Welcome!

If you're just coming here for the first time, uh... you're late. The site is no longer updated daily (see HERE for the story). But it's still kicking 1-2x a week, and it's better late than never! Before reading any of the "reviews", you should read the intro, the FAQ, the MOVIES I HAVE ALREADY SEEN list, and if you want, the glossary of genre terms and "What is Horror?", which explains some of the "that's not horror!" entries. And to keep things clean, all off topic posts are re-dated to be in JANUARY 2007 (which was before I began doing this little project) once they have 'expired' (i.e. are 10 days old).

Due to many people commenting "I have to see this movie!" after a review, I have decided to add Amazon links within the reviews (they are located at the bottom), as well as a few links to the Horror Movie A Day Store around the page, hopefully non-obstructively. Amazon will also automatically link things they find relevant, so there might be a few random links in a review as well. If they become annoying, I'll remove the functionality. Right now I'm just kind of amused what they come up with (for example, they highlighted 'a horror movie' in the middle of one review and it links to, of all things, the 50 Chilling Movies Budget Pack!!!).

Last but not least, some reviews contain spoilers (NOTE - With a few exceptions, anything written on the back of the DVD or that occurs less than halfway through the movie I do NOT consider a spoiler). I will be adding 'spoiler alerts' for these reviews as I go through and re-do the older reviews (longtime readers may notice that there is now a 'show more' which cleaned up the main page, as well as listing the source of the movie I watched, i.e. Theaters, DVD, TV) to reflect the new format. This is time consuming, so bear with me.

Thanks for coming by and be sure to leave comments, play nice, and as always, watch Cathy's Curse.

PLEASE, GO ON...

No One Heard the Scream (1973)

SEPTEMBER 7, 2021

GENRE: THRILLER
SOURCE: BLU-RAY (OWN COLLECTION)

The back of Severin's Blu-ray release of No One Heard the Scream (Spanish: Nadie oyó gritar) refers to it as a Spanish giallo, but I feel this is misleading and almost doing it a disservice. Not that I blame the company; it's a hard movie to sum up with a genre label. It certainly starts like a giallo, with our beautiful heroine seeing someone disposing a body and becoming the killer's target, but then it keeps surprising until the very end, going from kidnapping thriller to road movie to something approaching one of those kind of sad romantic dramas about two broken people coming together - I was not expecting to think about As Good As It Gets, but bless this odd little delight of a film, I did.

Not that I'd mind if it was just a standard giallo; it's been a minute since I've watched one and thus I'm due for a fix. I try to space out my viewings of such fare since they tend to run together in my mind, so letting them seep in my brain a little before taking in another seems a good way to keep them straight. But once it became clear that this wasn't going to have a huge body count, I allowed myself to enjoy what it actually was, with the added bonus of knowing I could go find a more traditional one today without overload.

And I shouldn't be surprised, since the film comes from Eloy de la Iglesia, who also directed Cannibal Man (itself recently reissued on Blu-ray from Severin), another film that sounds like one kind of thing on paper but ends up being more interesting/unique than a quickie description would let on. Again, things start off pretty standard here, with Elisa (Carmen Sevilla) seeing Miguel (Vicente Parra, the "Cannibal Man" himself) trying to dump a body in their apartment building, prompting the man to chase her back to her apartment and threaten her. But things swerve pretty quickly; instead of killing her to ensure her silence, he demands she help him dispose the body elsewhere, making her an accomplice that would be in just as much trouble. No, it's not particularly logical, but it's a "good enough" excuse for the two of them to pair off instead of chasing each other for 90 minutes.

No kidnapping/body in the car type scenario is complete without nosy police, and de la Iglesia offers an all timer incarnation of the scene, as they drive past a major bus accident and the cops force them to take a few of the injured to the hospital (it's a small village and they don't have enough ambulances to do it). So they need Miguel to put his suitcase in the trunk instead of the backseat so the injured can sit there, but naturally the trunk is where the body is - it's a terrific little nailbiter, one of those fun ones where you're not sure if you want the cops to find the body or not as we've already started sympathizing with the guy in a way.

