Archive for Fangoria Movie Friday

AWESOME-tober-fest 2019: Elvira’s Haunted Hills (2001) movie review

Posted in AWESOME-tober-fest, Blog Series, Halloween, holiday, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , on October 11, 2019 by Paxton

Fangoria Movie Friday

So, I’m finishing out the first two weeks of Elvira with a review of Elvira’s second movie, Elvira’s Haunted Hills from 2001.

Like Mistress of the Dark, I had never watched this one, so with the surprise of actually liking that first movie, I sat down to watch this one hoping to also like it.

And I didn’t.  It’s more of the same but not done as well.  Elvira is Elvira.  Double entendres abound.  It feels like it wants to be something like Young Frankenstein, or, to be more accurate, Haunted Honeymoon.  But the charisma of the cast (or lack thereof) can’t overcome the poor script and attempts at humor.  I know this was made on a shoestring budget, and it’s lampooning old Vincent Price Poe movies like The Pit and the Pendulum (the poster for which even had the giant swinging blade on it) and The Raven, which I honestly haven’t seen.  But it still didn’t land, meaning mainly the humor.

The sets for this movie were pretty great though.  The giant castle, as a set, worked very well and had lots of cool elements incorporated into the design including a small hidden door in the side of the giant fireplace (sidenote: I love giant stone fireplaces in castles).  And the overall story was actually not that bad, but this movie lives or dies on the humor and the humor just doesn’t work as well in this one as it did in the previous movie.  It was so MEH that I didn’t really have anything I wanted to talk about more in depth by pulling out screen grabs.  It’s just not as fun a movie as I wanted it to be.

I wish it wasn’t so, because I still love the character of Elvira.



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2019: Elvira Mistress of the Dark (1988) movie review

Posted in Fangoria, Halloween, holiday, magazine, movies with tags , , , , , , on October 4, 2019 by Paxton

Fangoria Movie Friday

So this week has been all about Elvira.  You’ve seen articles and centerfolds.  Elvira has permeated pop culture especially during the Halloween season.  She has popped up in many random movies as a fun cameo. But there have been two Elvira specific movies released and I have watched neither of them.  So I thought now would be a good time to do that.

Today, for my very first time, I’m taking a look at the first Elvira movie; Elvira Mistress of the Dark from 1988.

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I can’t believe I’ve never watched this movie. It’s fun, it’s campy. It’s the perfect Elvira movie. Mostly comedy, with some spooky genre elements added in. I had a lot of fun with it.

Let’s take a look at a few highlights from the movie.


Title cards.

on the TV show set
The show opens up with Elvira on the set of her late night TV show. It’s a low budget local station so naturally she wants to get out of there and go to Vegas to become a showgirl.

Anchorwoman
This is an anchorwoman at Elvira’s TV station waiting to go on after Elvira finishes her show. She’s not very nice. She’s played by Tress MacNeille. Tress is sort of a legend in voice over animation work. She does voice work for Simpsons, Futurama, Animaniacs, and SO MANY other shows. Check out her IMDB. It’s insane. But, funnily enough, Tress would voice the character Booberella on The Simpsons which was a parody of Elvira.

A lot of this movie is what actors pop up from other genre pictures.

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Here are a few of the teens Elvira befriends in the movie. On the far left, is Ira Heiden, who played Will in Nightmare on Elm Street 3.  To the right of Ira is Kris Kamm who’s been in a ton of TV like Quantum Leap, 21 Jump Street, and Coach.

Kenicky!
Hey, it’s Kenicky! From Grease!

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Here’s the villain, Vincent. He plays this up pretty well. He’s appropriately evil and English.  This guy has also been in a bunch of genre stuff like Star Trek VI: Undiscovered Country, the old Fox TV show Werewolf, the Max Headroom TV series, Needful Things and Michael Bay’s Transformers.

Apple Slice!
Edie McClurg! I love 80s movies for vintage product placement. We get a scene at a town picnic and in it we see a bunch of old soda cans like this Apple Slice as well as a few vintage Diet Pepsi cans.


Elvira finally gets to Vegas at the end and we get to see a whole overblown Vegas number. It’s campy but fun.

This was a fun movie to watch.  Yes, it was campy, but that’s Elvira’s whole shtick.  The movie was entertaining and I enjoyed it.  Glad I finally watched it.

