Since we’re running out of weekends until Halloween and opportunities to do as many spooky things as possible, I’m squeezing every single bit of horror out of the season that I can. As I write this, it’s late on a Saturday night and I don’t even want to think about the fact that there are only 5 more of these, up to and including THE BIG DAY.
So, I’ve actually vowed to watch something horror related every single night until then. Granted, I’m cheating a little bit and watching a little True Blood some nights, but that still counts. My friend Donna has finally gotten me into watching it, and while it’s absolute ridiculous trash, I have to admit I’m kind of hooked. I’m about halfway into Season 4, for those keeping track at home.
Squeezing the season for all the spook I can get could easily tempt me to write full reviews of all the movies I’m watching, complete with loads of analysis and screen shots, but I just flat out don’t have the time for all that. So I’ve decided to knock out some mini reviews. Just a few short paragraphs covering some things I’ve seen latey. Trust me, full reviews will still be coming of some of the more notable selections. Enjoy my first round of Mini Reviews!
WOLF CREEK 2 (2013)
I was actually really looking forward to this one and don’t know what really took me so long to get to it. I thoroughly enjoyed the first film and was impressed that something so effectively brutal could be shot on such a relatively small budget and a 25 day shooting schedule, all while actually succesfully having me invested in the characters. Also, John Jarratt, over the course of both films as Mick Taylor, has solidified himself to me as one of the best of the new crop of horror villains.
I’ve kind of got a bit of a soft spot for this particular sub-genre of horror. There is something a little primal about stories that revolve around a group of people who are far from home and run afoul of the wrong guy. I’m not sure if there is a proper name for the sub-genre, but I immediately think of films like Duel, The HItcher, and Joy Ride. I suppose you could lump in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but I’m more thinking of films that involve a lone psychopath. The other requirement would be that there is no supernatural element – just a mysterious stranger on the road, looking to stalk and toy with his next victim(s).
Back to this one. It’s a competent follow-up. I didn’t know what to expect, but Greg McLean returns to the director’s chair to amp up the action. He knows what works and takes some of the more horrific aspects of the first film and ratchets them up here. The first kill was incredibly unexpected and gory, and it kicked things off with quite a bang, resulting in giving me the “oh shit!” moment that I’m always craving. You know what I mean, the moment when you literally yell, “Oh shit!” at the TV.
The “head on a stick” is back and Mick Taylor is as brutal and psychotic as ever, toying with his victims and showing not a shred of remorse. Yet, he manages to be strangely likable. I can’t quite describe it and it may just be a matter of McLean deftly creating a tone of both terror and fun, but as much of an insane bastard as Taylor is, I’m rooting for him. It would be very easy to play him as a horribly unlikable bastard, but I’m just not getting that. Bottom line: Wolf Creek 2 isn’t reinventing anything, but if you want fun, action based gore with a great performance, it’s recommended. I hope we get more installments.
THE PROWLER (1981)
See, this is exactly what I was looking for when I decided to do these. Not only am I trying to see as much horror as possible in the next month or so, I’m trying to find hidden gems. Well, hidden to me anyway. By that, I mean films that either fell through the cracks as I was growing up (my way of saying that I unfortunately ignored them) or things I’d somehow gone my whole life as a horror hound but hadn’t heard of. My first experience with this kind of thing was when I was doing a similar experiment a couple of years ago and decided to intentionally watch some old horror slasher I’d not ever seen. I cruised Netflx and stumbled upon The Burning. It was PERFECT. That night, I popped some popcorn, lit a pumpkin candle and discovered a lost classic. I think I managed to do it again with this one.
Featuring special effects by Tom Savini (also of The Burning, and well, nearly everything), The Prowler tells the story of a killer clad in WW II army fatigues stalking a New Jersey town in an effort to recreate a double murder which occurred immediately after the war. In terms of its place among ’80’s slashers, it’s a solid fit. I’m not going to go into too much detail (I’ve already stretched the definition of “mini” as it is in this post), but it’s got all the requisite elements of boobs, blood, and a decent twist ending. Savini was approaching the top of his game here and it shows. I still prefer The Burning, but this one is definitely recommended.
CAST A DEADLY SPELL (1991)
Now this one was fun. I first discovered it when looking for something else on YouTube years ago and bookmarked it for future vieweing. I’m glad i finally got round it. It’s a supernatural, film noir made-for-TV movie that follows Detective Harry Philip Lovecraft (I’m not kidding) as he’s hired by an old eccentric to find The Necronomicon. The world that Harry lives is an alternate version of 1948 in which everyone uses magic and has access to it, but Harry refuses to, arguing that it’s cheap and basically just cheating. Essentially, the tone they’re going for with this one is Dick Tracy by way of Lovecraft (the real one),
They threw everything at the wall with this thing. You’ve got a random werewolf, a cross-dresser, and a fairly unknown-at-the-time Julianne Moore, who demonstrated back then that she could hold her own. She plays the sultry, mystrious long-lost love of the hard drinking detective, hitting all the film noir stereotypes. It’s at times silly and has a flimsy plot involving a virgin sacrifice that has to happen every…666 years (again, not kidding), but it knows exactly what it is.
One of my favorite parts is when Harry has to interview a mechanic who straight up complains about GREMLINS HIDING IN OUR CAR PARTS THAT SNUCK IN DURING THE WAR. And we get to see them!
There’s also this monster that’s an obvious Pumpkinhead ripoff.
Oh, and here’s your final big-bad monster at the end – Cthulhu, complete with mouth protrusion…thing! Seriously, check out this train wreck, even if you just put it on for background fun. I find the film noir genre lends itself really well to being infused with the supernatural, and until I found this, Lord of Illusions was the only film I knew of that pulled it off well. It prompted me to do a little research, and it turns out there are quite a few lesser known offerings out there with that particular genre combination.
That’s it, kids. The next one will be a proper long review centering on one film. I’m glad that I’m sticking to my Halloween goals so far and it’s not even October yet. People talk about early burnout with these things, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s not even possible. Trust me, we’ll be bitching about the fact that it’s all over before you can say, “Target’s Christmas section”. Yes, it’s already out. Now go eat something pumpkin spiced and enjoy this time while we have it.