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John’s Horror Corner: It’s Alive II: It Lives Again (1978), the dawn of the mutant monster baby epidemic.

March 5, 2019

MY CALL: Entertaining and there’s certainly effort behind it, but lacking the emotional impact and powerful allegory of It’s Alive (1974). MOVIES LIKE It’s Alive: We assume you’ve already It’s Alive (1974). So for more pregnancy/baby horror, try Rosemary’s Baby (1968), The Unborn (1991), The Unborn II (1994), Grace (2009), The Night Feeder (1988), It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive (1987), the remake of It’s Alive (2009), Inside (2016), Inside (2007), Still/Born (2017) and Good Manners (2017; As Boas Maneiras).

Part 1 left the door wide open for a sequel: “Another one’s been born in Seattle.”

Eugene (Frederic Forrest; Trauma) and Jody Scott (Kathleen Lloyd; The Car) are expecting, and Frank Davis (John P. Ryan; Class of 1999, It’s Alive) crashes their baby shower with grave news about their unborn child. Wanting to help them protect their atypical child, Frank recounts the events of the original movie (It’s Alive) and warns the Scotts that specialized teams have been killing monstrous babies at birth across the nation.

With the help of Dr. Perry (Andrew Duggan; It’s Alive, A Return to Salem’s Lot, Frankenstein Island), Frank heists the Scotts’ baby to a safehouse facility where Dr. Perry has been studying and caring for other such monstrous babies. Meanwhile, because of his experience with the Davis baby, Lt. Perkins (James Dixon; It’s Alive, The Stuff, Maniac Cop 1-2) is assigned the new Scott baby case.

The special effects haven’t come very far since 1974. The babies are rubber dolls (some puppeted clawed hands) and their faces look just as they did in the original. They behave like predecessors to Gremlins (1984) or Ghoulies (1985) or even Critters (1986), as rigid rubber monsters are held by the actors to their necks as they thrash back and forth as if being ravaged and overpowered by the diminutive aberrations.

This sequel feels less like a horror movie and more like a medical Sci-Fi thriller. The first half boasts minimal blood or violence and just one baby attack that pales to anything in part 1 (e.g., the bloody operating room scene). Of course, later in the film these mutant babies will start to get out of hand. But the attacks, violence and blood remain no more spectacular than this film’s PG-rated predecessor despite this sequel being rated R (for reasons I cannot begin to explain). Even the “scares” and suspense feel minimal compared to the drama enacted by the Scott couple and Frank Davis.

This sequel lacks the powerful allegory of Larry Cohen’s (It’s Alive, Q, A Return to Salem’s Lot) 1974 classic. Instead we continue to reinforce that the fear of parenthood is the greatest enemy of parenthood. Exactly as the original, the only thing scary in this film is the premise and none of the execution packs any impact until the emotional revelations in the end.

This movie is serviceably entertaining and broadens the theme left tangling at the end of part 1. However, it is not worthy of the reverence of It’s Alive (1974).


John’s Horror Corner: 31 (2016), Rob Zombie’s least impressive film, but that Nazi dwarf was great!

March 4, 2019

MY CALL: If a gun was to Rob Zombie’s head and he had to make a Grindhouse film in under a month, this is LESS than I’d expect from him. It’s his only film that I specifically dislike, and as a big fan of his, I didn’t enjoy writing this review. MORE MOVIES LIKE 31The Devil’s Rejects (2005) and House of 1000 Corpses (2003) fall right in line with 31. Lords of Salem (2013) for a major change in pace and artistic approach. Halloween (2007) and Halloween II (2009) for more of his brutal filmmaking.

During a 1970s nostalgically scored road trip montage, we meet Charly (Sheri Moon Zombie; House of 1000 Corpses, Lords of Salem, Halloween), Roscoe (Jeff Daniel Phillips; Freaks of Nature, Halloween II), Panda (Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs; The Annihilators, Alien Nation), Venus (Meg Foster; Jeepers Creepers III, They Live, Leviathan, Stepfather II, Lords of Salem) and Levon (Kevin Jackson; 3 From Hell). Uplifting music and imagery embracing close friendships reveal the care Rob Zombie took in introducing us to these victims. Unfortunately, our care of the characters basically stops there.

