --, and manages to elevate to something more raw, it still can't escape its inherent stupidity. It's an entertaining film if you want to watch a dumb ninetees trash movie with hardrock, NY city street scenes and a lot of gore, but it's a far shot from McNaughtons other work.
Werewolf of London (US 1935, Stuart Walker ) ★★★☆☆ During an expedition in Tibet on the search for the rare moon flower, Dr. Wilfred Glendon is attacked and bitten by a werewolf. Back in London, he tries to get the flower to bloom in artificial moonlight to prevent himself from turning into a beast. The first full-length werewolf movie trades classic werewolf lore for some botanical science which makes an interesting plot, but it can't save the movie from feeling a bit stiff and overacted by its main actor. While the monster design shares some similarities with Lon Chaney Jrs makeup from the 1941 classic The Wolf Man, this one is clearly not as well thought through and is most remarkable for its giant prognathism. A neat first try, and werewolves are hard to pull off, but it took Universal another six years until they figured out how to do it properly.
Alone in the Dark (US 1982, Jack Sholder) ★★★☆☆ During a blackout, four maniacs break out of the asylum and lay siege to the house of their new doctor, who they believe to have killed his predecessor. Once you get past the annoying first act which is crammed with more bizarre encounters of crazy normal people and patients of the mental hospital, the film actually becomes a watchable and well directed siege-thriller with some gruesome moments, but it never can decide if it wants to be a parody on more esoteric psychotherapy babble in which paranoid schizophrenics are 'voyagers', or a horrorthriller. Also, I never really believed that Jack Palance is a psycho, and A-Listers like him and Martin Landau playing those roles make it hard to suspense disbelieve.
Five Nights at Freddy's (US 2023, Joe Lynch) ★★☆☆☆ A security guard haunted by his part discoveres a bunch of animatronics possessed by the ghosts of children. Somebody at Blumhouse must have watched Willy's Wonderland with Nicholas Cage and said to themselves, you know what? Let's throw some more money at this videogame adaption and instead of Nicholas Cage, let's hire 5 script writers coming up with a boring, lame, uninteresting story sprinkled with plotholes to fill up the screentime. It worked, and Five Nights at Freddy's opened as the biggest horror debut of 2023. I guess, if possessed killer animatronics and the game are your thing, this tame horror flick can work for you. I think that killer animatronics look stupid and are not terrifiying at all, even in the minimalistic take with Nicholas Cage only two years ago, and i've never played the game, so this didn't work for me. Watch Barbie instead, at least those puppets make some sense there.
The Cat Creeps (US 1946, Rupert Julian) ★★☆☆☆ Journalist Terry Nichols is hired to investigate the suspected murder of a man fifteen years ago, who hid the fortune of $200.000 in a mansion. Upon arrival the woman who discovered the money is found uncounscious and a black cat is the only witness. A late entry in Universals Horror run, this is no horror movie at all but a murder mystery with the supposedly possessed cat just being a ploy used by Nichols to find the killer. It's not bad, but compared to other entries in Unviversals Horror oevre ten years ago it's merely okay.
The Devil Bat (US 1940, Jean Yarborough) ★★☆☆☆ A mad scientist who feels betrayed by the company he's employed with develops an aftershave which attracts the giant bats he creates with electroshocks. A cheap Bela Lugosi vehicle with a lot to laugh, from the ridiculous plot to the shrill squeaking screams of the bats. It's not a good movie, but it is entertaining in it's ridiculousness and it has typical Lugosi face acrobatics, so it's alright for a fun and cheesy vintage pulp-evening.
The Vampire (US 1957, Paul Landres) ★★☆☆☆ A doctor taking pills made from vampire bat blood turns into a monster. The movie, despite it's title, the bats and some initially shown wounds from vampire fangs, has pretty much nothing to do with vampires. It's more of a mixture of Jack Arnolds B-movie classic Monster on Campus mashed with Jekyll & Hyde themes. The creature design is pretty bad and looks more hilarious than even remotely frightening, the transformation FX has been done way better in movies twenty years before this one, and the miniscule story doesn't help either. But if you're into the more trashy B-movie stuff from the 50s, it's somewhat entertaining and not as ridiculous as other stuff from the era.
Black Magic (China 1974, Ho Meng-Hua) ★☆☆☆☆ An evil magician casts love spells and stuff spirals out of control. This movie stems from a phase in the Shaw Brothers output when they wanted to cash in on the horror film craze of the seventies and it shows. On top of the convoluted, confusing mess of a script we get bad acting, unsympathetic characters and shitty FX. Unfortunately, the whole magic stuff isn't crazy enough to make up for its flaws and good wizard fighting evil wizard on a building site has to be one of the most uncinematic fantasy horror scenes i watched in a long time. It's solely interesting for the weird mix of witchcraft, chinese magic and voodoo motifs, but that's far from enough to make this worth your time