Halloween Horror Binge: Week Two

Robot Monster (1953)

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This movie has one of the silliest monster/alien designs I have ever seen. The poster creature looks pretty cool, but trust me, the one on the film doesn’t equal the menace of the two-dimensional version. Still, if I had extra cash and could collect models, sculptures, action figures, etc., I would love to have one of Ro-Man Extension XJ-2. It’s bizarre and amazingly bad, as is this movie. This one is genuinely hard to get through and most viewers will see the plot points from about five minutes in. Lazy writing, bad dialogue, bad cinematography, it’s got it all.

Grizzly (1976)

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I have always wanted to see this because of the poster, which I just found out was done by Neal Adams, a celebrated artist in comics. While this feels like an okay plot point-for-plot point remake of Jaws, I think I would have enjoyed it more as an eight-year-old. You do get Christopher George here, an actor I like. He’s always reminded me of a more out-going Lee Marvin. They were of similar age and both decorated Marines.

I imagine most people reading this remember the explosive ending of Jaws. Well, this one ends in bazooka versus bear. You can guess how that goes.

One of the funnier aspects of the film is how they trained the eleven-foot-tall bear “Teddy” to “roar.” They would give the bear marshmallows, and then hold one in front of his face to make him reach out with his snout out, call “Action!” and then dub the roaring in post.

Pieces (1982)

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Unintentional Christopher George double-feature! This is one of his last movies and it’s a good one, well, if you’re into gory slasher films.

Pieces is one I remember from the VHS era, but missed. I always assumed it was an American slasher film, but it’s actually a blend of European giallo (black-gloved killer, police investigators, fairly silly psychological explanations) and American slasher. If you’ve seen a lot of these types of films then you’ll understand the fusion here.

There are also elements of other films. Reminiscent of the mayor not wanting to close the beaches in Jaws,  the admin doesn’t want to close the school even though there’s a chainsaw killer (black gloves and chainsaw!) lurking around campus.

If bad acting, lack of logic, and lack of motivation bother you in horror movies, stay away from this one. I enjoyed Pieces probably more than I should have.

Pieces has one of the most ri-DIC-ulous endings ever!

Conquest (1983)

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Strap on your leather undies and get prepared to get chapped in places you didn’t know you had.

This movie is somewhere between Conan and Zardoz, but with a  budget that only allows it to make creatures as good as the background Cantina creepies. All of that is good to me. There’s also a mostly nude witch with a golden Destro helmet and lots of pet snakes. Her henchmen are somewhere between Howling III: The Marsupials background makeups and acrobatic, skinny Chewbaccas. Everything is filmed in fog and has a muddied, multiple exposure look of something like the original Clash of the Titans, but without stop-motion animation as a reason for it. Maybe that’s to help the mythological or fairy tale aspects of it. It really comes of as Bunuel filming Conan as a fever dream.

There are some interesting and well-done effects, combined with some string-operated flappy bird puppets. Fulci throws in a group of Lugosi-era bats for good measure. Since it’s Fulci, we also get zombies! Bravo!

The movie includes an outrageous, ill-fitting, but perfect, in that Italian exploitation sort-of-way, Claudio Simonetti score. Simonetti was a member of Goblin, so you know he means business.

Video Violence (1987)

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Honestly, I need to process this one more. Partially because it seems to be made by a guy who disliked the interest in horror he saw in his own video store. I think there’s something interesting about that—that he would hate horror films so much that he would make one!

I’ve seen several people mention the creepy “authenticity” of this being filmed on video given its subject. I don’t feel that. I think it was mostly a budget decision, but kudos to anyone who made a relatively decent film on video. It was an awful medium to work in.

Most people are not going to sit through this given its “cheap” look, and I get that. The movie’s not bad and in some ways a precursor to some of the tendencies in horror that happened decades after it. For me, it’s one worth thinking about, even if viewing it partially seems like a chore.

1408 (2007)

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An abomination. I’ve always been bothered by the ire that gets launched at Ed Wood and Plan 9 from Outer Space as the worst movie ever made. I think there are plenty of worse movies (see above review for Robot Monster) including 1408, which at least one critic said was the “best horror film of the year” when it came out. I feel like only someone who doesn’t like horror movies would say that.

There’s some mystery set up and Cusack and Samuel Jackson do all they can. Once Cusack enters room 1408 most viewers are going to have a lot of it figured out. The emotion that the writers and director want to get out of some the most difficult situations such as losing family members, suicide, just is never earned from the “thrill-ride” scenes of 1408 interspersed with tears and sad faces. The effect was better achieved when Clark Griswold gets stuck in the attic, hunkers down and watches old Super 8 films of the family, gets weepy, and then falls through the floor in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  The shitter’s full in Room 1408, too. The true mystery and horror of this tale is how so much money and talent can be wasted.

Grace (2009)

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I wanted something as good as Inside, and was hoping for something even better. Well, that didn’t happen here. The first third is intense and would be difficult for most parents and those that have suffered difficulties with starting families. At first, the movie feels disturbing and heavy. Don’t worry, that doesn’t last long.

Once Grace is born, the movie feels like a continuation of Rosemary’s Baby done by a fan of Peter Jackson’s early work. Monster babies have never been interesting to me, except maybe It’s Alive or Basket Case, if that one can even be counted.

Muppet Babies are a different story entirely.

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