See, it turns out his wife was a horrible nag and (by 1970s euro thriller standards, I stress) "had it coming", something Elisa seems to understand if not totally agree with. Partly because she too is seeing how empty her life has become, as she is seemingly... well, not quite a prostitute, but makes her living by occasionally spending weekends with wealthy men. In fact she was supposed to be with one such "lover" at the time she encountered Miguel, but changed her mind and broke off the arrangement with the man, having tired of the lack of passion and genuine concern - she wants a real man! Can it be... this dude who slapped her around a bit and made her help him clean his wife's blood off the elevator? Stranger things have happened in these movies!

Things get a little more tense due to the arrival of one of her younger lovers later, and the end provides a legitimately good twist that will make the movie interesting to see on a second view now that we have a key bit of information about one of our two leads, but the movie is ultimately a two hander about these two lonely/broken people getting their groove back, so to speak. I'm sure it'd fall victim to "Film Twitter" types who have gotten it in their head that filmmakers always defend and support the actions of their main characters, but for those of us who aren't near-sighted morons it's a pretty compelling take on this sort of fare, as your always torn between wanting them to find their peace but also, you know, not get away with seemingly unjustified murder (the fact that we don't actually see it helps).

Apart from noting how lovely the score is (from Fernando García Morcillo, another Cannibal Man returnee; you can listen to the opening credits theme yourself below since I couldn't find a trailer), there's not much else I can say - it's a movie that lives on its performances and how the plot zigs when you expect it to zag, so going on any more would rob you of its pleasures. Again, it may not satisfy you if you want a black gloved killer offing the cast, but if you just want, you know, a GOOD MOVIE, then you should give it a look, especially if you're familiar with Cannibal Man and thus are already accustomed to (and appreciative of) de la Iglesia's seeming disinterest in status quo.

What say you?

P.S. The movie is in Spanish with English subs, but they are specifically *subtitles*, not closed captions, and there are occasional lines in English when she goes to London to see her lover. Just an FYI if you, like me, have to often watch with low volume and count on captions!

PLEASE, GO ON...

Blu-ray Review: The Brotherhood of Satan (1971)

SEPTEMBER 5, 2021

GENRE: CULT
SOURCE: BLU-RAY (OWN COLLECTION)

My memory is getting better! Well, maybe not. See, when I requested a review copy of The Brotherhood of Satan from Arrow, it was because I was sure I hadn't seen it and it sounded up my alley. But when I popped the disc in, something about the first scene triggered deja vu, so I did what I should have done in the first place and checked to see if I had indeed seen it, discovering that I had and wrote a review, not even eight years ago (it was actually a post-daily selection! You'd think I'd be able to remember those better!). Want a kicker? Not only did the scene not turn out to be the one from the movie I was thinking of (turned out to be the opening of Hell High, where the girl accidentally kills a pair of teen lovers), but nothing else in the movie really rang a bell.

On the plus side, that's great, because it was like seeing it for the first time, and it's like, really good. Better than my original review lets on, in fact! It's the kind of '70s horror I really love, where on the surface it seems like any other B movie that probably played second at the drive-ins (indeed, per the IMDb, it played with THX-1138), but has that little extra pep in its step that gives it more personality and helps it stick with you. I originally noted director Bernard McEveety's "matter of fact" approach to his job, but failed to note one of its key examples (minor spoiler for 50 year old movie ahead), that the movie's villain is identified relatively early but then returns to act as an ally to our heroes, without the sort of squinty faced/raised eyebrow/dun dun DUNNNNN kind of music that usually accompany such things. If you missed the in between scene where he was clearly established as the villain, there is nothing to point to his true nature in the later scene, which is kind of chilling in a way.

