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.
“Cell” was troubled from the moment it was optioned in to a movie. Rather than become a success tale like “It,” it instead was left to tread water as a limited release that was quietly tucked away on the VOD market, and is now a two dollar purchase on streaming services. It’s not surprising since “Cell” is a film that could have used a much better script, a lot more development, and about twenty more minutes in its run time. In its state it feels utterly incomplete, half baked and rushed, along with pairing two stars that, at their best, are magnificent and at their worst, make a good living phoning in (shut up) performances. Tod Williams had the chance to jump on the ball and really provide us with a frantic and scary commentary about our over reliance on technology, and he fails.
I’ve never been a fan of the “Hatchet” series, this I must admit. I think Adam Green is a much better horror fan than horror director, and I think his friend Joe Lynch has mastered the art of genre filmmaking, while Adam Green still tends to direct like a film student still learning the ropes. That said I enjoyed “Victor Crowley” so much more than the previous three films in the series. I would not watch it again unless I was painfully bored, but as a sequel/reboot, I laughed, I groaned, and for once I enjoyed Green bringing his friends aboard to indulge in some good blood shed.
Sheldon Wilson’s “The Hollow” or as I refer to it “Phantoms 2: Samhain Edition,” is one of the more incomplete feeling horror films I’ve seen in a long time. Although the movie isn’t the completely worst Halloween oriented horror entry I’ve ever seen, it definitely feels like it could have stood for twenty minutes of exposition. Even when it stops the movie in its tracks to drop exposition, it still feels like the screenwriters are working on an under cooked film that never finds its footing. So much of “The Hollow” is downright unpleasant and dull, and manages to squander a potentially really cool movie monster.
2014’s “Annabelle” should have been an easy win. Take one of the most frightening elements from 2012’s “The Conjuring” and give her her own spooky tale about where she comes from and you have another hit. Sadly, “Annabelle” was an ill conceived and silly movie that is given a second chance with another prequel “Creation.” This film goes even further back before “The Conjuring” to where the doll was merely a dormant spirit lying and waiting for fresh souls to exploit.
You could definitely call “Warning Sign” a precursor to “28 Days Later,” but the latter film just handles the premise so much better. Hal Barwood’s movie is a shockingly bland meshing of science fiction and horror that is never quite sure what it wants to be. Sometimes it’s a science fiction movie about government conspiracy and a top secret disease gone out of control, and other times it’s about three bystanders battling disease ridden rage induced zombies, and the undead. It bounces back and forth between grim science fiction to gruesome horror and feels so ill-conceived and poorly constructed.
In the decade that gave us “E.T.” and droids, “Short Circuit” introduces a hero that’s a little bit of both. “Short Circuit” is very much like “Chopping Mall” except when lightning strikes a military grade robot he becomes hyperactive and charming like Robin Williams. I wouldn’t call “Short Circuit” a childhood favorite but I fondly remember re-visiting the movie time and time again on network TV when I was a kid and didn’t hate it. In the spectrum of “Mac and Me,” and “E.T.,” its right there smack dab in the middle with “Batteries Not Included.”
As a Hanna Barbera geek, I have to say “Mask of the Blue Falcon” hit all the right notes. I didn’t just have a good time with the surprisingly clever vehicle for the Mystery Inc. crew, but I also had so much fun pointing out all of the Easter Eggs. And yes, every single Easter Egg within “Mask of the Blue Falcon” is a reference to a Hanna Barbera cartoon from the sixties and seventies. I’m just disappointed we didn’t see anything referencing “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids.” What? It’s an obscenely underrated Scooby Doo wannabe, darnit!