Archive for the 90s horror Category

Me and Lil’ Stevie Survive the STORM OF THE CENTURY (1999)

Posted in 1990s Horror, 2013, 90s horror, Demons, Magic, Me and Lil' Stevie, Peter Dudar Reviews, Stephen King Movies, TV-Movies with tags , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2013 by knifefighter

ME AND LIL’ STEVIE
Survive the
STORM OF THE CENTURY
(1999)

storm

(Interior-Night:  Establishing shot of a town hall-style meeting room, where the citizens of Little Tall Island have convened to both ride out a nasty Nor’easter blizzard and to decide what to do about the scary stranger that is holding the citizens hostage.  The crowd is buzzing with nervous tension as the clock on the overhead wall tick-tocks away.  The sound of a gavel banging on the podium at the front of the room makes everybody jump, and then a wave of silence fills the room as everybody turns to look at the man calling the meeting to order.  Camera pans to the podium where we see a man holding a ventriloquist dummy in the form of Master of Horror, Stephen King.)

Lil’ Stevie:  (banging gavel on the podium) Oye, oye!  This meeting will come to order.

(An unruly woman in the crowd starts shouting.)

Sheri White:  Boo!  I just talked about this movie in my HORROR-MOM column.  Why don’tcha pick out something else to watch?

Peter:  Someone get her outta here!  Welcome, Constant Viewer, to another episode of our little column.  As you may or may not know, New England just got dumped on by a blizzard named Nemo; a collision of two storm fronts that left most of New England (and some of New York) buried under several feet of snow.  Pee Wee and I decided that maybe we should spend the storm chilling out and watching the Craig R. Baxley adaptation of the made-for-television screenplay by Stephen King and report back on it.

Lil’ Stevie:  I love ham-handed segues….hey, a portly gentlemen in the back has a question.

L.L. Soares: A “made-for-television screenplay” is called a teleplay, the last time I checked. And isn’t it true that this is a rare original teleplay by King, and is not based on a previous work?

Peter: Yes, Mr. Know-it-All. That is correct. Can I go back to what I was saying now? Or will there be more interruptions?

(The room falls silent)

Peter: Admittedly, Baxley is not a well-known director, but the guy has had his hand in the movie business for a lifetime, working as a stunt coordinator and then as a second-director and producer on an enormous number of made-for-television films and programs.  That said, I feel the urge to point out that watching this miniseries again after seeing it way back in 1999, I could almost find myself believing that Mick Garris had actually helmed the project.  It just has that feel to it.

Lil’ Stevie:  What…are you cursing it right out of the starting gate?

Peter:  Absolutely not!  This was not a bad film, and Garris HAS put out some great stuff.  I’m just talking stylistically.  Can we get started?

Lil’ Stevie:  Hang on a sec…(takes gavel and smashes Peter on the forehead with it).  Okay, we’re good!

Peter:  Ouch!  What was that for?

Lil’ Stevie:  Born in sin…Come on in!

Peter:  (Rubbing forehead) STORM OF THE CENTURY begins on Little Tall Island, a township of several hundred people on an island off the coast of Machias, Maine.  Fans of King will note that Little Tall Island is also the setting for his novel DOLORES CLAIBORNE (1992) and its respective film adaptation from 1995.  The film starts with a voiceover narrative from Michael Anderson (Tim Daly, television’s WINGS, 1990-97), Little Tall Island’s constable and local general store owner, who is about to tell his tale of horror and sorrow over the course of the three-part series.  “You pay as you go,” he tells us in his soliloquy about Island Life as we’re given a montage of lobstermen and boat skippers, all unloading their catches and mooring their vessels in preparation for the big storm.  We see other citizens in the process of hunkering down for the storm, all chatting away about what a doozy they’re in for as the ominous clouds roll in.  And this, of course, includes little old lady Martha Clarendon (Um…holy cow!  IMDB doesn’t have the actress’s name listed!).

Lil’ Stevie:  Hahahaha…she’s so old she forgot to write her name down for the credits!

Peter:  That’s terrible!  I had to Google her name, but the actress is (or was) Rita Tuckett (AGNES OF GOD, 1995).  Anyway, Martha’s parked in front of her television set watching the weather report when the doorbell rings.  She gets up and answers it, and then is quickly clubbed to death by a dark stranger for no apparent reason whatsoever.

Lil’ Stevie:  Hit her so hard her eyes popped out!  Hyuk Hyuk Hyuk.

(Peter snatches gavel and whacks Lil’ Stevie on the noggin, forcing his eyes to pop out and then comically spring back into place).

Peter:  Hey, that IS pretty funny.  The stranger then parks himself in the chair where Martha HAD been sitting and begins watching the news and grinning strangely to himself.  We jump across town to Anderson’s General Store where all the citizens on Little Tall are frantically making their last minute purchases before the storm.  Mike is waiting on people and making small talk with the citizens, basically to establish to us viewers that he is a swell guy and that we should like him.  And here we encounter one of my biggest difficulties with this film.

Lil’ Stevie:  I just knew you couldn’t get through this without bitching and complaining.  What’s your beef this time?

Peter:  You’ll notice that a lot of King’s characters, particularly in this movie, don’t just have that colorful Maine Yankee slate of colloquialisms, but they also feel a need to announce the character’s full name in conversation.  As in, “That’s a hell of a storm they’re predicting for us, huh, Mike Anderson?”  – “Sure is, Tess Marchant.  Do you need more sausage links?”  A lot of this has to do with the size and scope of the story, and the need to present an island full of people you want the viewer to care about over the next three nights.  But after a while it’s annoying and it doesn’t sound natural.  It strains the story for me.  And this story has so many characters in it that I can’t keep half of them sorted out anyway.  The important players in the story are all we need to know.  This movie could have a drinking game called, “Is Martha Clarendon REALLY dead?”  That line gets said over and over again!