Also, I want to point this scene out for another reason. If you've seen the movie, it's the one where the priest, the doctor, the dad, the sheriff, and the deputy are all in the sheriff's house trying to figure out what to do next. McEveety lets most of the five-ish minute scene play out in a master, with lots of cross talk and all five men in the frame doing something. It was probably a time/money saving measure, but the actors had to all be in sync with their blocking and dialogue to make sure it didn't turn chaotic, something that couldn't happen if the director just stuck a camera in the corner and called "action" on five amateur performers. It's legitimately impressive filmmaking from a technical/logistics point of view, something you don't often find in these sort of things (indeed, as I noted before, the plot setup is very much like that of Manos, a film without one impressive technical aspect).

It also doesn't spell out what is happening right away, and even though it came before things like Texas Chain Saw Massacre, will "mislead" a new audience a few times before it shows its full hand. Things start off with a family driving through the southwest and seeing the aftermath of a grisly accident, only to be accosted by locals when they try to report it. So it seems like a "run afoul of a creepy town" movie, but later we learn what's got the townsfolk riled up, and realize that they're actually innocent. And due to the likely impossibility of the FX it would need to pull off, it's not until we've seen a few deaths that it becomes clear that (spoiler again) it's the toys doing it. Later developments almost give it an Under the Dome type feel, so I can't help but wonder if Stephen King is a fan (or at least saw it and subconsciously got inspired by it).

If he was, I wish he was on the disc, because they seemingly had trouble locating anyone of note to contribute an interview or a commentary. There is an interview with two of the kids, but as it's been fifty years and they were, you know, children, you'd be a fool to think their memories are either that strong or plentiful - they seem to remember having fun and getting to eat as much cake as they wanted during the filming of the party scene, and one of them remembers playing spin the bottle with the others, but the other one doesn't. I guess I can appreciate that it's a fairly brief interview instead of a commentary?

There IS a commentary by Kim Newman and Sean Hogan though, and it is as entertaining as the film. They're fans but do not consider it an unassailable masterpiece, so the track is mostly them kind of giggling at some of its wackier elements (like the cult leader's robe) while pointing out how it fits into the larger cult/devil movie canon, particularly the pre-Exorcist ones that weren't so beholden to more traditional religious iconography (indeed, the priest here is ultimately kind of useless). And there's even more of that history to glean from the video essay by David Flint, as well as the included booklet which devotes one of its two essays to the sub-genre (pre and post-Exorcist). The other is about producer/writer/co-star L.Q. Jones, a Peckinpah regular who apparently also wrote a tie-in novel for this film! Adding it to my wishlist ASAP.

I often wonder how I'd feel about this or that movie from HMAD past that I can now no longer remember much about (even some of the ones in my book, now written six years ago about movies I watched as many years ago then, trigger "Wait, what was that one about?" kind of reactions). How many other gems like this are out there, forgotten and/or written off in my head as decent timekillers at best? I am cursed with generally seeing little reason to revisit a non-favorite film unless I plan to write about it (my stance is that it's time being taken away from watching something new), which means if I remembered seeing Brotherhood I probably would have shrugged off this Arrow release with a "Seen it, eh, nothing special" kind of reaction. My tastes change, my mood may differ... there's any number of reasons that I could be much more endeared with something that was essentially site filler when I take another look at it a decade (give or take) down the road. At any rate, while I usually curse my poor memory, this is one time that it worked in my favor.

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

Candyman (2021)

AUGUST 27, 2021

GENRE: SUPERNATURAL
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (REGULAR SCREENING)

In a perfect world, Nia DaCosta and Jordan Peele would have been the ones to have the genius idea to change Candyman to a vengeful murdered slave (for non readers, Bernard Rose's film is basically pretty faithful to Barker's story "The Forbidden", but in there Candyman was a white guy and there was next to nothing about race involved or even implied), in a new adaptation/remake where this new approach allowed it to exist on its own without the legacy of the older film being a factor. Instead, they're making a sequel, also named Candyman (I guess this is how followups are gonna be titled now? Thanks a lot, Halloween), adding their different perspective on Black issues after much of the character's history has already been explored. And when it works, it works incredibly well - but the keyword there is "when".

