The first “Goosebumps” movie was a big surprise for me. While I was against it being a fluid narrative and not an anthology or adaptation of one of the books, it ended up being a great, heartfelt, and genuinely fun horror comedy. And Jack Black as RL Stine was such a nice little addition that helped what was essentially a love letter to RL Stine’s imagination. It pains me to say that, like a lot of others, I just did not like “Goosebumps 2.” It’s not only the fact that it tosses out a lot of what made the original film so much fun, but it also completely recycles the premise from the first film with a monster apocalypse… except, you know, on Halloween.
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.
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.
Michael Dougherty’s “Trick r Treat” is a contemporary success story that’s enamored horror fans for a long time. Originally in 2007, Michael Dougherty’s horror anthology was kicked around various studios, pushed back, and shelved. When it finally re-emerged, it was pushed to a DVD release on 2009. Once unleashed on the fan base, it began life as a hidden gem, and has grown to become a bonafide horror classic, almost universally praised. To boot, “Trick r Treat’s” mascot, the burlap sack wearing, jagged lollipop adorning Sam has become one of the modern horror icons, whose bred a legion of fans (as well as a slew of merchandise).