Lil’ Stevie:  I’ll drink to that!  (Hoists a bottle of beer and drinks).

Peter:  To get on with the review, young Davey Hopewell (Adam Zolotin, ZEROPHELIA, 2005) is heading home, dribbling his basketball and imagining he’s the next NBA star.  He passes Mrs. Clarendon’s house and sees her walker on the front lawn and her door wide open, and…

Lil’ Stevie:  Is Martha Clarendon REALLY dead?  (Drinks again).

Peter:  …decides to investigate.  He sees the old woman dead on her hallway floor, hears the dark stranger speak to him, and then bolts off screaming bloody murder down the street.  He’s nearly run over by the town manager, Robby Beals (noted King character-actor Jeffrey DeMunn, THE GREEN MILE, 1999).  It’s obvious from the onset that Beals and Mike Anderson have some kind of pissing contest going on, mostly due to Robby’s overblown sense of self-importance.  Beals takes it upon himself to go to Martha’s house to investigate, and…

Lil’ Stevie:  Ish Martha Clarendon REALLY dead?  (Drinks AGAIN).  I love you, man!

Peter:  Will you cut it out?

Lil’ Stevie:  Born in vice?  Say it twice!

Peter:  Beals finds Martha’s body, and likewise encounters the dark stranger who tells him some terrible secrets about himself that a stranger isn’t supposed to know.  Robby bolts out like a coward and finally calls Constable Anderson on the CB.  The radio announcement goes off  in Anderson’s General Store, where half the populace is doing their shopping and can hear for themselves that Martha Clarendon is dead.  (Glances at Lil’ Stevie).

Lil’ Stevie:  Continue…

Peter:  You know you want to say it.

Lil’ Stevie:  Is Martha Clarendon REALLY dead?  (Drinks AGAIN).  Best. Game. EVER!

Peter:  Mike Anderson and deputy (and best buddy) Alton “Hatch” Hatcher (Casey Siemaszko, STAND BY ME, 1986) grab their guns and head on out to the old lady’s house, where we’re finally officially introduced to Andre Linoge (Colm Feore, THOR, 2011).  Linoge submits to arrest without incident, although we ARE given flashes of his morphing black eyes and mouthful of CGI fangs that never really look real (a Mick Garris staple if ever there was one).  He’s taken to a holding cell in the back of Anderson’s General Store, where he offers more humiliating insights into the sinful pasts of the town folk.  I find the concept of that to be terrifying, don’t you?  How would you react if strangers just showed up and started blurting out your worst secrets?

Lil’ Stevie:  As a celebrity, I get that all the time.

Peter:  You’re a puppet.  Nobody talks about you once the column is over and I drop you back in the corner of my office.  Let’s speed things up.  This is getting longer than I wanted it to be.  Linoge is kept in the cell for a good amount of time, where he uses his dark magic to manipulate the town folk into committing murder or killing themselves, each time leaving a death note reading, GIVE ME WHAT I WANT AND I’LL GO AWAY.  This happens for what feels like hours, where characters we really haven’t come to know (other than having their full names repeated over and over again) bite the dust, causing terror and chaos among the citizens.  The snowstorm worsens, and people are forced to abandon their homes for the storm shelter set up, conveniently, in the basement of the town hall.  Everyone is drawn together, with the exception of Mike, Hatch, Beals, and the other deputies who offer to help guard Linoge in the holding cell behind the General Store.  In truth, though, this is all very reminiscent of King’s novel, NEEDFUL THINGS (1991), where dark stranger Leland Gaunt arrives in Castle Rock and manipulates the residents into killing each other.

Lil’ Stevie:  I thought for sure you wouldn’t notice that…

Peter:  It’s a little familiar…just saying.  Linoge finally reveals himself for who he is; an ancient demon with long hair and strange vestment robes.  He escapes the holding cell in grand fashion, admonishing the guards once more to “Give me what I want and I’ll go away,” before slipping out into the blinding storm.  More chaos ensues between the town  folk as citizens ‘disappear’ without a trace, and then the eight children of the town suddenly begin acting strangely as they are manipulated by Linoge’s terrible magic cane.  Now, on this whole island, it seems very improbable that there are only eight children (each being the same age), and that none of these children seem to have siblings. How on earth can you justify THIS?

Lil’ Stevie:  Anderson’s store ran out of condoms during the STORM OF THE DECADE, which happened five years prior to the STORM OF THE CENTURY!  Is Martha Clarendon REALLY dead?

A cryptic message

A cryptic message

Peter:  You’re impossible!  So, after the first two nights, we’re finally told what it is that Linoge ACTUALLY wants; he wants one of the children to take as his own child.  Thus begins the heart and the conflict of this story.  This is all one big morality play that almost mirrors the Grimm’s fairytale of Rumpelstilskin.  Linoge is actually a demon who…

Lil’ Stevie:  It’s pronounced “daemon.”

Peter:  Say what?

Lil’ Stevie:  My monster is a “daemon.”  It’s different than a demon.

Peter:  Fine!  Linoge is a “daemon” that wants a child to raise as his own, and teach all of his terrible “daemon-y” secrets to.  And if he doesn’t get what he wants, he’ll lay to waste the entire island, just as he had with the town of Roanoke, Virginia centuries earlier.  And here is where the storytelling behind this miniseries actually rises to what it is SUPPOSED to be…We’re given a microcosm of society that is cut off from the rest of the world, and how this microcosm becomes symbiotic in order to survive.  The people are mostly good, even if they do have their terrible little secrets, but the reality is that ALL of us have those terrible little secrets.  But how far are they willing to go to save themselves, versus how far will they go to stand up for what is right?  And in that battle for virtue, in that fight for GOOD, Mike Anderson is a lone voice.  And when it’s over, this will cost him everything.

Lil’ Stevie:  I couldn’t have said it better, Peter Dudar.

Andre Linogue (Colm Feore) shows his real face.

