The Monster Squad (1987)

Fred Dekker’s “The Monster Squad” is the assembly of many eighties tropes, even conjuring up the aesthetic of a novel series one might have found tucked beside “The Hardy Boys,” and “Babysitters Club.” It’s Amblin, Spielberg, Universal and everything else we loved about the eighties, and while it can in many ways be considered a take off on “The Goonies,” it watches so much better over time. Even better is the script by Shane Black allows for interesting and complex preteen heroes, all of whom have their spotlight, as well as their own personal struggles. Like Spielberg, Black introduces a potentially broken home with main hero Sean, while this extraordinary situation allows his family to re-unite for the fate of him and his little sister.

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Rings (2017)

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.

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Amityville: The Awakening (2017)

After five years on the shelf constantly being rescheduled and postponed, “Amityville: the Awakening” is here and–makes apparent why it was postponed for so long. At ninety minutes, “The Awakening” feels like there are at least twenty minutes of good exposition missing. What we get is a pretty ineffective and monotonous horror film that feels very much like another run of the mill sequel in the oddly long running “Amityville” series. It has a lot of potential to really break out of the doldrums of being just another cash grab, and could have done some great things with its emphases on family, but every time it reaches out to become something different, it inevitably just pulls back again and seems intent on just making it to the end credits with no real effect.

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1408 (2007)

Stephen King has always been less about ghosts and monsters, and more about the ghosts and monsters in man. “The Shining” and “It” were so much less about the supernatural, as they were the darkness that is already there in humanity that helps breed evil and allow it to thrive. The stay at the Stanley hotel, the experience that inspired “The Shining” also helped King garner a keen insight in to the human condition. “1408” is something of an extension of “The Shining” where a man is already doing battle on the inside and comes face to face with a presence that is only a mere extension of himself.  That’s scarier than anything that anyone can conjure up.

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Jack Frost (1997)

In 1997, we really needed a movie like Michael Cooney’s “Jack Frost.” The decade was so serious and bereft of horror that “Jack Frost” was such a wacky and demented shot of horror comedy that baffled horror fans then and has rightfully become something of a cult classic. What’s unusual about “Jack Frost,” (a cocktail of “Child’s Play,” “The Blob” and “Sleepstalker”) is that something this ridiculous obviously had a lot of deliberate construction of its awfulness. Every shot is pointed from a weird angle, the odd color scheme for most shots are off, and a lot of the snow is so obviously fake or Styrofoam, and director Cooney doesn’t even try to hide that apparent fact.

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The Black Cauldron (1985)

It’s a shame that Disney treats “The Black Cauldron” kind of like the black sheep of the family they don’t mention at family reunions. It’s such a riveting and creepy film that evokes a lot of what makes the fantasy genre so appealing. There’s even the Horned King, one of Disney’s most frightening, if not their most frightening villain ever created, he’s a skull faced, horned monster with one goal to grab the magical black cauldron and use it to take over the world. In galleries and retrospectives, he’s almost never mentioned, which says a lot considering Disney is fond of including the Chernabog, who is only on screen for eleven minutes in “Fantasia.”

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Cry Baby Lane (2000)

It’s a shame that the urban legend of “Cry Baby Lane” is better than the actual movie. “Cry Baby Lane” was originally shown on Nickelodeon in 2000 and aired allegedly only once. It was then banned for over a decade, never airing again, not even during Halloween, or even its teen channels. Many movie lovers spent years circulating boot leg copies of the movie, until it finally re-emerged in 2016 and aired on Nickelodeon’s late night block “Splat.” There are a ton of theories as to why the movie was banned, but frankly were it not for the years of infamy, “Cry Baby Lane” would just be a boring Nickelodeon TV movie, best forgotten.

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