Creepshow 2 (1987)

Creepshow 2 (1987) movie poster

director Michael Gornick
viewed: 08/19/2018

I really had no recall of seeing Creepshow 2 before watching it just now. And even as I watched it, I didn’t experience the déjà vu that can arise when watching something that you had forgotten you’d watched before. Oddly, that déjà vu came later as I contemplated the movie, the more it seemed familiar. Now I’m almost certain I saw it back in the day, somehow, some way.

Creepshow 2 is Creepshow‘s much weaker cousin, though it does sport a George A. Romero script, adapted from Stephen King stories. The spirit is willing but the sauce is weak. Weak but not devoid of fun.

Poor FX hamper “The Raft”, seemingly everyone’s favorite segment. 

The animation is indeed atrocious.

Carrie (1976)

Carrie (1976) movie poster

director Brian De Palma
viewed: 06/12/2016

This movie is pretty amazing.  Brian De Palma’s best?

Sissy Spacek is fantastic as the shrinking violet outcast turned avenging angel.  The whole cast is great really and what a cast: Piper Laurie of course, Nancy Allen, Travolta, Amy Irving, William Katt, P.J. Soles,…and Edie McClurg!  Edie McClurg as a teenager!

Say what you will about De Palma’s derivative aesthetics but Jesus, it’s a beautiful movie, from the tracking shots, the split screen, that spinning dance number, the gloriously colorful prom pre-destruction, it’s tremendously gorgeous.  And the loose and pre-P.C. portrayal of the nastiness of high schoolers.

At 40, it’s as good as ever.

I watched it this time with my daughter, who watched part of the 2013 re-make and was interested.  Talking about the differences, explaining how long ago this version was made, she commented how nobody had cellphones.


The Mist (2007)

The Mist (2007) movie poster

director Frank Darabont
viewed: 10/23/2015

We revisited Frank Darabont’s The Mist not so much because I remembered it fondly (I saw it 8 years ago when it came out), but I thought it might entertain the kiddies.

The big thing that has changed since seeing The Mist in 2008 is The Walking Dead.  It would be Darabont’s next project, launching in 2010.  In a lot of ways, The Mist is a template for casting and directing the later television zombie apocalypse, only this time with Lovecraftian beasties.  In fact, appearing in the movie are future Walking Dead cast members Melissa McBride and Laurie Holden.  And while maybe those are the only two I recognized, you already get a sense of casting an apocalypse for diversity and character acting well in place.  Walking Dead executive producer Greg Nicotero served on The Mist as creature designer.

The Mist has some good things going for it.  Darabont builds the characters deftly and uses the setting of the grocery store to good measure.

But the film is more flawed than good.  The creature effects are not great.  Those tentacles have not aged well.  In one of the better set-up scenes, when giant insects are attracted to the flashlights, the creatures fail to have uniqueness or impact.  Digital really lets you down, as it often has.

Additionally, while some of the characterization is good, some of it is still over the top.  Marcia Gay Harden gives her all as the manic grocery store preacher, but she’s so intense, it’s hard to fathom any large group would be so turned to her way of thinking, especially after only a day or two of entrapment.  In fact, the film’s other potent device, the suicides, also are hard to buy.  It’s only been a couple of days and people are dropping themselves like flies.

I didn’t come around to The Walking Dead until last year, but now I’m in.  And from the perspective of how that show has evolved, it’s interesting to see somewhat of a sketch draft from before it went to market.

The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999)

The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999) movie poster

director Katt Shea
viewed: 10/09/2015

Living in San Francisco, as I have for the past 25 years, one of my primary sources for news and movie reviews has been The San Francisco Chronicle.  And the head movie critic for most of that time has been Mick LaSalle.  So, sometimes, if I’ve read only one review of a movie, it’s apt to have been written by LaSalle.  While LaSalle is in tune with the general critical community, he’s also prone to outlying opinions from time to time.

His review of The Rage: Carrie 2 is probably one of those.  The only reason this matters is that I’ve had it in my mind for all these years that The Rage was considered to be a pretty good take on reinventing Carrie (1976).  I now see that LaSalle’s opinion on The Rage was not a common opinion, perhaps even unique.