One of my key issues requires me to note something that is apparently a bit of a spoiler with regards to its main character of Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), so be warned. If you're still here, and you're someone who has seen the 1992 Candyman a few times or even once recently, recently, you might recognize that name, Anthony, because that's the name of the baby who Candyman kidnapped and was rescued by Helen Lyle in the film's climax. And anyone with more than a passing familiarity with the film will likely remember hearing the child's mother, played by Vanessa Williams, screaming it over and over again. Thanks to this film having opening credits with Williams' name right there, and Anthony repeatedly dodging calls from his mother, it shouldn't take more than a handful of brain cells to make the connection: Yahya's character is indeed that grown up baby, and Williams is back as his mom.

But for some puzzling reason, the movie treats this like a reveal with only about 25 minutes left in its runtime (during the one scene with Williams, making her up front credit practically something of a spoiler itself). Until then, even with Helen Lyle (represented by photos of Virginia Madsen) being established, it mostly acts more like a remake - complete with a different identity for "The Candyman", the urban legend about a guy who gave out candy to kids but was hunted down by the cops when a piece showed up with a razor blade in it. This idea was alluded to in the original, but everything we are seeing about it conflicts with what we learned in the 1992 movie, making it feel like a total do-over, and in turn the sequel reveal practically comes off as a cheat. As a result, dealing with everything about this character (named Sherman Fields) AND the one we're familiar with (Daniel Robitaille is brought up, though the other reveals from Farewell to the Flesh are ignored - the new team just liked the name I guess), plus the resolution of THIS story all happens in a third act whirlwhind, making it feel like the movie is on fast forward after what was a well structured first hour or so.

Well, mostly well structured. There are a couple of scenes - in particular an attack on a group of high school girls - that don't trigger any alarms at the time, but then the movie reaches its conclusion and you realize that it had no payoff or connection to anything. Did that sequence get butts in seats, since it was heavily featured in the trailer? Most likely, but considering the movie's weighty themes (Black Lives Matter key among them, as both the Fields character and one of our heroes are the victims of racist cops) such exploitation is somewhat ill-fitting. Even if there WAS some kind of payoff it'd feel disconnected (we only briefly met one girl prior, and in a different context; I saw someone noting they didn't even realize it was the same girl), but given how suspicion for the murders eventually lands on Anthony and there are witnesses to his whereabouts at the time, the event is never mentioned again, as if to avoid gummying up the works.

But that could have been great to explore! The cops wouldn't have given a shit if Anthony was on live TV at the time if they wanted him to be their killer just to have a convenient story (a Black man killing five white girls), and it's a shame that they opt to use the sequence for little more than "let's get another kill in here" purposes, as if this was indeed the generic slasher some (including 12 year old me) expected from the original film. I don't want to use the term "window dressing", but something in that ballpark is how some of the film's scenes end up feeling, as it has to function as both "Candyman 4" but also continue the tradition of past Monkeypaw films (Get Out and Us, but also BlacKkKlansman). Those films were free of franchise constraints, something I feel occasionally holds this one back in ways, as DaCosta never fully marries the two. When it's a racially-charged horror movie about how we create boogeymen to forgive ourselves for looking the other way at injustices, it's terrific, but it has to keep going back to being a Candyman movie, seemingly begrudgingly. It's a weird comparison, but I kept thinking of Alien: Covenant, and how Ridley Scott was clearly more interested in the new story of David and Walter, but had to keep tossing in xenomorph scenes to satisfy audiences (or worried producers) and muddying up the waters.

That said, being the fourth entry can help you appreciate that it's the first one to offer anything but a dull white woman as its protagonist (Madsen's performance was fine, she just had to play a stock character). DaCosta wisely opts to split lead character duties between Anthony and his girlfriend Brianna (the always delightful Teyonah Parris, who stole WandaVision away from her MCU legacy co-stars); the former is an artist struggling with a bit of a block, with the Candyman story unleashing his imagination and having him look around the old Cabini Green grounds, while the latter is an art gallery director on the rise. As Anthony becomes obsessed with the Candyman story (he even digs up the unfinished research of Helen Lyle, though in keeping with waiting forever to reveal his past, he somehow doesn't ever see his own mother's name in the news clippings or online articles about the woman who is famous for having "kidnapped" him) Brianna discovers her career upswing is perhaps not due to her own talents but her connection to tabloid fodder, leaving her to question if her relationship with Anthony is a liability or a benefit. And eventually Anthony is kind of sidelined; he is stung by a bee and the pus/raw skin from the bite starts spreading across his body, which along with his increasingly fractured mental state allows Brianna to take center stage as she tries to figure out what is wrong with him and if his stories of the Candyman are true after all.