So next week.  I had so much fun doing Elvira this week, that I think I’ll do it again.  So, expect to see another week of Elvira goodness.  I’ll look at more movie and TV appearances as well as a few other surprises.  Come back next week to see what I have in store.



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2017: Cult Film Club Podcast – Trick or Treat (1986)

Posted in Genres, Halloween, holiday, horror, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2017 by Paxton

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That’s right, my friends, Cult Film Club is back. Today we are releasing episode 41 where we talk about the 1986 horror flick, Trick or Treat.

Trick or Treat

We’ve threatened to do this movie before and we thought this Halloween was the perfect time to do it.  The movie stars Family Ties’ Marc Price with cameos by Gene Simmons, Ozzy Ozbourne, and Showbiz Pizza’s Billy Bob (not even joking).  It’s a classic 80s horror movie that is better than you think it is with a rocking soundtrack.

Download the show on iTunes, Stitcher, Google or any of your usual podcasting places.  Or you can listen to it directly right here.



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2017: The Others (2001)

Posted in Genres, ghosts, horror, monsters, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , on October 20, 2017 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2017

Today I want to talk about another favorite ghost movie of mine, The Others, from 2001.

It was directed by Alejandro Amenabar and starred Nicole Kidman.  The only other movie I know Amenabar from is Open Your Eyes from 1997 with Penelope Cruz.  It’s the movie Cameron Crowe and Tom Cruise remade into Vanilla Sky which would open the very same year as The Others.

I saw this movie in the theater based mostly on the spooky trailer and Nicole Kidman.  I had no preconceived notions going in on what to expect.

The movie takes place in 1945 in Jersey, a British dependency located in the Channel Islands.  Kidman lives in a remote country home with her two children; Anne and Nicholas.

The children have a rare condition that makes them allergic to sunlight and their father had left to fight in WWII but has not returned.

After three servants take up residence in the house strange things start occuring. The oldest daughter begins talking about seeing a small boy named Victor. Mysterious sounds are heard in abandoned rooms. Doors are left open. Typical ghostly haunted house stuff.

Kidman is not sure if the kids are causing the disturbances, the new servants or some ghostly intruder.  The suspense is really ratcheted up throughout the movie.  Lots of atmosphere.  And the old house is a great part of this whole thing.  It’s huge with all of these abandoned rooms.  You almost feel lost in the house while you are watching it.  There’s so much wood which causes lots of “house noises”.  Kidman’s character opens and closes every door of every room she enters and you get the requisite wood sounds every time.  The house looks and sounds great.  And the “ghostly” events are really spooky.

I’m not going to give away the ending.  I really want you to watch it.  But the atmosphere and tension are really amped up.  Kidman gives a great performance as the mom trapped in an ever increasingly bizarre set of circumstances.  The daughter, Anne, played by Alakina Mann, is pretty great as well.  She needed to work because she’s the one who goes against her mother for most of the movie as she’s the one who’s seen Victor and the “intruders”.  And she brings it 100%.  She’s really great in all her scenes with Kidman.

I rewatched this movie for this review and it still holds up.  Even knowing what the ultimate climax was going to be, I still very much enjoyed the journey the movie took me on to get to its “final resting place”.

Okay, so next week is the final FULL week of AWESOME-tober-fest.  I can’t believe it’s already nearly over.  Usually for this final week I’ll do what I call “Greatest Hits” where I revisit topics from previous AWESOME-tober-fests like vampires, werewolves or movie maniacs.  However, this year, for the 10th anniversary of this countdown, I’ve decided to do something a little different.  For the next week I’ll be doing ALL NEW topics.  Topics that I had planned for their own AWESOME-tober-fest at some point.  I’ll pick one article from five different topics I’ve never done before.  It should be a lot of fun.  I’ll even give you a preview of Monday’s topic.

Awesometoberfest 2017

I’ll see you back here on Monday.



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2017: The Frighteners (1996)

Posted in Genres, ghosts, Halloween, holiday, horror, monsters, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2017 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2017

Today I finally get to talk about The Frighteners by Peter Jackson starring Michael J Fox.  I’m trying to remember how I first found out about/watched this movie.  I’m fairly certain I did not see it in the theater as I would have been still in college and this particular movie wouldn’t have got me or my friends into the theater.  Plus, I don’t actually remember it in the theater.