The five of them are kidnapped and face the Victorian theatrics Father Murder (Malcolm McDowell; Halloween I-II, Antiviral), who explains the rules of his homicidal game of survival “31.” If they can survive 12 hours, they are free. But trying to kill them are a sassy Nazi dwarf (Pancho Moler; American Horror Story, 3 From Hell), a laughable pair of chainsaw clowns and other white-faced killers, all introduced to us in similar over-the-top fashion as hunters of The Running Man (1987). The game’s playing field is a huge factory rigged with locked gates and electric barriers to herd and control their movement in favor of the killers.

This film is a lot of things, none of which include a conquest in acting or writing. And whereas I rather enjoyed Zombie’s approach to Halloween I-II (2007, 2009), 31 feels more like a movie that was made for the sake of making a modern grindhouse flick in a short period of time on a drunk dare.

In reference to this shallow filmmaking, fellow MFF writer and Rotten Tomatoes writer Mark Hofmeyer wrote “31 is Rob Zombie going full “Rob Zombie” and turning everything to 11. He came up with the idea in a few seconds and the 20-day production schedule felt rushed and unnecessary. Nothing is fleshed out (except the exploding flesh) and it feels like a study in style over substance.” To read Mark’s full review, CLICK HERE.

The strongest elements of the film would be the set design and the evil Nazi dwarf character (easily the best and most “appropriately” over-the-top performance of the film), who had the best line delivery and acting by far. That murderous little man chewed the scenery and I want to see more of that actor. My greatest disappointment was how flat the brutality was delivered. Zombie has a natural gift for pushing his audiences with cruel brutality, but here I somehow just never cared (about the victims or the killers or the dire circumstances). Sure, the chainsaw clown fight had good energy. But the killers were so dumb, ill-written and uninspired I was just waiting for them to be dead and done.

In summary, and as a Rob Zombie Rob Zombie (Lords of Salem, House of 1000 Corpses, Halloween I-II) film fan, this is the first of Zombie’s films I can say I didn’t enjoy. It’s not simply my least favorite, it’s just not good and it even failed to scratch my itch for mean gory death scenes since I was never invested. I have trouble believing Zombie himself was invested—there was no heart in this (or, to be fair to Zombie, I just didn’t feel it). Were it not for Pancho Moler, this would have been a complete waste of time for me.

John’s Horror Corner: Mirror Mirror (1990), an incredibly boring evil mirror movie about high school temptations.

March 3, 2019

MY CALL: A boring, uneventful movie misfiring the concepts that would later be much better presented in Wishmaster (1997) and The Craft (1996). Just go watch them instead. MOVIES LIKE Mirror Mirror: For more evil mirror movies try Oculus (2014) or Mirrors (2008). But I’d maybe skip Mirror (2014), even though it’s way better than Mirror Mirror. And let’s definitely avoid the three sequels (1994, 1995, 2000) to this movie. Yes, three!

Opening scenes in horror movies offer a chance for filmmakers and special effects artists to tease our horrific taste buds with a sort of amuse-bouche in the form of a gory death scene, transformation scene or creature effect. More often than not, it will stand out as one of the best scenes of the entire film. Disappointingly to the contrary, this movie opens with the kind of mostly off-screen death scene that you’d hope wouldn’t set such a standard (but it does), as it fit the low budget random and incomprehensible style oft-encountered in less-inspired horror.

Decades after a woman murders another, Susan Gordon (Karen Black; House of 1000 Corpses, Night Angel, It’s Alive III, Burnt Offerings) and her high school daughter Megan (Rainbow Harvest) buy the house in which the vile deed was committed. The moment we see Megan and her mother, there’s nothing subtle of the Delia-Lydia Beetlejuice (1988) dynamic being copied. Meanwhile, an antique dealer (Yvonne De Carlo; American Gothic, Cellar Dweller) handling the estate of the previous homeowner snoops through an old diary for an exposition dump explaining the magical, evil and indestructible qualities of an old mirror left behind… which, naturally, caught Megan’s fancy. Apparently, the demon within the mirror acts like an evil genie, granting its possessor wishes as it influences them.

The supernatural events that follow are haphazardly executed at best. Megan is terrorized by a manifestation of her recently deceased father’s meltingly rotten corpse (among the better scenes of the movie, but I wasn’t exactly impressed). I wasn’t really feeling the tension or horror when a classmate stupidly suffered a bad bloody nose, when another nearly drowned, or when Megan’s teacher (Stephen Tobolowsky; Single White Female) suffered an asthma attack. And when Megan uses the power of the mirror to seduce a rival Mean Girl’s boyfriend and the demon within the mirror kills him, I was right then wishing I was watching almost anything else.