Andre Linogue (Colm Feore) shows his real face.

Peter:  Sadly, though, it took two whole episodes of ho-hum to get this captivating bit of drama. The first two episodes never quite capture the urgency we feel once the children are involved.  Linoge could have told us what he wanted way back in part one and saved us a lot of time.  I think it was a mistake to film this beast as a three-part series.  There are points in STORM where it feels like King is just throwing things in to fill time.  It’s frustrating.  Had this been written as a novel rather than as a screenplay, I think he could have done a better job with story arcs and building characters.  That’s where he shines in his writing.  I also think under more capable directing, it could have been paced better.  I think someone with more vision and experience might have been able to stand up to King and make appropriate adjustments rather than film the script exactly as it was written.  And that’s a shame, because this really could have been a killer with less filler.  We could have done with fewer primary characters as well, so we could focus on the important players rather than trying to keep tabs on the whole town.

Lil’ Stevie:  So, in other words, bigger ain’t always better.

Peter:  Precisely.  And I think it’s worth pointing out that we’re probably going to be seeing this same structuring problem when King’s miniseries of UNDER THE DOME airs later this year.  But we’ll jump off that pier when we get to it.

Lil’ Stevie: A prediction! You heard it here first, folks.

(Peter stares at Lil’ Stevie, who shrugs)

Lil’ Stevie:  Is Martha Clarendon REALLY dead?

Peter:  Enough already.  That’s getting really annoying.

Lil’ Stevie:  Give me what I want and I’ll go away.

Peter:  (Sighing) What do you want?

Lil’ Stevie:  (Grabbing the gavel and smashing Peter’s nose with it).  I want you to know just WHO is in charge of our little column.  Goodbye, folks.  See you next month!

© Copyright 2013 by Peter N. Dudar

096009082741

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Cinema Knife Fight’s Monstrous Question: BEST ACTOR/ACTRESS WHO NEVER MADE IT

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 2012, 50s Horror, 70s Horror, 80s Horror, 90s horror, Campy Movies, Grindhouse, Hammer Films, LL Soares Reviews, Mad Doctors!, Michael Arruda Reviews, Monsters, Monstrous Question of the Month, Movie History, Paul McMahon Columns, Universal Horror Films, William Carl Articles with tags , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  MONSTROUS QUESTION
With Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, William D. Carl, and Paul McMahon

MICHAEL ARRUDA:   Welcome to this month’s MONSTROUS QUESTION column.  Today we’re asking our panel of Cinema Knife Fighters:  Who’s your favorite actor, or actress, in a horror/science fiction movie who didn’t make it big?

In other words, that person who never quite became a star, yet in this one movie or perhaps movies, you just loved him/her.  Name the actor, the movie, and what it was about his/her performance that you liked so much.  You can also comment on why you think this person never became a star.  Of course, in some cases, it’s obvious (the person died suddenly, for example).

So let’s get started.  William, let’s start with you.  Who’s the actor or actress you most wished had made it big?

WILLIAM D. CARL:  Thanks, Michael.  I’m going with Deborah Foreman, who burst onto the screen in the hot VALLEY GIRL in 1983, but she almost immediately gravitated toward the horror genre.

PAUL MCMAHON:  Cool.  Deborah Foreman was one of my picks too!

CARL:  Well, she was a terrific comedian, with a beautiful face and bod to match the bubbly personality; she nearly always played the perky girl next door type who got into some kind of trouble.

Deborah Foreman in VALLEY GIRL.

Deborah Foreman in VALLEY GIRL.

In DESTROYER (1988), she faced a crazed Lyle Alzado in an abandoned prison where she was to play the lead in a women-in-prison film. In 1988, she played ‘the girlfriend’ in WAXWORK, facing off against vampires and her own sexual urges when confronted by De Sade!

L.L. SOARES:  My kind of woman!

CARL:  SUNDOWN: THE VAMPIRE IN RETREAT (1989) found her in another thankless girlfriend role, but she held her own against Bruce Campbell and David Carradine. Later that year she played, yes, another girlfriend in the comedy/horror film LOBSTER MAN FROM MARS. In my heart, however, the lovely Deborah Foreman will always be the twins Buffy and Muffy from 1986’s APRIL FOOL’S DAY, a fun slasher comedy that is buoyed by her dual performance to a point where it makes the movie’s ludicrous twists (almost) palatable.

Foreman had a real knack for comedy and scares, and she knew when to be the growling animalistic twin and when to be sweet and innocent, as she was in most of her roles. I think if someone would’ve let her play something other than the girlfriend, she could have really become a huge star in either comedy or horror. Somehow, she never made it. After a few TV episodes (hello MACGYVER!), she’s disappeared from the scene. Nowadays, she’s a graphic artist and she makes and designs custom furniture.

Sigh.

In my heart, she will always be the beautiful, but mussed Muffy, attacking the last guy alive with one wickedly huge knife. Deborah, we miss you!

MCMAHON:  We certainly do.

ARRUDA:  I miss the Lobster Man from Mars.  Whatever happened to him?

SOARES:  He’s selling fish and chips in New Bedford.

Anyway, my favorite actor who never made it big would have to be Seamus O’Brien, who played Master Sardu in the 1976 movie BLOODSUCKING FREAKS. He is brilliant in the film, and has been described as a kind of a “poor man’s Vincent Price.” But I thought he was so much more. By turns spooky and darkly funny, his performance is nothing short of inspired.

The late great Seamus O'Brien in BLOODSUCKING FREAKS.

The late great Seamus O’Brien in BLOODSUCKING FREAKS.

Born in London in June of 1932, his short film career includes only one other movie credit: a small role in 1975’s THE HAPPY HOOKER, but he also was a stage actor, and was performing in an off-Broadway production of “The Fantasticks” when he died.

And how did he die? He “was stabbed to death while trying to hold a burglar at his apartment on May 14, 1977,” thus ending a promising career in horror/exploitation cinema.