I’m pretty sure I found out about it later. The draw for me would have been Michael J Fox in a horror comedy. I’m also fairly certain this would have been my first exposure to Peter Jackson as well. I probably caught it on DVD sometime in 1998 or 1999.  And I loved it.

The movie is about Frank Bannister, played by Michael J Fox.  He can see ghosts. He uses this ability to fleece money from people as a “psychic investigator”.  However Frank stumbles upon a rash of recent killings that look to be linked to a murder that happened decades earlier and he’ll need to use all of his supernatural skills to solve the murder before he becomes the next victim.

That’s the basic synopsis.  Lots more is going on here.  Let’s take a look at the movie.


Opening title card.


This is the Bradley House. At one time it was Fairwater Hospital/Sanatorium.  It was the site of the Bartlett/Bradley murders.  Now it’s mostly closed and abandoned.  The only people living here are Patricia Bradley and her mother.


As I’ve already mentioned, I’m a big fan of this movie. I want you to know that upfront before I talk about the opening of the movie. The opening is a very exciting set piece within the Bradley house. We see Patricia being chased by a ghost that is materializing within the walls of the house. It’s a fast paced chase with some pretty great effects for 1996.  And Patricia, played by Dee Wallace Stone, seems pretty terrified.  Eventually the ghost materializes under the carpet on the stairs and grabs her just as her mother appears with a shotgun and blows away the part of the carpet where the ghost’s head would be.  It’s a nice, thrilling beginning to the movie.  However, once you get to the climax of the movie, it ultimately makes no sense.  At all.  Even Peter Jackson admits this opening is a cheat.  It’s ostensibly one of the bigger problems with the movie, but honestly it never really bothered me.


Easter Egg Alert!  We learn some backstory about Patricia and her boyfriend, Johnny Bartlett, in a sequence featuring a “real crime” video one of the main characters is watching. This is the cover of the video. The picture of the couple on the left is supposed to be a photo of Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey as their characters in Jackson’s previous movie, Heavenly Creatures.


Patricia’s mother the very next morning after the above opening sequence and she’s sporting a hairdo in what looks to be an unsubtle homage to Gary Oldman in Coppola’s Dracula which was only 4 years before this.


Michael J Fox plays Frank Bannister. A man that has the ability to see and communicate with ghosts.  As I mentioned he uses this ability to con people by working with ghosts to haunt houses so they have to hire him to “exorcise” the ghosts.  Fox is pretty great as the lead.


These are the ghosts that work with Frank; Cyrus and Stuart. Cyrus is a 70s disco gangster and he’s played by the great Chi McBride. Stuart is sort of a nerdy guy played by Jim Fyfe who, to me, is probably best known for hosting/producing those “Buy Me That!” series of PSAs about how commercials use camera trickery to make their products appear more attractive.


This is another ghost working with Frank, “The Judge”. Judge is an Old West gunslinger/sheriff played by John Astin.  He is sort of decrepit, his ectoplasm is drying up, and he has trouble keeping his jawbone in.


Frank starts seeing spectral numbers carved into people’s heads.  At first he thinks his ghost associates did it but we learn they didn’t.


Great cameo by R Lee Ermey as Sgt Hiles. He protects the cemetery and is essentially playing his character from Full Metal Jacket.


Here’s the ghost that Frank is up against. This ghost is killing people by appearing out of the walls and squeezing their hearts until they die.  The Judge calls him the Soul Collector.


Jeffrey Combs is excellent as Special Agent Dammers. Dammers is an expert in parapsychology. His work with cults has rendered him a bit…insane.


At one point The Judge humps a mummy.


“Dr Teeth” Jake Busey plays Johnny Bartlett with much scenery chewing.

Those are just some of the highlights.  Like I said, I quite adore this movie.  Fox is great.  I think, for the most part, the effects are great, especially for 1996.  And it’s got this fun horror-comedy vibe that I just dig.

The movie does pose several questions in the nature of it’s ghosts.  One of the biggest issues I’ve had for years is that the ghost that’s committing the murders is WAY more powerful than ghosts like Stuart and Cyrus.  As a matter of fact, Sgt Hiles also seems way more powerful than Stuart and Cyrus.  Why is there a difference?  Are there different classes of ghosts?  What are the rules?  The movie doesn’t really spell any of that out.  For the most part, this lack of clarity doesn’t really hurt the movie, but those of us that have watched it many times can’t help but wonder what’s up.

