William Castle’s “House on Haunted Hill” was a pretty great horror movie that inevitably became a pretty good remake in 1999. When Sam Raimi founded Dark Castle films, his love for William Castle was worn on his sleeve, right down to theatrics of the remake. “House on Haunted Hill” from 1999 does a good job of delivering something new and unique to the premise of the original film, putting twists in the premise, and offering some contemporary thrills that more than make up for the film’s massive short comings, overall. It’s a great Halloween treat; I can at least say that for it.
When Rob Lowe was originally approached about his remake of “The Bad Seed,” he commented that his film version is a drama more than a horror movie. While the original 1956 movie starring Patty McCormack was a horror movie with a dramatic tinge, by God Rob Lowe makes sure that his version of “The Bad Seed” is a drama. Even the unraveling of a parent realizing their child is a psychopath with only the goal of self preservation is painfully bent for the sake of drama, and less horror. Lowe fails, especially because the realization that their child is a psychopath with zero emotion should be a living nightmare. Not some kind of twist in a melodrama.
I’ve seen the frame work for “Rear Window” tacked on to a lot of genres, from murder mysteries, vampire movies, werewolf movies, Bigfoot movies, and so much more. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” turned in to a gangster thriller before. Director Nosipho Dumisa definitely has her eyes aimed at Alfred Hitchcock’s murder mystery masterpiece, but thankfully while the film is pretty much an homage (or remake, perhaps?), “Number 37” definitely manages to stand on its own as a stellar thriller in its own right.
“Death Wish” was a silly movie in its time and it’s a ridiculous concept now. The mere fact that Eli Roth and Joe Carnahan are behind this only serves the film’s premise that it’s an immature, sophomoric male fantasy about solving all of life’s problems with a gun. Bruce Willis’s character Paul Kersey is able to breeze in and out of night clubs and crowded ghettos with only a black hood and shoots down people like it’s a hobby. “Death Wish” then tries to make it very sexual, as Paul begins as this somewhat impotent, pacifistic gentleman whose manhood slowly advances as he embraces the gun.
Zack Snyder re-invents the late George Romero’s masterpiece in a mess of a remake that starts off very strong, gives up trying to make sense mid-way, and them limps to the finish line as fast as it can. Snyder and James Gunn’s script never takes time to slow down and breathe, jumping from one action scene to the next, from one musical laced montage to the next, and from one weak moment of tension to the next. Characters are stale and barely developed, and the script never hides that these people are meant as cannon fodder and nothing else. Worse, the script is clumsily paced, the overall film is tonally uneven, and often times the horror element is an afterthought.
Remember that thing we learned about Samara from “The Ring” and “The Ring Two”? There’s a bit more of the story we didn’t learn about her and we have to sit through a hundred minutes to find it out. Why? All for the sake of a surprise ending that apes James Wan, but packs none of his usual flare. Like, you know… an actual surprise. Truthfully, I saw the surprise twist coming for “Rings” about twenty minutes in to the actual film, and while I appreciate wanting to reboot the series for a new generation that only knows what a VHS or VCR is through history books or novelty articles on Buzzfeed, “Rings” just isn’t a good movie.
“Twilight Zone: The Movie” is one of my childhood favorite movies, it’s a pretty all star tribute to one of my all time favorite television series. While it’s by no means a masterpiece, it’s also never been as bad as many people have proclaimed it. It has genuine heart, some wonderful production quality and a great sense of humor to it. Re-watching it years later, it’s still very heavily flawed, but damnit, it’s also a strong anthology horror film that’s inconsistent in tone, but also embraces the weird and wonderful of the original show. Despite the horrendous legacy involving the on set deaths, the movie is worth checking out, and sets the stage for the solid eighties reboot.