He was only 44 years old.

ARRUDA:  That’s sad.  Some of my picks had tragic ends as well, but we’ll get to those in a moment.  Paul, you want to weigh in?

MCMAHON:  Sure.

The one actress I’ve never been able to forget is Deborah Foreman, who William spoke about a couple of minutes ago.

Deborah Foreman in APRIL FOOL'S DAY.

Deborah Foreman in APRIL FOOL’S DAY.

As he said, Foreman played Muffy/ Buffy in the original APRIL FOOL’S DAY (1986). It’s been a long time since I’ve seen it, but I remember her having a screen presence that flipped from inviting to evil and back again. I always thought she deserved a more meaningful acting career than WAXWORK (1988) and LOBSTER MAN FROM MARS.

While we’re at it, I’d like to give a shout-out to Emily Perkins from STEPHEN KING’S IT (1990) and the GINGER SNAPS TRILOGY (2000 – 2004).

Emily Perkins in GINGER SNAPS

Emily Perkins in GINGER SNAPS

ARRUDA, SOARES, CARL:  Yo, Emily!

MCMAHON:  Where the heck did she go?

SOARES:  She ran off with the Lobster Man, and they had little Ginger Lobster babies.

ARRUDA:  Really?  I thought the Lobster Man from Mars had a thing for the DEVIL GIRL FROM MARS (1954)?

SOARES:  That was just a fling.

ARRUDA:  Oh.  And here I was thinking Mars was just this ANGRY RED PLANET (1959).  Who knew there was so much lovin’ going on?

MCMAHON:  An actor that leaps to mind is Kevin J. O’Connor, who played Joey in DEEP RISING (1998) and Swann in LORD OF ILLUSIONS (1995). In both roles he disappeared into his character and commanded your attention whenever he was on screen. He works only sporadically now, and doesn’t usually get much to do. I’d love to see him find a role to carve himself into everyone’s memory.

Kevin J. O'Connor in LORD OF ILLUSIONS.

Kevin J. O’Connor in LORD OF ILLUSIONS.

SOARES – Wait a minute here, what’s with all the choices? The question says “Who’s your favorite actor, or actress,” so I obviously assumed it meant one person.  No fair!

ARRUDA (dressed as the Joker): Wait til they get aload of me.

SOARES: Did you say something, Michael?

MCMAHON (ignoring them): Topmost, though, I have always been, and will probably always remain, stymied at the lack of respect for Jeffery DeMunn. DeMunn displayed a hell of a lot of talent as the serial killer Andrei Chikatilo in the underrated CITIZEN X (1995).

Jeffrey Demunn is probably best known as playing Dale on THE WALKING DEAD.

Jeffrey Demunn is probably best known as playing Dale on THE WALKING DEAD.

I saw the remake of THE BLOB (1988) afterwards, and DeMunn impressed me again, playing a Sheriff who genuinely cares for every member of his town. He was given a small role in THE X FILES: FIGHT THE FUTURE (1998), in which he had nothing to do.

Lately, he seems to have found favor with Frank Darabount, landing roles in THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994), THE GREEN MILE (1999) THE MIST (2007), and most recently as Dale on THE WALKING DEAD, but I think the guy deserves a lot more. He’s a top-tier talent who’s been overlooked far too long.

And a bonus…

SOARES: Another one? WTF?

MCMAHON: Brian Yuzna’s first film SOCIETY (1989) featured some of the wildest, most outrageous make-up designs I’ve ever seen. The job was credited to “Screaming Mad George.” His real name is Joji Tani, and while he worked off and on for a while after that, his trail evaporates after 2005.

Special effect genius, Screaming Mad George

Special effect genius, Screaming Mad George

Where the heck did he go?

SOARES: To be honest, he’s not an actor, so he really doesn’t count as an answer to this question, but I still have to agree with you. I’m a huge fan of SOCIETY, a completely underrated movie. And I used to look forward to seeing “Screaming Mad George’s” name in movie credits. He was terrific at making cool effects, and for awhile, you’d see his name everywhere. He was even in the creature effects crew of the original PREDATOR (1987). Where did he go?

ARRUDA:  That’s a good question.  A lot of folks just disappear from the scene.  Often they simply leave the business and continue on with their lives in other careers.

I’ve got a bunch of choices today.  Most of them are well-known, I think, but not as leading actors.

SOARES: A bunch??

ARRUDA: Robert Armstrong, for example, in KING KONG (1933) is quite famous among movie buffs for his role as Carl Denham, and while Armstrong was in fact a very successful character actor, appearing in over 160 movies, he never really made the jump to leading man.  He’s great as Denham in KING KONG, and I’ve always wished he’d played the lead in more movies.

Robert_Armstrong

From the Universal movies, I’m going with Dwight Frye.  Sure, Frye is known today for his scene stealing performances as Renfield in the Lugosi DRACULA (1931) and the hunchbacked assistant Fritz in the Karloff FRANKENSTEIN (1931), and you can find him in bit parts in other Universal monster movies, but that’s it.

Dwight Frye in his most iconic role, as Renfeild in DRACULA (1931).

Dwight Frye in his most iconic role, as Renfeild in DRACULA (1931).

Watch him as Renfield in DRACULA and you can’t help but wish he’d gone on to bigger and better things.

He died young, just 44, of a heart attack, in 1943.

SOARES: Dwight Frye was terrific! Also check him out as Herman Glieb in THE VAMPIRE BAT (1933), another memorable role. He also had a small role, as Wilmer Cook, in THE MALTESE FALCON (1931). He really deserved to become a leading man/villain in horror flicks. He’s better than Lionel Atwill or George Zucco, who got their shots as leads!

ARRUDA: And speaking of DRACULA, I’d also go with Helen Chandler in DRACULA (1931).  She’s often and obviously overlooked in this movie because of the presence of Bela Lugosi, Dwight Frye, and Edward Van Sloan as Professor Van Helsing, but she makes a terrific and feisty Mina.