I acquired the movie novelization to The Frighteners which is written by Michael Jahn.  I was hoping it would address some of my concerns.  On Monday check out my review of said novelization on a brand new episode of I Read Movies where we’ll see if any of this ghost business is explained.



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2017: Thirt13n Ghosts (2001)

Posted in Genres, ghosts, horror, monsters, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2017 by Paxton

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Thirteen Ghosts from 2001 was a remake of a 1960 William Castle movie by the same name.  The remake took the basic story by Robb White and “modernized” it.  It was directed by Steve Beck who only has one other directing credit to his name…Ghost Ship.  From the very next year.  Not a stellar resume, to be sure.

13 Ghosts poster

Back in 2001, I was actually excited to see Thirteen Ghosts (aka Thirt13n Ghosts).  It looked like a cool stylized modern horror movie.  It had an awesome glass walled clockwork house and Shannon Elizabeth.  I had (actually have) quite a crush on Ms Elizabeth.  In 2001, the run up of movies she was in before this included American Pie, Scary Movie, American Pie 2, and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.  And she was…well, if not a great actress, she was likable enough.  And she is super attractive.

I remember kind of liking this movie when I saw it in the theater.  It wasn’t the greatest movie I’d ever seen but I remember liking the concept and the world the movie inhabited.

title card
As you can see this movie follows Se7en‘s lead of embedding numbers stylistically into the title.

Cyrus
F Murray Abraham plays Cyrus, a genius/psychotic ghost hunter obsessed with trapping ghosts.  He uses these glasses to actually “see” the ghosts which is a neat little inside joke to the original 13 Ghosts from 1960.  William Castle passed out glasses to audiences which allowed them to “see” ghosts in the theater.

Lillard 1 Lillard 2
Matthew Lillard and his favorite thick sweater (he loves those sweaters – see Scream, right) is in this movie as well playing a psychic that helps Cyrus trap the ghosts.  And also like in Scream, he loves to SHOUT ALL OF HIS LINES.  And yes, he says “Aw, man…” a few times.  Honestly, I’m poking fun at Matthew a bit, but I’m a fan of his.

house 2 house 1
At the center of this movie is Cyrus’ house. It’s designed to exacting specifications as seen in the book The Arcanum. The entire house’s purpose is to hold and store ghosts until it’s time to release them and start up “the machine” that exists in the middle of the house. All the construction materials and inscriptions in the glass are specifically to trap the ghosts inside.


This is Cyrus’ surviving family. Tony Shaloub is Cyrus’ brother-in-law, Shannon Elizabeth is Shaloub’s daughter and the chick on the left is the nanny for the little boy in the movie which I’m not showing you a picture.  They come to inherit the house when Cyrus dies capturing a ghost.

The Jackal ghost
There are 13 types of ghosts needed by Cyrus to pull off what he wants to do. They are referred to as The Black Zodiac.  This ghost is called “The Jackal”. It’s one of the more terrifying ghost designs.  Each of these ghosts were designed by the filmmakers and given complete backstories.  One of the things I love about this movie is how they really thought about the world this movie inhabits and really tried to flesh out some of the backstory even if that backstory would never be seen actually in the movie (see book pages below).  Wish they would have given this type of thought to the actual script.

arcanum page 2 arcanum page 3
Pages from The Arcanum.  It’s in The Arcanum that is described the 13 types of ghosts.  The one on the left is the most powerful ghost called “The Juggernaut”.  The middle one is “The Jackal”.  The ghost on the right is called “The Hammer”.


All 12 ghosts gathered around the device about to open a portal to Hell.

So, watching it again, I feel the same.  The movie isn’t exactly terrible.  There are certain aspects like the house, the ghosts, how the machine works, that I like.  But other things like the script and the majority of the actors are just not very good.  Normally you’d think Tony Shaloub would be great, but he’s not.  He’s not terrible either.  But he’s not good.  And Shannon Elizabeth is barely in the movie.  The ones that get to really chew some scenery are F Murray Abraham and Matthew Lillard.  They get to have all the fun here.  And there’s a great set piece in the opening of the movie where they capture a ghost.  It’s thrilling and action packed.  Wish the rest of the movie could have been the same way.