So basically it feels like a Fly kind of movie, where Anthony is turning into *a* Candyman and Brianna is torn between being frightened by him and wanting to help him. The idea of someone gradually turning into the familiar Candyman figure is an intriguing one, to the extent that I wish it really was just a remake so they could go full force with it instead of coming up with the idea and then reverse engineering how it plays out in order to tie everything back to the original mythos. With Tony Todd as the only Candyman in the previous films (and with him being long dead by the time we met him), the idea of someone being transitioned into the guy we recognize from our Movie Maniacs action figures is something that obviously wouldn't have worked before, so we can't say it's "breaking the rules" (and we did kind of see how Helen became something along those lines), but there's only so far they can go with it when they've established that it's the same canon.

Where it truly shines is in the little moments that speak to the Black experience, something white guys like me can't ever fully understand but can at least appreciate when seeing them happen to the protagonist we're otherwise identifying with. There's a great little moment where Anthony flinches from a cop car despite not doing anything wrong, and an old timer who runs the local laundromat offers the movie's most stinging points about police and the general idea of why we have "boogeymen" characters. It's got occasional bits of humor, mostly courtesy of Brianna (a simple "nope" when confronted with possibly entering a dark basement is an all timer delivery) and her brother Troy, who acts as a voice of reason throughout. He's also the one to introduce the Candyman story in the first place, and if you're familiar enough with the original to remember exactly what Helen did and didn't do, hearing the urban legend about her is not just amusing in its own right, but also offers us a rare occasion where the time passing between entries can be helpful. It's been nearly 30 years since the original film's events, so you quickly get the idea of how a true story can evolve into nonsensical fiction over time as the legend is told and retold by people who weren't there or (certainly in Troy's case) even alive at the time. It's possible someone sitting there who hasn't seen the original film since opening night in 1992 can accept this version (in which Helen runs into the fire with the baby) as what they saw back then, because who can remember details after 30 years?

Those folks will also likely be surprised at Anthony's past, making them (or newcomers entirely) perhaps the ideal audience for the film. Hardcore fans of the series (if any exist for the other sequels) will likely be disappointed by the lack of Tony Todd's presence, but that wasn't a dealbreaker for me - the Sherman Fields character was creepy enough in his own right, as was Anthony's surprise entry into body horror territory. However, the attempt at bridging a sequel and a remake didn't fully work for me; I was too far ahead of the characters to be satisfied with how it worked as, essentially, Candyman 4, but it's those elements were also keeping the movie from fully coming to life as the standalone thing it occasionally seemed to desperately want to be. And by trying to work in so many ideas (police brutality, the effects of gentrification, how people deal with childhood trauma, etc) in a film that has to both function as a reintroduction AND a followup to a classic horror film, it comes off as a bit too crammed and rushed, as if they planned a six episode miniseries and had to turn it into a 90 minute movie instead. It gives you a lot to chew on for sure, but I think I would have walked out more satisfied if DaCosta and crew picked one or two of those ideas and really ran with it/them, instead of overloading with everything and robbing of it of some of its impact as a result. I've been trying to make this review sound less negative (I gave it 3 stars, which by my ratings "code" means it's an enjoyable/average movie), but I just can't get around the fact that a pretty good movie will always seem like a disappointment when it flirts with greatness. I'll probably like it more a second time around when I know it's got some nagging problems - at least it's short enough for a revisit to be more likely.

What say you?

P.S. I hope Clive Barker has a sense of humor about how he is represented in the film; there's a douchey sex predator named Clive and a villain character is seen reading Weave World. Yeesh!

PLEASE, GO ON...

Movie & TV Show Preview Widget

Google