Helen Chandler as Mina in a famous still from 1931's DRACULA.

Helen Chandler as Mina in a famous still from 1931’s DRACULA.

After a successful stage career, she never quite made it in the movies.  She lived a tragic life, struggling with alcohol and sleeping pill dependency, becoming disfigured in a fire, and eventually living out her days in a sanitarium.

From Hammer Films, I’ve always liked Francis Matthews, who appeared as Peter Cushing’s young assistant Hans in THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958), and as heroic Charles Kent in the second Christopher Lee Dracula movie, DRACULA-PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966).  He’s been described as an “ineffective” leading man, but I’ve always found his performances topnotch.  Sure, he sounds just like Cary Grant, but so what?  I would have liked to have seen him hit it big.

Francis Matthews with Peter Cushing in THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN

Francis Matthews with Peter Cushing in THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN

Then there’s Andrew Keir, who appeared with Matthews in DRACULA-PRINCE OF DARKNESS, as Father Sandor.  Keir was a very successful character actor, but as Father Sandor, the lead hero in DRACULA-PRINCE OF DARKNESS, he dominates his scenes, as he would again in arguably his most famous role as Professor Quatermass in FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH (1967).  But he never reached the level of a Peter Cushing or a Christopher Lee in these movies, but based on his performances, he certainly could have.

Andrew Keir

Andrew Keir

Into the 1970s, I’d go with Jason Miller from THE EXORCIST (1973).  He’s great as young Father Karras.  I would have loved to have seen him act in many more movies, but he kept himself busy as a successful playwright.  He died in 2001.

Jason Miller as Father Karras in THE EXORCIST.

Jason Miller as Father Karras in THE EXORCIST.

SOARES:  I agree about Jason Miller, too. But I’ve got a problem. Bill Carl and I totally followed the rules and chose one person. I thought Paul was bad, but you’re listing so many people it sounds like you’re writing a book on the subject. What’s going on here?

ARRUDA: Where have you been?  We always get carried away with these things.  This is nothing new.  Why haven’t you been paying attention?  Have you been busy writing novels or something?

SOARES:  Yes.

ARRUDA:  There you go.

And from today, I’d go with Idris Elba.  He’s starred in a bunch of movies, including PROMETHEUS (2012) and THOR (2011), but mostly in supporting roles, which is too bad because he’s great in every movie I see him in.  He’s busily acting today, so there’s still time for him to make it big.  This guy needs to make it as a lead actor, and I’m hoping he does.

Idris Elba

Idris Elba

SOARES: Another one! But I have to agree about Elba, he’s great in everything he does. He is more appreciated in his native England, by the way, where he plays the lead in the compelling TV series LUTHER (worth checking out on BBC America). In America, he was pretty memorable as Russell “Stringer” Bell on the HBO series THE WIRE (2002 – 2004), but he doesn’t get the respect he deserves. He was even turned down for the lead role in the recent movie ALEX CROSS, so that the role could go to “bigger name” Tyler Perry, who was awful!

ARRUDA: And that’s all we’ve got.

SOARES: Finally! I thought you were doing your dissertation or something!

ARRUDA:  Now that you mention it, it would be a fun idea for a book.

SOARES:  So, until next time, remember that there’s always something new here at CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT. Tell all your movie-loving friends to check out the site!

ARRUDA:  That’s right.  Well, thanks for joining us for this week’s MONSTROUS QUESTION column.  Good night, everybody.

—END—

Me and Lil’ Stevie First Annual Christmas Turkey Shoot featuring SLEEPWALKERS (1992)

Posted in 2011, 90s horror, Me and Lil' Stevie, Monsters, Peter Dudar Reviews, Shapeshifters, Stephen King Movies with tags , , , , , on December 21, 2011 by knifefighter

ME AND LIL’ STEVIE’s
FIRST ANNUAL HOLIDAY TURKEY SHOOT
By Peter Dudar

EXTERIOR: DAY

(Establishing shot of a small, secluded bungalow. The front yard is filled with cats, some of which are pacing back and forth while others merely sit and stare at the house itself. There are steel bear-traps set everywhere, and now and then a poor, hapless cat steps on one and yowls and shrieks out in pain as it springs on him. This sets the other cats off into a demented chorus of caterwauling. The front door opens and a figure walks out, carrying a ventriloquist dummy in the image of the Master of Horror, Stephen King. The dummy is carrying a tiny little shotgun, which he aims into the crowd of cats and opens fire.)

Lil’ Stevie:  Take that, you furry little…

Peter:  Seasons Greetings, and welcome to another episode of…

Lil’ Stevie:  Seasons Greetings, my wooden ass!  Merry Christmas, folks!

Peter: …of “Me and Lil’ Stevie.”  And today is a very special episode, isn’t it?

Lil’ Stevie:  That’s right, amigo!  Welcome to our First Annual Turkey Shoot!

Peter:  Yes, folks. Today we’re going start a new holiday tradition by taking one of King’s worst movies and putting it out of its misery.

Lil’ Stevie:  They can’t all be champions. And with the amount of stuff I write, you can’t…

Peter:  And with the amount of works the REAL Mr. King has written, there’s bound to be some turkeys. So, for this holiday season, we’ve chosen the 1992 Mick Garris film, SLEEPWALKERS.

Another bear-trap springs in the distance, and a cat screams out.

Lil’ Stevie:  Ha ha ha…didja hear that?  All nine lives in one blow.

Peter:  You’re just sick, you know that?  And not just for laughing at that poor cat. I happen to love cats and have two of them.

Lil’ Stevie:  Are they here right now?

Peter:  No.

Lil’ Stevie:  Dang. Get on with the review.

