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.
It’s amazing how prophetic Satoshi Kon’s “Perfect Blue” was back in 1997. Even though it was released at the beginning of the internet age, “Perfect Blue” is a very strong and still very relevant tale about rabid fandom, gate keeping, obsession, and the struggles to maintain one’s own sense of self and agency in a world where growing in one’s career means relinquishing our dignity and discretion. In a time where actresses are being chased and harassed off of social platforms, “Perfect Blue” conjures up so much interesting and familiar imagery and plot beats, and ultimately is about the cost of rabid fandom.
The thing about RKSS’s latest eighties inspired genre offering is that it’ll poke all the right nostalgia cords with audiences. There’s so much eighties ephemera, that it’ll be difficult not to be charmed by it. But deep down beneath the “Cruel Summer” music cues, and giant camcorders beats the heart of a vicious, mean spirited and dark murder mystery that was often unpleasant and kind of dull. To admit that isn’t easy as I loved RKSS’s “Turbo Kid” and anxiously wanted to see what they would do with a murder mystery. But while you might get shades of “Stranger Things” here and there, the movie itself is pretty crappy.
Joe Dante has always had this peculiar style that’s always helped his films stand out among everyone else’s. “The ‘Burbs” is another of his films that features the suburban unit being terrorized or working themselves up in to a stir. Dante loves to put his hands in to the perceived American norm and stir it up with some chaos and anarchy. It’s hard to believe that “The ‘Burbs” was originally a flop, as it’s managed to become one of the most highly appreciated cult classics of all time. In the face of the passing of the late great Carrie Fisher, if you’ve yet to see it, you definitely owe it to yourself to.
After “Batman and Harley Quinn,” the cinematic adaptation of “Gotham By Gaslight” feels like a breath of fresh air. It brought me back to the time when Batman animation was mature and accessible, and we got entertainment like “Mask of the Phantasm” and “Return of the Joker.” Warner follows up with the aforementioned horrendous DC team up movie with what is a charming, creepy, and wholly creative twist on the Jack the Ripper legend that ponders on what would have happened if he and Batman were foes during the time he wrought havoc in the 1880’s.
2017’s been the year of Stephen King, and it’s been a great bit of fortune that fans have been given mostly great cinematic adaptations of his work. “1922” is a deliberately paced and ingeniously calculated drama that hearkens back to the classic Victorian era murder thrillers. King invokes the style of Edgar Allan Poe for “1922,” a Southern Gothic drama that’s heavily steeped in horror. While it’s been lumped in to the Stephen King horror category, “1922” is more an examination on the concept of greed, and how it can rot us from inside out. It’s more tragedy with a tinge of horror more than horror, despite how menacing director Zak Hilditch paints the twisted albeit beautiful aesthetic.
One of the highly anticipated releases of 2017, Synapse Films unleashed the new print of the rare horror comedy “Popcorn” for fans with a limited edition release. Months later, they allow fans another chance with a regular Blu-Ray and DVD editions of “Popcorn” with the same deluxe special features and treatment but none of the collector flavor. “Popcorn” is one of those horror comedies that deserve to be consumed by horror movie fans of all kinds, as it’s one of the cleverer meta-horror movies that satirized indie horror, while also delivering its own interesting slasher tale.
If the premise for “Happy Death Day” sounds eerily similar a certain Bill Murray comedy where a man has to re-live the same day over and over, it’s not you. “Happy Death Day” is unofficially a remake of said movie but with a murder mystery injected for good measure. The thing about “Happy Death Day” is that it knows it’s literally a redoing of “Groundhog Day.” Seriously, it literally stops to acknowledge the fact that we’re watching a modern re-imagining of a sort. Not that that hinders the experience of “Happy Death Day” thankfully. Through and through it’s mediocre, but it charms as an engaging coming of age romance painted in the shade of a horror comedy.