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2016: Jason X (2001) review

Posted in Friday the 13th, Genres, Halloween, holiday, horror, Jason Vorhees, movies, nostalgia with tags , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2016 by Paxton

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Yesterday for my “greatest hits of AWESOME-tober-fest” week, I looked at the novelization for the movie Jason X, of which I am a fan.  I thought maybe for Fangoria Movie Friday I should revisit the movie itself and see if I do still, in fact, enjoy it.  A 15 years later retrospective on a very maligned movie.

In the late 90s, when Freddy vs Jason was still in “development hell”, Friday the 13th creator Sean Cunningham wanted to make another Jason movie to continue fostering interest in the character. Writer Todd Farmer pitched “Jason in space” and develpment began on what would become the 10th Friday the 13th movie, Jason X.

Jason X poster

The movie starts off in 2010. Jason has been captured by the government and kept in the Crystal Lake Research Facility. They have been testing his ability to regenerate tissue and stay alive. After several failed attempts to kill him it is decided to put him in cryo stasis, but certain other shadowy government departments want him for further study so they prep him for transfer to another facility. However, Jason escapes and kills nearly everyone. One of the researchers, Rowan, traps him in the cryo chamber, but Jason pierces the chamber with his machete and both Jason and Rowan are trapped in cryo sleep as the facility goes into lockdown mode.

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Over 445 years later, a scientific team stumbles upon the two and transports them to their ship. The crew revive Rowan from cryo sleep with nanotechnology and just as she is about to warn them about Jason he revives and starts killing all of the scientists. Rowan and the few survivors must figure out a way to stop Jason and get off the ship before it is destroyed.

That’s the elevator pitch, there’s a little bit more to it. But not much.  Getting this out of the way, the movie is ultra low budget.  Especially for being in space.  The actors are mostly unknowns but the lead girl, Rowan, was on Andromeda, as was one other cast member.  The cast is as good as any other standard Friday the 13th.  The kills are pretty good.  One of the more infamous being the “liquid nitrogen head smash”.

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For the characters, Rowan is pretty good as the female lead. The other “lead” if you want to call her that is an android a la Data from Star Trek: TNG named KM-14. You also get the typical smattering of other character types; “the tough military sergeant”, “the computer dork” and “the outspoken one with loose morals”. They work as well as any of the other F13 movies. Certainly no worse than Jason Takes Manhattan or New Beginning.  But saying “they work as well” and “they are good and interesting characters” are two different things.  They do what they need to do but they aren’t great.

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As far as the story goes, I like the idea of the government wanting to test the captured Jason’s supernatural healing abilities. He has this ability to regenerate after nearly 100% damage. Of course the government is going to want to study him.  I also like the idea of trapping people on a spaceship with a hunting Jason. You can tell the premise of this movie was “borrowed” from Alien. As a plot device, for me, it works.  What also works for me is the idea of Uber Jason.  Towards the end of the movie, the android character gets “an upload”, becomes Rambo and “kills” Jason by shooting off his leg, part of his rib cage and part of his head.  And despite the fact that Jason hasn’t died from some seemingly fatal wound at least 5 times before this, everyone assumes he’s dead.  Then the damaged medical station thinks Jason needs to be fixed so it takes over and rebuilds Jason.  As a cyborg.

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And so is born the best thing in this movie, Uber Jason.  We get precious little time with Uber Jason.  He’s awesome and should have been onscreen more than 20 minutes.  He’s relentless and kills gloriously.  The movie really picks up and seems more fun once Uber Jason is on the scene.  Here’s a nice gallery of Uber Jason pics.

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At one point they trap Uber Jason in a simulated 1980 Camp Crystal Lake environment.  He gets to kill two simulated co-eds by smacking their sleeping bags against a tree.  It’s a pretty great homage to past movies (the sleeping bag stunt was done back in Part VII).

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So, is this a great movie? No, not really. But it’s fun. It has fun with the concept of Jason and the idea to move him into outer space and turn him into a futuristic cyborg Jason was a clever idea. Did everything 100% work? No, of course not. The budget is uber cheap and you get what you pay for with the actors. But I had fun with what the filmmakers were trying to do and I still say I enjoy this movie.


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Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.