Peter:  Fine!  But you’re also sick for the whole premise of this movie. The movie consists of Charles Brady (played by Brian Krause, who appeared in the television series CHARMED, 2005-06) and his mom, Mary (Alice Krige, SILENT HILL, 2006). The Bradys are shapeshifters; people that can morph into bad CGI cat monsters that feed off the souls of young, virginal women. The movie opens with a pair of police officers bumbling their way through a crime scene that happen to be the Bradys’ last place of residence. The outside of their old home has dead cats dangling from ropes strung on tree limbs, and others poking lifelessly out of the bear-traps.

Lil’ Stevie:  Tee hee hee.

Peter:  What is it with you and cats?  We just reviewed PET SEMETERY a short while ago, and you had that cat run over by a semi!

Lil’ Stevie:  Cats are notorious Yankees fans!

Peter:  (sighing) Whatever. Jump cut to the Bradys’ new home, where we’re introduced to the two “sleepwalkers” and learn a little more about what they are through weak dialogue and bizarre behavior. For starters, the two start dancing in their kitchen to the old Santo and Johnny hit “Sleepwalk”…right before they begin making out and he carries his mom up the stairs to, well…

Lil’ Stevie:  A little of the old “In and out”…

Peter:  Stop it!  For a little incestuous liaison. It’s really creepy to watch this taboo relationship unfolding. For me, it called to mind Norman Bates, if he’d taken that next logical step with his mother. But while it’s unfolding, Charles confides to his mom that he’s picked out a new love interest, one that is virginal (to satisfy the vampire-like energy she needs to feed upon and stay alive, and yet one that apparently has enough emotional, romantic attraction to make him carve her initial into his arm).

Lil’ Stevie:  God, this movie sucks!

Peter:  How can you say that?  I thought you wrote it?

Lil’ Stevie:  Oh, hell no. The real Stephen King wrote it. And obviously he was addicted to Beverly Hills, 90210 at the time, because this movie seems to cater to the same demographic. It’s geared toward the young, the horny, and the stupid. Can we just shoot it now and skip the rest of this?

Peter:  Absolutely not. I had to suffer rewatching this.

Lil’ Stevie:  You watched it TWICE?

Peter:  Yep. The first time I saw it was at a drive-in back in college. I’m glad it sucked because it gave me and the girl I was with time to…

Lil’ Stevie:  Stop!  You’re making me sick.

Peter:  Fine. Let’s continue. Anyway, Charles has his eye on Tanya (Mädchen Amick, PRIEST, 2011) (Editor’s note: “Screw PRIEST, Amick is best known for playing Shelly Johnson in the great David Lynch series TWIN PEAKS, from 1990 – 1991”), a fellow student in his creative writing class and popcorn girl at the local theater. He sets out to woo Tanya and gain her trust so that he can steal her soul and feed his mother. Only, along the way, his identity is discovered by his creative writing teacher, Mr. Fallows (Glenn Shadix, Otho from BEETLEJUICE, 1988), and in a rather obscene film moment, Fallows pulls Charles over after pursuing him in his car and tries to blackmail him into inappropriate teacher/student activities, which forces Charles into murdering him.

Lil’ Stevie:  Charles hacks his hand right off, and then chases him out into the woods to finish him.

Peter:  It all comes across as incredibly stupid and gratuitous, as does the subsequent offing of Officer Andy (Dan Martin, GRIDIRON GANG, 2006), the cop who drives around with his cat, Clovis (who can detect the shapeshifter—just like the other cats—even when he is invisible). What cop gets to drive around with his cat all day?  That just seems cruel and inhumane.

Lil’ Stevie:  I’ll show you cruel and inhumane…Pull!

A plate launcher fires, sending a cat hurling into the air, its legs spread wide and its tail dangling below it. Lil’ Stevie lifts the shotgun and fires.

Lil’ Stevie:  You really need to try this!

Peter:  By this point, Tanya is in love with Charles. He’s young, hot, and charming. So sure, no problem, she’d love to accompany him to the cemetery to shoot some photos and do some grave rubbings…

Lil’ Stevie:  Grave rubbings…wink wink, nudge nudge.

Peter:  Only, when he gets her there, he tries to steal her soul (and King really should sue J.K. Rowling, as the whole Dementor soul-sucking thing is a total rip-off from this flick). She manages to escape just as Officer Andy arrives (to meet his demise), and flees back home…but not before she plucks his eye out with a cork screw and Officer Andy shoots him. Charles is in bad shape, and goes home to his mother. She sets out at once to claim Tanya’s soul and save her son, and all of it goes to pot by the conclusion of this movie, when the rest of the cops (led by Ron Perlman, HELLBOY, 2004) show up at their house.

Lil’ Stevie:  We should probably go on record and state that this film is NOT an adaptation of any previous King work, but one that was written specifically as a screenplay. Why, God only knows…

Peter:  Look, it’s like you already mentioned above…this is super reminiscent of Beverly Hills, 90210. But more than that, it kind of gives a nod of what’s to come with the whole Buffy/Angel phenomenon. There’s nothing scary about it. I’d have liked this movie tons more if it did away with the whole shapeshifter business altogether and pushed toward the damaged mother/son relationship that made this movie feel dirty and creepy.

Lil’ Stevie:  Who’s sick NOW?

Peter:  I’ll admit it. The CGI was terrible. The acting was substandard. The plot was paper-thin. And the gratuitous cameos?  Holy cow!  King, himself, plays the cemetery owner, then you’ve got Cynthia Garris (nepotism), Clive Barker, John Landis, Joe Dante, and Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker himself! Uncredited, and that says a lot). I tend to find that annoying. It’s hard to take a film seriously when you’re distracted with all the walk-ons.

Lil’ Stevie:  It’s like pouring perfume on a pig.

Peter:  Amen. Do we have anything positive to say about this turkey?

Lil’ Stevie:  Mädchen Amick is HOT!

Peter:  Other than that?