This movie’s idea of a death scene is having cheap FX clawed hands shake someone’s head while spraying fake blood over no latex wounds to be found. All of the death scenes are terrible, but the “least” bad is the blistering shower scene. But the “horror” aspects aren’t all that’s bad here. The writing is painfully dry, the acting is rigid, and even the movie’s greatest efforts to be interesting feel stale. It’s nowhere near “Girlfriend from Hell (1989) bad”, but it’s pretty boring.

I see no reason to recommend this to anyone for any reason—other than punishment. For what it was trying to accomplish, I’d recommend horror fans instead explore Wishmaster (1997) and The Craft (1996), the pair of which encapsulate so much better the concepts misfired in Mirror Mirror.

The MFF Podcast #179: An Epic Peter Rabbit Discussion

March 2, 2019

You can download or stream the pod on Spotify, Itunes, StitcherTune In,  Podbean, or LISTEN TO THE POD ON SPREAKER

The MFF podcast is back, and this week we’re bringing you a massive episode about the 2018 film Peter Rabbit. This might be the most MFF podcast ever as we talk about talking pigs, rabbits with jackets, and saving an event centered around pottery. We also answer a lot of Peter Rabbit themed questions and put together an animated animals crew that get into some dark shenanigans. If you are a fan of Peter Rabbit and side discussions you will love this episode.

The CGI is legit.

If you are a fan of the podcast make sure to send in some random listener questions so we can do our best to not answer them correctly. We thank you for listening and hope you enjoy the pod!

You can download or stream the pod on Spotify, Itunes, StitcherTune In,  Podbean, or LISTEN TO THE POD ON SPREAKER 

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

John’s Horror Corner: Overlord (2018), a high production value war movie mixed with a zombie movie.

March 1, 2019

MY CALL: The trailer didn’t lie—stunning production value on the level of many war film releases and loads of action. Highly entertaining and well made, but also completely unoriginal from any angle you view it. An excellent rental, but I wouldn’t recommend a purchase unless you’re a major zombie fan. MORE MOVIES LIKE Overlord: For more Nazi horror, go for Dead Snow (2009), Dead Snow 2 (2014), Green Room (2015), Yoga Hosers (2016), Manborg (2011), Hellboy (2004), Zombie Lake (1981), Oasis of the Zombies (1982), The Keep (1983), Frankenstein’s Army (2013), Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge (1991), Puppet Master: The Legacy (2003), Puppet Master: Axis of Evil  (2010), Puppet Master X: Axis Rising (2012) and Puppet Master: Axis Termination (2017).

This film kicks things off heavy and gritty with the kind of drama and shockingly abrupt action you’d find in Saving Private Ryan (1998) as a squad of American soldiers prepare for an ill-fated air drop. The gunplay and bullet-wound frenzies pepper scenes with blood red flesh wounds. If this film were to remain a war movie and introduce no horror at all, it would be a success on that alone. From the injuries to the concussive explosions, the special effects are excellent and will keep you engaged.

Among the few to survive the treacherous air drop, soldiers Tibbet (John Magaro; The Big Short, The Umbrella Academy), Boyce (Jovan Adepo; The Leftovers, Mother!), Ford (Wyatt Russell; Everybody Wants Some, We Are What We Are) and Chase (Iain De Caestecker; Agents of SHIELD) take shelter with a local French woman only to discover that the nearby German-occupied stronghold is serving as a Nazi experiment station to create unstoppable super soldiers.

The story takes its time revealing itself—not that anything complicated will unfold. We learn more about what’s going on from a cruel Nazi officer (Pilou Asbæk; Game of Thrones, Lucy) and our protagonists discover the Nazi’s latest medical advancements the hard way. In one scene they try to save a fellow soldier’s life with Nazi med-tech and, well… it gets a little weird and a lot awesome.

The latex wound work and monstrous mutation special effects are bone-protruding, skull-splatting and grotesque; a joy for any gorehound. In fact, the overall production value of this entire film is quite stunningly well done—even the acting. The laboratory scenes and set design are wonderfully elaborate, the “alchemical” approach to science is appropriately off-putting yet intricate, and the medical implements are painfully invasive.

