"Prince of Darkness" (1987)
Another by John Carpenter, the second in his 'Apocalypse' trilogy, which began with "The Thing" (1982) and concluded with 1995's "In the Mouth of Madness". The film centers on a group of scientists called in to investigate an impossibly old church artifact, and things go downhill from there rather quickly. An skilled cast, superb writing, and a genuinely creepy, full of mystery and dread atmosphere make this one another one of the most effective horror films of the last quarter of the 20th century. The fashions are dated a bit, plus Jameson Parker's mustache steals a few scenes, but overall this is again an example of John Carpenter showing how to tell a good story very, very well. Highly recommended.
"Dance of the Dead" (2008)
Pretty straightforward. A motley crew of students, a pizza delivery guy, and a coach work to protect the high school prom from a horde of zombies attacking the town. Don't be fooled by the simplicity of the story. This film is sharp, funny, scary, very well written and directed, and really fun to watch. On top of that, it's an indie, and we like good independent films. Highly recommended.
"F For Fake" (1975)
This was the last major film by Orson Welles, and it rather defies description. It was years ahead of its time in editing technique and overall style and remains worlds ahead of other films in what has become known as the mockumentary genre, though "F for Fake" isn't really a mockumentary... sort of. For the curious and/or adventurous of you looking for different film experiences, this one is by a bona fide Master of Cinema and cannot be missed. It is wildly entertaining and informative and more than a little mischievous. Not just recommended. Essential.
"The Haunting" (1963)
A scientist, two psychic sensitives, and a skeptic go to check out a very haunted house indeed, and no hilarity ensues whatsoever. Robert Wise's 1963 film adaptation of Shirley Jackson's novel, The Haunting of Hill House, is considered by many, including this reviewer, as the best haunted house movie ever made. A solid story and script coupled with amazing technical direction plus an excellent cast give this film an atmosphere of unease, darkness, mystery, and psychological horror that just about can't be beat, and the best thing is that by and large it's a slow burn from beginning to end. It's masterful. Highly recommended.
"The Legend of Hell House" (1973)
There is no such slow burn in 1973's "The Legend of Hell House". Once it gets going, it keeps going and doesn't really let up, just gives you enough time to breathe. Adapted by Richard Matheson from his own novel, this film has the same premise as "The Haunting" but approaches from a different angle and much more ferociously. The cast shines, especially Roddy McDowell, and the direction is determinedly '70s and very effective. It may not be the best haunted house film ever, but it's close... and probably the most fun to watch. Highly engaging, highly energetic, and... Highly Recommended.
"Event Horizon" (1997)
A bit overambitious but well done and with a great attitude, "Event Horizon" is probably the best haunted house in space movie ever made. It's more than a hair over the top and sometimes tends to try to hard, but there's something about the film that just screams underdog. It's got a good script and direction, and the cast does pretty well. It just keeps barely not quite coming completely together. Having watched it more than a few times, I believe there's a good, fun, healthy attitude about the film, and it's really great fun to watch, especially with friends, which makes raises from average to slightly above average. And so while your mileage may vary, I say... Recommended.
"Quigley Down Under" (1990)
This is one of my favorite post-1960s westerns. It's a solid, entertaining yet often overlooked film. It has aged far better than most of its more popular cinema contemporaries and is just as well written, acted, and directed as most of them. It has action, humor, and drama, and instead of relying on flash and cool it is plainly a good story told well, which is better than flash and cool and many other superficialities every time. Recommended.
"The Exorcist III" (1990)
Once again we have a case of an often overlooked solid, entertaining film that has aged better than many of its contemporaries. This chapter of the "Exorcist" cycle more than makes up for its diabolically hodgepodge (and often unintentionally quite funny) predecessor. It's an effective detective/horror film that really only gets over the top at the end, though it still works well. Script, direction, and cast are excellent, and the film effortlessly moves between darkly funny humor and delivering atmosphere and chills. Again, good story and well told. Recommended.
"The Return of the Living Dead" (1985)
This is probably the second most legendary zombie movie of them all, and despite its title was in no way associated with George Romero's 1968 film. (See this Wikipedia article for that story.) It's a zombie film with an excellent atmosphere of dread, a good cast, and a very effective balance of laughs and scares that keeps the film's pace moving at a steady clip. Above all, it's fun to watch, either alone or with friends. Highly recommended.