Lil’ Stevie:  Well, it IS the starting point of Mick Garris’s affiliation with King and his stories. Garris will later go on to helm the television miniseries, THE STAND (1994), as well as QUICKSILVER HIGHWAY (1997),  RIDING THE BULLET (2004), DESPERATION (2006), and the upcoming BAG OF BONES, which premiers this month on A&E.

Peter:  Yeah, Garris’s career has definitely benefitted from King. And he has gotten better over time. I liked THE STAND very much. But I’ll be honest…DESPERATION may very well just be next year’s Christmas dinner.

Lil’ Stevie:  Does that mean it’s time.

Peter:  It’s time.

Lil’ Stevie:  Alleluia!  Here, turkey-turkey-turkey…Gobble Gobble Gobble!

(The DVD version of SLEEPWALKERS suddenly pops up just over the ridge, sending the cats all scurrying away in every direction.)

Lil’ Stevie:  Fire!

(The shotgun blasts, and the SLEEPWALKERS DVD is smashed to smithereens.)

Lil’ Stevie:  Phew, that felt good.

Peter:  Almost cathartic. Almost, but not quite…

(Peter yanks the gun out of Lil’ Stevie’s hands. He pumps it and turns the barrel right at Lil’ Stevie’s face.)

Lil’ Stevie:  But I didn’t write it…I didn’t write it…I didn’t

(Peter pulls the trigger, and a little flag pops out of the end of the barrel. The flag reads “Merry Christmas.”)

Peter:  Thank you for joining us, and have a wonderful holiday season!

Camera fades out.

© Copyright 2011 by Peter N. Dudar

WARNING: No actual cats were harmed during the writing of this column.

Transmissions to Earth: WHEN A STRANGER CALLS BACK (1993)

Posted in 2011, 90s horror, LL Soares Reviews, Psycho killer, Sequels, Slasher Movies, Trasmissions to Earth with tags , , , , , , on September 9, 2011 by knifefighter

TRANSMISSIONS TO EARTH:
WHEN A STRANGER CALLS BACK (1993)
By L.L. Soares

I was so intrigued by the original WHEN A STRANGER CALLS (1979) in my last TRANSMISSIONS column—it was so much better than I remembered—that I had to seek out Fred Walton’s sequel, 1993’s WHEN A STRANGER CALLS BACK. Once again, the movie is quirky as hell, and full of surprises. Just when you think you’ve got this one figured out, it finds a way to sidestep the obvious.

Just like the first movie, this one begins with a babysitter arriving at the house of a successful couple who are about to go out for a fancy dinner. This time, the girl is Julia Jenz (Jill Schoelen) and when the phone rings, as we know it will, nobody answers when she picks it up. Soon afterwards, there’s a knock at the front door (the buzzer is broken, as the parents informed Julia upon her arrival), and a guy telling her his car broke down and he needs help. She refuses to let him in, and tells him to give her his auto club information and she’ll make the call herself. He agrees, and gives her his information.

At this point, things get a little odd. Julia picks up the phone to make the phone call, and finds out that the line is dead. But instead of telling the guy outside this, she tells him she made the call, and the club said they would send a tow truck within the hour. I can only guess that she has caught on fairly quickly and thinks the guy outside has something to do with the phone being dead, and she doesn’t want to let on. The guy goes away.

Julia checks on the children, by the way, and they are fine. Asleep in their beds.

But Julia has to wait for the parents to get back, and it’s a long night of waiting. She can’t even call her brother to come pick her up (this is before cell phones were commonplace—if you can remember that far back).

Later on in the night, the guy comes back, and knocks on the door again. He tells her that the tow truck never showed up and he asks her to call his wife and let her know where he is. Julia agrees to make the call, checks and sees that the phone is still dead, and then tells him he’s all set.

But he knows she’s lying.

The scenes with Julia and “the stranger” talking to each other through the front door are tense. You immediately find this guy annoying and wish he would just go away: exactly what Julia must feel. But he won’t stop bothering her.

She checks on the children again. This time they’re gone. And when she talks to the guy outside the door, another man suddenly appears from the living room, with his arms out to grab her.

It’s about this time that the parents show up, just as Julia is unlocking the door to get out of the house. No one finds the intruder, and, as far as we know, the children are never heard from again.

****

Then we jump forward five years later to Julia as a college student. She clearly has not recovered from the trauma of that night years earlier. She keeps to herself, lives in a very bare apartment off-campus, and seems neurotic as hell. The poor girl doesn’t even have a boyfriend, or any friends at all.

When she finds a child’s sweater hanging in her closet that wasn’t there before, she goes to the police. She tells them that things have been moved around in her apartment before, and she’s sure someone has been getting in and doing it. The police don’t believe a word and think she’s just some nut, but they call in the campus therapist, Jill Johnson, who you may remember is Carol Kane’s character from the first movie, the babysitter who was terrorized last time. But now she’s an adult, and running a battered women’s hotline. Jill also has never recovered from her horrifying night as a babysitter so many years ago (Who knew babysitting was such a hazardous profession?). She instantly believes Julia, and wants to help her. She even calls in her good friend John Clifford (Charles Durning – also from the original movie), a private detective, to help her solve the mystery.

As the movie goes on, it seems like no one is going to really solve anything and no one really believes Julia, except Jill. But then the man who is breaking into Julia’s apartment starts to become violent, and it’s obvious to everyone that he does exist after all. John Clifford enters a weird underground world of strip clubs and avant garde ventriloquists for answers. The ending, when the killer appears when you least expect him (watch for the eyes peaking out from the bricks!)— like the original— is very effective, very strange, and oddly satisfying.

Poor Julia. Her life will never be the same after a scary night of babysitting WHEN A STRANGER CALLS BACK!

Like Walton’s first STRANGER film, this one is pretty offbeat. It’s not structured like a typical slasher movie, and there’s much more character development than you usually see in these kinds of movies. The killer this time is just as strange as the first one, although a totally different person, and Kane and Durning are effective as a team trying to get to the bottom of it all. You almost wish that they’d appeared in more sequels together.