I was pretty dubious of his opinion.  It didn’t look great.  And Brian De Palma’s original take on Stephen King’s novel of the same name is one of horror cinema’s ultra-iconic masterpieces.

The Rage does share a through-point with the 1976 film, in Amy Iriving reprising her role as one of the lone survivors of the high school inferno back in the day, with flashbacks from the film showing Sissy Spacek in her pig blood-covered freak out.  But this is a modern tale as well, modernized for 1999, for emo kids, with a focus on a new and loathsome form of torment, in which high school jocks have a contest with a point system for girls they can bed.

Emily Bergl plays Rachel (not “Carrie”), a girl from a broken home background, but not the tormented wallflower raised by a demented mother.  She does have the powers.  And she uses them.

It’s neither as epic, tragic, nor iconic as the original, but it is an interesting reinvention.  It’s not an improvement, it’s not a classic, nothing in comparison, but it’s a decent 1990’s film and has some things going for it.

Sorry, Mick.


The Shining (1980)


The Shining (1980) movie poster

director Stanley Kubrick
viewed: 07/25/2015

I’d last watched The Shining over a decade ago.  This viewing of the horror classic was spurred by my son’s interest in Stanley Kubrick, which began a short while back when I took him to see A Clockwork Orange (1971).  He’d since gone and watched Full Metal Jacket (1986) on his own (a film I’ve been meaning to re-watch for a while).

The Shining is a brilliant movie, no matter what Stephen King thinks.  In a lot of ways, it seems to do what movies fail to do these days: diverge successfully from the source material and create something entirely their own as well.  I’ve never read the King novel, but I’ve read a brief analysis of the film’s divergence from the original material.  I guess my response is: “Who cares?”

Brilliant as it is, it still has some quirks and flaws.  But it’s a mesmerizing, amazingly-photographed masterpiece.  The last time I wrote about it, I mentioned the oft-cited and radically innovative steadicam work, the amazing axe-swinging shots that follow the movement of the blows, and the amazing set that is the Overlook Hotel.  In the 12 years since I last wrote about it, the internet has made information more readily available.  It’s quite amazing to realize that most of the film is shot on a sound stage in London.  The amazing interiors are all sets.  While the original hotel that was used for the exteriors was shot in Estes Park, CO and is often referred to, the larger reality of the stunning locations are pure artifice.  Pure and amazing artifice.

I watched The Shining with both of my kids.  We’ve certainly been watching some material that might be considered dubious for a tween and a young teen, but when I asked my daughter what she thought about it, she was quite impressed by the film but said that it wasn’t the kind of thing that scared her or gave her nightmares.

Unlike, perhaps, a generation ago.

Creepshow (1982)

Creepshow (1982) movie poster

director George A. Romero
viewed: 06/13/2015

After watching Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990) a couple weeks back with my daughter, I thought that the kids might enjoy my favorite of these anthology horror films of my era, George A. Romero’s 1982 Creepshow.  I’ve long had a soft spot for Creepshow.  My best friend of the time and I were into comic books and we’d read the Creepshow comic book/graphic novel, illustrated by Bernie Wrightson, several times over in bookstores and comic shops prior to seeing the film.

I had even regaled my kids with the story of how my friend and I went to see the movie and, sitting next to me, my friend said, “Right here, here’s when the hand bursts out of the grave!” followed by a shriek of his own, still pent up despite knowing what was going to happen.  I’ve often fondly remembered that moment.

Steeped heavily in the lurid tones and aesthetics of EC Comics, Creepshow is a wonderful paean to the scary, super-dark horror comics that it emulates.  Clara really enjoyed the way that some scenes shifted to drawings and comic panels, or even multiple scenes played in comic panels, echoing the comic book from which the stories meant to arise.

Creepshow features a great cast, the likes of Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, Leslie Nielsen, E.G. Marshall, and a young Ted Danson.  It also features some awesome traditional FX from master Tom Savini.  It’s pretty darned entertaining.

I’ve always been partial to the 4th story in the set, “The Crate”, in which a long shelved primate with huge teeth is discovered in a box under a university science department’s stairs, and kills with hungry aplomb when he’s finally given freedom.  I think I had more mixed feelings about each installment, but now, decades since I last saw the film, I think the whole thing is just peachy.  In fact, I liked it so much I’m even considering checking out Creepshow 2 (1987), which I never did see (and think isn’t supposed to be nearly so good.)

Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990)

Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990) movie poster

director John Harrison
viewed: 05/30/2015

This 1990 horror compendium features an interesting cast including Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore, Christian Slater, Debbie Harry, David Johansen, and Rae Dawn Chong.  Evolving from the 1980’s television show of the same name, and featuring stories adapted from Stephen King and George A. Romero, I can’t say exactly why I never saw it back in the day, or worse, if maybe I did see it and somehow it receded back away from my memory.

Clara enjoyed the way that the Debbie Harry wrap-around story invoked the other stories as the boy she plans to cook for dinner tries Scheherazade-style to waylay his death by reading stories.

I’ve been wanting to watch Creepshow (1982) with the kids for a while, my personal favorite of these types of 1980’s horror compendiums.  Maybe now I’ll have to queue it up.

This one isn’t overly memorable, I suppose, though now seeing a young Moore and Buscemi is kind of interesting.  The gargoyle monster creature in the film’s last segment, who is emblazoned on the poster, is pretty cool.  Overall, it’s a moderate success, though, entertaining and fairly fun, if not overly brilliant on the whole.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

The Shawshank Redemption (1994) movie poster

director Frank Darabont
viewed: 03/13/2015

1994’s The Shawshank Redemption has gone on to become one of the most popular and beloved movies “of all time.”  I put that in quotes simply because any present day list of best movies “of all time” tends to focus on movies that have come out within its generation rather than actually having any sense of perspective “of all time,” even though “all time” would actually extend back about 100 years for motion pictures.

Shawhank‘s popularity is notable.  If you are interested, I recommend reading Vanity Fair’s article on the subject, “The Little-Known Story of How The Shawshank Redemption Became One of the Most Beloved Films of All Time”, in case you think I’m projecting its popularity on it.

For my money, it’s a good film.  Morgan Freeman’s voice-over narration has become a point of parody 20 years out, but his voice and cadence have that lulling comforting Americana almost totally perfected.  For a film shot by notable cinematographer Roger Deakins, it’s a capable but not fantastically beautiful.

For my money, Shawshank is a 7 out of 10. A good film.  A solid film.  A likable film.  I have absolutely nothing against it.  Other than it’s the #1 highest rated film on imdb (oddly enough, right up there with two other movies that I consider oddly over-rated in the American film canon, The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather: Part II (1974), heretical as that is to say.)

This viewing we watched because my son Felix was wanting to see it, recommended as a favorite to him from a number of various people.  I hadn’t seen the film myself since it first came onto home media (I don’t think I saw it in the theater at the time, nor had I seen it since.)  And he liked it pretty well.  As did Clara.  What’s not to like?  It’s kinda long Felix noted (142 minutes).

It’s a good movie, I would say, not a great one.  But that’s just me.

The Dead Zone (1983)

The Dead Zone (1983) movie poster

director David Cronenberg
viewed: 03/09/2014

Of all the films I watch and all the filmmakers I focus on, I’ve only two directors that I’ve been intentionally working through all of their films: David Cronenberg and John Waters.  Frankly, it’s slightly arbitrary, but it’s a fact.

The Dead Zone is not one of Cronenberg’s best.  It’s an okay film, but it lacks any of the real weirdness of his early work and winds up being somewhat bland in comparison.  It is, of course, an adaptation of Stephen King’s novel of the same name.  And for me, it coincided with my teenage interest in King and his work.  And oddly enough, 1983 was quite a tipping point for King.  He had three feature films come out in that year alone: Cujo (1983), The Dead Zone (1983), and Christine (1983) and I think I read each of those books and saw each of those movies that year (or somewhere around then).

The film stars Christopher Walken as a man who develops the ability to glimpse the future or other psychic visions when he touches someone.  He only gets these powers after getting into a bad car crash that leaves him in a coma for five years.  Herbert Lom plays his doctor and Martin Sheen plays a lunatic political candidate who would lead the world to utter destruction if Walken doesn’t assassinate him.

Like I said, it’s not a bad movie, but it’s not a very good one either.