In a small village where residents all know each other, a woman calls to life a creature to help set some things right, As that being turns out to possibly be more evil than she thought it would be, it may come down to her to figure things out.
Warning: Mild Spoilers to the Series Included.
Take a look at any and all supernatural tales, and you’ll find that they are deep down about three things: They’re either about family, about death, or about mental illness. From “The Babadook,” and “The Conjuring,” to “The Haunting” or “Rebecca,” every great ghost story deep down is about those core themes. “The Haunting of Hill House” is the most riveting ghost story and horror series I’ve seen all year, and I say that as someone who has seen the supernatural sub-genre reduced to nothing but a series of shocks and bumps on the wall when films like “The Ring” and “Grudge” were popularized in the early aughts. To their credit, they are fine ghost films, but I missed the more humanistic elements.
In 1953, “War of the Worlds” brought American audiences an alien foe that crash landed on Earth, and destroyed every inch of the world before it, before finally being defeated by irony. Don Siegel’s 1956 “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” has managed to garner as much influence, and some argue even more influence, mainly for creating an alien invader that’s so much more personal, private, and perverse. Not to mention so much cleverer than any human can outwit in the long run.
Dan Curtis’ “Trilogy of Terror” is a TV movie that grew so famous that it ended up being considered one of the best horror movies of its decade. Released during a time where networks were tackling TV movies with immense zeal, “Trilogy of Terror” has become a horror classic since its airing, even if I’m not a fan. It’s hard to hate, though. There’s Karen Black taking on all of the major female roles in the film, and the Zuni Fetish Doll, a movie monster who has become the quintessential horror killer doll. “Trilogy of Terror II” premiered on the USA Network in 1996 with Dan Curtis returning to direct, and while it’s not a great movie, it’s fine enough.
“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.
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.
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.
Ruben Fleischer’s cinematic treatment of the Marvel super villain “Venom” feels a lot like it someone was making this movie in 1997, and it remained in the vault for twenty years. Then Fleischer and Sony dusted it off and finished it. “Venom” feels so out of date and ridiculously nineties you can almost expect the home video release to come with a hologram. That might be due to the character of Venom who looks less like an amorphous sentient Alien organism that creates kind of symbiosis with its host, and more like alien Jello that covers its host and causes trouble. The titular Venom is so random and bafflingly stupid, especially in its basic behavior that varies between mischievous, to downright evil. How do we root for a being who tells the film’s hero “Do what I say or I’ll eat your head”?