This is essentially a more realistic approach to Frankenstein’s Army (2013) with a better budget, far superior acting, and still quite gory… it’s just not (quite) as ridiculous. These animated dead patients are nigh-unstoppable even to the classic notion of the zombie-halting headshot. They are spastic, in perpetual rage, and unnaturally strong. While highly entertaining this film stumbles the path of the super-strong villain literally throwing the good guys across the room (and providing them time and second chances) when he could just as easily kill them on the spot. As much as this annoys me, it was forgivable when considering all else the film offered in terms of explosions, gross gaping flesh wounds, super soldier zombie serum and manic action.

For his first horror film and only second feature film, director Julius Avery fared quite well! I strongly recommend a Netflix or rental viewing of this finely executed war-zombie movie.

John’s Horror Corner: Cellar Dweller (1988), a surprisingly good B-movie creature feature in the spirit of Tales from the Crypt.

February 28, 2019

MY CALL: If you randomly pick out this movie, you’re in for better than you expected. Sure, it’s a B-movie. But more of a B+ movie boasting some cool scenes, catchy concepts, neat monster effects and even a dash of guilt-free in-context nudity (if ever there was such a thing). MOVIES LIKE Cellar Dweller: This movie’s somewhat mean yet fun-spiritedness in tone and execution reminds me of Creepshow (1982) and Tales from the Crypt (1989-1996).

From its very outset, this movie is trying really hard and I actually think it deserves some credit for its efforts. Certainly more credit than it’s been given over the decades, at least. After all, this is one of those films whose VHS cover art you might vaguely recognize from your 80s-90s video store era days—but you probably never rented it, right? But no one ever talks about it. Not even when this film opens with Jeffrey Combs (Would You Rather, Lurking Fear) illustrating strikingly detailed comic book panels which magically bring life in his art studio to a werebat/werewolf hulking menace terrorizing a young woman clad in little more than torn rags. Folks, this first scene is bonkers. It is actually really well executed, the monster looked great, and I never thought I’d say this, but the gratuitous nudity felt cheekily not at all out of place or forced since it was, well, exactly what he had illustrated. Finally, some guilt-free boobage!

For an 80s movie I never heard of, the special effects are pretty decent. The monster has articulation of the face and ears, it’s highly detailed (we see a LOT of it) and constantly drooling, and it’s a big full-body suit. You might be reminded of the giant ghoulie in Ghoulies II (1988), only this actually looks better.

Fast forward 30 years to present day and we meet comic book artist Whitney Taylor (Debrah Farentino; Earth 2), a fan of the late artist whose very illustrated creation caused his death decades prior. Whitney joins an artists’ colony and the film swiftly degenerates into the most typical 80s horror tropes—shallow characters, shaky story, critical discoveries made in old dusty basements, a shamefully gratuitous shower scene, and so on.

When Whitney wanders into the deceased artist’s cellar and recreates his monstrous artwork, she resurrects the fantastic demon who kills those she pens.

The gore is effective and quite ambitious for its budget. But this movie’s victory is in the creature costume and latex work. I love seeing its face with its blinking eyes and twitching ears as it eats a victim’s severed foot, tearing the flesh from the bone and the decapitation scene packs a gleeful momentary goriness. Meanwhile, the interplay between the comic strip panels and their murderous realization on-screen was more fun than I’d imagined.

Director John Carl Buechler (Friday the 13th Part VII, Ghoulies Go to College, Troll) and writer Don Mancini (Child’s Play 1-7, Channel Zero) team up to deliver this surprisingly fun yet schlocky B+ movie madness that borrows a bit from Sam Raimi with its shaky rushing-forward camerawork and an evil book called “Curses of the Ancient Dead.” The whole thing feels like a stretched-out episode of Tales from the Crypt, which is also the very twisted spirit in how it ends. This was such a pleasant surprise. Really!

The MFF Podcast #178: The Frighteners

February 26, 2019
You can download the pod on Itunes, StitcherTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

The MFF podcast is back, and this week we’re talking about the 1996 cult classic The Frighteners. We love director Peter Jackson’s CGI extravaganza and appreciate how it effortlessly blends ghosts, wallpaper people, heart crunching, paranormal machine guns and the smashing of innocent lawn gnomes. We dig this movie so much we listened to the Blu-ray commentary and scoured all the extras (hours and hours of extras) to make sure this episode is dense with The Frighteners facts and trivia that will blow your mind. If you are a fan of The Frighteners you will love this episode.

If you are a fan of the podcast make sure to send in some random listener questions so we can do our best to not answer them correctly. We thank you for listening and hope you enjoy the pod!

You can download the pod on Itunes, StitcherTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker.

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

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