It’s well documented that William Castle had aspirations to be Hitchcock, or in many ways rise to his level of filmmaking prowess. Speaking as someone who loves Castle as much as Hitchcock, I’d say they’re about neck and neck, but with different ideas of what constitutes a horror movie. Castle’s talent is theatrics, and with “Strait-Jacket” he takes what is essentially his own version of “Psycho” and stages it as a twisty, occasionally campy, and very cerebral murder mystery. Castle also goes a step forward, turning his killer on their victims with an axe that they use to lop their heads off.
Michael Dougherty’s “Trick r Treat” is a contemporary success story that’s enamored horror fans for a long time. Originally in 2007, Michael Dougherty’s horror anthology was kicked around various studios, pushed back, and shelved. When it finally re-emerged, it was pushed to a DVD release on 2009. Once unleashed on the fan base, it began life as a hidden gem, and has grown to become a bonafide horror classic, almost universally praised. To boot, “Trick r Treat’s” mascot, the burlap sack wearing, jagged lollipop adorning Sam has become one of the modern horror icons, whose bred a legion of fans (as well as a slew of merchandise).
It makes sense that Shout Factory would package “Tales from the Crypt” with “Vault of Horror” since both horror films are essentially a part of the same universe, and are adapted from the genius EC Comics brand. In “Vault of Horror” you can even see one of the characters sit beside a stack of EC Comics while turning to continue reading a “Tales from the Crypt” novel. It’s a good thing too since both films are stellar horror anthologies, practicing the tradition of EC Comics’ storytelling formula that involves revenge, irony, plot twists, and turning the tables on characters at every turn. If you can spare the time, these films deserve to be viewed as a double bill, because it’s a master class of storytelling and creeps.
I have to admit that “Ghost Stories” was something of a surprise this year, because I’m shocked so many people liked it, while I just didn’t. Surely, “Ghost Stories” is a beautifully directed film but it builds on a momentum that it can’t deliver. It seems to be leading up to one big bang, and in the end when that big bang finally arrives, it’s more like a trick gun with the flag that reads “Bam!” The message is also pretty heavy handed and feels tacked on. Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman’s “Ghost Stories” is a beautifully directed film with excellent cinematography, and brilliant sound design, it’s just all glimmer and no substance.
Yes, you could say it only had three seasons on television, but I prefer to think of it as we horror fans had an “Evil Dead” series for three whole years. While Starz! Didn’t stick to their guns in the long run, we had a good run re-visiting Ashley Williams once again in his journey to bring down the deadites from hell and track down the necronomicon. “Ash vs. Evil Dead” is a stellar horror comedy series that didn’t shy away from anything that made the original movies so fantastic, and if you’re flexible, you’ll love how the writers even stretch the mythos for a wider scope and more interesting depth, as well as a new variety of deadites like a hand puppet, a high school mascot, and a cell phone.
While the rest of the horror community are celebrating the big releases from Scream Factory this year like “Creepshow” and “Trick r Treat,” in comes a somewhat overlooked horror child known as the “[REC] Collection.” Shout! outdoes themselves packing together all four films from the found footage horror series from Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza, and it’s a box set that should be explored if you’ve never seen the “[REC]” films or have only ever seen the original.
Whether you know it as “Bram Stoker’s Shadowbuilder,” “Shadowbuilder,” “Bram Stoker’s Shadow Builder,” or jut “Shadow Builder,” Jamie Dixon’s 1998 horror fantasy is an okay genre entry. While stumbling here and there in visual effects, the STV horror flick makes for a neat diversion with genre vets at the helm. Dixon’s horror fantasy is one of the last remnants of the video store/Pay Per View age, where horror was mostly relegated to trenches. I never gave it much of a chance when it was heavily promoted on cable back in 1998, but watching it now, it’s aged considerably well, garnering the old fashioned late night cable flavor I miss so much.
The original “Barbershop” from Tim Story and Ice Cube was a very good and entertaining albeit imperfect drama comedy about family, and community. It had a lot more going for it than didn’t, thankfully proving to be anything but a fluke. Kevin Sullivan carries on the down to earth tone with “Barbershop 2.” While it is just as imperfect as the original, it’s also a very good extension of the first film, continuing the storylines of the characters we grew to know and engage with. Thankfully everyone pretty much returns for the second go around, and they’re all about the same people we remember, except older.