A group of horny, beer-swilling, pot-smoking college kids just wanted to go camping... out in the middle of nowhere... where years before something really, really bad happened to a group of horny, beer-swilling, pot-smoking college kids who just wanted to go camping. And Tucker and Dale just wanted to go fishing at the lake by the cabin. Oh yes. Hilarity. It does ensue.
"Tucker & Dale vs. Evil" (2010)
directed by Eli Craig
written by Eli Craig and Morgan Jurgenson
starring Alan Tudyk, Tyler Labine, Katrina Bowden, Jesse Moss, Brandon McLaren, Chelan Simmons, Adam Beauchesne, Christie Laing, Philip Granger, Travis Nelson, Alex Arsenault, and Joseph Sutherland
How Is it?
If you enjoy horror, comedy, and/or romantic comedy films or just like watching films that fire on all cylinders and are loads of fun to watch, then you should see this one.
There really isn't much to say in this section. While Labine, Tudyk, and Bowden are the leads of the film, it's an ensemble piece. The supporting cast did a marvelous job, each one getting their moments to make their mark and doing so memorably and well. They were all fun to watch work. I was especially impressed with Tyler Labine and his chemistry with his co-stars. In a film full of excellent performances, his portrayal of Dale really stands out. Alan Tudyk, ever reliable in drama and/or comedy, is in top form as well. And Katie Bowden fits right in with the two of them and is a real delight to watch as well. The three of them work marvelously together.
Behind the Camera
Good actors can do wonders with poor to average scripts. When good actors get really very good scripts... well, we get what we have with this film. Craig and Jurgenson delivered a solid script, one that covered all the bases quickly and effectively, one that didn't waste much time on standing exposition but generally kept things moving. So the audience gets information at the same time as the plot moves along, and it clicks. That it parodies a well-worn classic genre helps, of course. People know what to expect in slasher films, and so part of the fun is watching how those conventions are turned around. It's a good story, and it's well told. There you are.
Looking at the technical side of it, "Tucker & Dale vs. Evil" is a very well made film. It's Eli Craig's best one yet, I'd say. The film's direction is much like what I said of the script. It's moves at a steady clip and keeps the audience engaged, something more than a few films have difficulty doing. The cinematography, lighting, special effects, and all are clean, not overcomplicated or overambitious, and very effective. It looks like he made all the right choices with this film. It's one of the best all-around films I've seen in a while.
"Tucker & Dale vs. Evil" has beer, skinny-dipping, fire, a deserted lumber mill, blood, cultural misunderstandings, gore, plenty of laughs, and a lot of heart. Highly recommended.
"Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2" (2011)
This is an impressive film, technically. Specifically, the makeup and effects of this film are impressive, mightily impressive. Unfortunately, saying that about a movie is rather like going to a concert and coming saying "Well, the seats were comfortable." Style is no substitute for substance, and this film was style heavy and substance poor. The script made little sense, but most of the actors managed well with what they had. All told, it wasn't really bad, though if it hadn't been for the special effects it would've been a bit below average. Recommended for fans of gore effects, not quite so for general viewers.
"Scream of the Banshee" (2011)
When "SyFy presents" appeared at the opening, my heart sank a bit. As the movie progressed, my heart sank even more. The more the actors, brave men and women all, struggled against the bland and plodding script, the more they themselves sank into the SyFy swamp, an awful and hideous place wherein mediocrity and cheapness rule with a plastic fist (rather poorly painted to look like iron from a distance). It was obvious they knew as well as I that there was only one way for it to go, and in the end, we all went down together. At least they got paid for their time and energy, and it's still far and away and worlds better than Neighbor. Unless you want to make a drinking game out of watching it or you have a crush on Lauren Holly, this film is: Not recommended.
"The Omega Man" (1971)
This is an example of films that have aged about as well as Dorian Gray at the end of his story. The themes of Matheson's original 1954 novel, I Am Legend, are sweeping and universal, and it seems they were reduced down and twisted a bit to suit the cultural vogues of the beginning of the 1970s. They're clumsily handled in the script, and so instead of having an impact and encouraging you think it just preaches at you. The non-message parts of the film, on the other hand, are quite good. Heston's in great form and has some really good scenes, as does Rosalind Cash. It could have been better, but despite the ham-fisted handling of some of the themes and the near-comical 1970s-ness of it, it really is a slightly above average film, except for the ending. Oy vey. "The Omega Man" is worth watching, but don't go out of your way or be in a hurry to. Matheson's novel, though, should be required reading.