WHEN A STRANGER CALLS BACK won’t appeal to everyone, since the emphasis is on character much more than action. But if you like thoughtful, intriguing little films, there’s a lot to like about this one, and its predecessor as well. Unlike most sequels, this one is actually pretty good, and makes a good companion to the first film, if you’re looking for a creepy double-feature.

© Copyright 2011 by L.L. Soares


Meals for Monsters: TROLL 2

Posted in 2011, 90s horror, Campy Movies, Cult Movies, Jenny Orosel Columns, Just Plain Fun, Meals for Monsters, Monsters, Strange Cinema with tags , , , , , , , on July 19, 2011 by knifefighter

MEALS FOR MONSTERS: A FEAST FIT FOR A GOBLIN
By Jenny Orosel

Welcome to the first installment of my new column for the Cinema Knife Fight site, MEALS FOR MONSTERS.

Dinner and a movie has always been a classic date night. The dilemma is often, which movie and what to have for dinner. For the romantic, there is a love story followed by overpriced French food in a poorly lit restaurant. A casual evening can easily be made of the latest shoot-‘em-up on DVD and frozen chicken wings. But what about the horror fan? Whenever horror movies come up with cooking, you usually get some sort of Halloween cast-off by way of Martha Stewart (think eyeball shaped meatloaves and cupcakes that look like spiders). We horror buffs love good food too, and we love good movies.

Okay, maybe I should have left out the “good movies” part, because today’s dinner and movie is TROLL 2 (1990). If you are unfamiliar with this movie, I have to warn you: it’s bad. Really bad. But gloriously, epicly bad. TROLL 2 consistently ranks as the lowest rated movie on both Rotten Tomatoes and Internet Movie DataBase. And what makes it so wonderfully horrible is the fact that it fails on every single level—writing, effects, acting, direction. Every frame is filled with wrongness. So why does this make a great date movie? If it’s early on in the relationship, you can use this as a litmus test of your potential partner’s sense of humor. If you’re a long married couple I can guarantee that no matter how many movie nights you’ve had, you haven’t watched one like this. And if you’re looking for action, this movie may encourage increased alcohol consumption.

The basic plot behind TROLL 2 is a family goes to the town of Nilbog. Turns out Nilbog is populated by vegetarian goblins (yes, this movie is called TROLL 2. No, there are no trolls, only goblins). The vegetarian goblins won’t eat people, but they will feed people this strange neon green food that will somehow turns said people into plants. That way, they can still eat the people and remain true to their vegetarian status.

So the rules for a TROLL 2 dinner are: bright green food and vegetarian. Not a problem. I guarantee this meal will not only be tasty, but enhance your enjoyment of the movie.

To start things off, you need a tasty beverage. Actually, you will probably need multiple tasty beverages to make it through TROLL 2.

Here is the NIBLOG COCKTAIL:

It consists of:

1 shot vodka
1 shot Midori (or other melon flavored liquor)
Fill rest of glass with lemonade and ice (ice is optional)

You may want to keep the bottles nearby as the movie progresses.

For the main course, I bring you stuffed peppers. This recipe uses poblano peppers. They have a good kick. Keep that in mind when picking out which salsa you’ll be using.

STUFFED PEPPERS

Rice for stuffing:

Juice 2 limes into a measuring cup, fill with enough water to reach 1 ¾ cups (add a drop or two of green food coloring if you really want to accentuate the green color). Bring to a boil, add a pinch of salt and a cup of rice. Simmer 20 minutes, then let sit for at least five. This can be done ahead of time, as the rice will heat up while the stuffed peppers cook.

Peppers:

6 poblano peppers
2 tbsp olive oil
6 medium mushrooms
½ onion
3 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
1 jar green salsa
Handful of shredded cheese (optional)

Finely chop the mushrooms, onions and garlic. Sautee them in the olive oil until nice and soft. Add to mixing bowl with rice. Mix in about 2/3 cup of the salsa. Now comes the big decision—in TROLL 2, the goblins kept to a strict vegan diet. If you choose to keep strictly to the movie, omit the cheese (also do so if you are lactose intolerant). However, there’s no good reason to pay that much attention to detail (the filmmakers sure didn’t). Feel free to add the cheese. It’ll still be vegetarian.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the tops off the peppers and scoop out the seeds. Fill with the filling, and place on a cookie sheet lined with tin foil. Pour the remaining salsa on top. Bake for 30 minutes.

If you’ve made it that far into the movie you deserve a treat (and another Nilbog Cocktail). For desert, you have two options. If you’re going the full on vegan route, some lime sorbet with diced kiwi on top works. And it’s tasty, too. But it can be a lot more fun if you go the vegetarian route with some cake!

PISTACHIO PUDDING CAKE

1 small box instant pistachio pudding
1 box white cake mix
¾ cups oil
¾ cups milk
4 eggs
Green food coloring (optional)
Diced kiwi fruit (optional)

Mix cake according to the temperature and direction on the box. I’ve found a bundt pan works well as far as baking and slicing, but any pan you have lying around will do the job. Also, before baking, feel free to add a few drops of food color to the batter. Without it, the cake will still be a lovely light green. With it, however, it will turn the bright, lovely green shade of the goblin foods of the film.

If you want a little extra moisture with the cake, when you serve it, put some diced kiwi fruit over it. The tartness of the fruit work deliciously with the sweet smoothness of the pistachio cake.

And there you are—even if this does prove to be the worst movie you have ever seen, at least you’ve had a great dinner. And if you made it to the end of the movie, pour yourself another Nilbog Cocktail. You deserve it.

© Copyright 2011 by Jenny Orosel

 
Now you can enjoy the same green food that goblins eat!

(Editor’s Note to Dummies: If you have a nut allergy, then don’t make the Pistachio cake. Do I really need to post a disclaimer? )