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Cheesy Horror/Comedy "House" should be Homeless


12/3/2018

While the 1980s were a golden age for horror films, they weren’t all great and several were actually pretty bad.  Fresh off directing “Friday the 13th II and III” director Steve Miner’s next film was the horror/comedy “House”.  It was also produced by Sean S. Cunningham the creator of “Friday the 13th”.  Composer Harry Manfredini, who found fame with the “Friday” films, also scored “House”.  A lot of great people came together for this film only to churn a huge turd.

Our main character Roger Cobb is played by William Katt, who previously played Tommy Ross in “Carrie”.  He’s a struggling writer of horror novels whose life has fell in the crapper.  His son disappeared a few years back, his wife has left him and he’s having issues with his new book.  He then gets a call that the Aunt who helped raise him has killed herself.  She leaves behind a large house that Roger decides is the perfect place to get going on his new book about his experiences in Vietnam.  I can remember “House” being in heavy rotation on HBO and Showtime back in the late 80s.  My 10 year old self thought this was pretty cool and scary, but like a lot of movies rewatching it 30 years later it is a completely different experience.  I can’t remember if it was originally supposed to be so comedic but seeing it now everything comes off as ridiculous and cheesy.  Although so many people from the “Friday” movies worked on this film it is really missing special effects guru Tom Savini.  The monsters in “House” are terrible, nothing but stuntmen in cheap latex suits, like a bad “Gozilla” movie.  No blood or gore of any kind and not the least bit scary.

There is an interesting story buried here somewhere though.  Although words like PTSD where not used back in the 80s with Vietnam vets, Roger is suffering from it big time.  A lot of guilt and regret about his war time experience are brought up in number of flashbacks.  These scenes also suffer greatly from cheap set design and just bad filmmaking.  Roger’s friend Big Ben was captured by the enemy and tortured for weeks before being killed.  Ben begged for Roger to kill him after he was injured by he refused.  All of the ghosts and monsters that Roger encounters in the house could be a manifestation of his anger and guilt, but it doesn’t come off that way.  George Wendt, from the hit 80s show “Cheers”, plays Rogers extremely intrusive and annoying neighbor Harold tries to turn this move into a buddy film.  In my mind the film hits every wrong note and certainly doesn’t hold up to the passage of time.  It did quite well in its time at the box office making almost 20 million dollars on a 3 million budget.  It might have some sentimental value for some but its not something I will return to again.


"Phantasm II" The Glorious Return of the Tall Man!


11/27/2018

The review for the original Phantasm Film can be found here Phantasm (1979)

The sequel to the original cult favorite film “Phantasm” didn’t come around until 1988 which was about 10 years later.  Writer/Director Don Coscarelli is back along with the two main protagonists Mike and Reggie as they continue their battle with the Tall Man.  Like most sequels it plays on what worked well in the first film as well as trying to add to the whole mythology.  We get a lot more of the Tall Man and of course those crazy flying spheres of death.  We also get a couple girls to join the group, because obviously the guys need love interests.

Starting right where the last film left off we get a kind of reminder of what happen previously. Then we flash forward a number of years to see Mike (now played by “Minnesota Native” James Le Gros) a 19 year old just getting out of a Mental Hospital.  He is taken in by Reggie and on upon pulling up his house the place explodes with family members inside.  The shit then starts to gets real.  There is an action movie style gearing up for war sequence at a supply store they break into and then they hit the road in search of the Tall Man and his army of undead dwarfs.  The Tall Man is scouring small towns on the pacific northwest and digging up cemeteries to build his other dimensional armies.

This film does have its fair share of humor to go along with the horror and is mostly carried by Reggie who hauls around a ridiculous tool belt of weapons.  He also totes a seldom used four barreled sawed-off shot gun (wicked awesome).  Mike and Reggie are a great horror duo somewhat similar to the more recent “Tucker and Dale vs Evil”.  In their travels the guys pick up a hitchhiker named Alchemy, a free spirited love interest for Reggie.  When they track down the Tall Man to another small town Mike finally meets up with Liz, a girl he has a sort of telepathic connection too.  Liz is quite the typical innocent, suburban white girl.  She has a run in with the Tall Man at her Grandmothers funeral and is now on the run from him.  We now have our fab four group of hero’s and in the funniest scene of the film Reggie and Alchemy have this weirdly awkward sex scene.  There is also a scene in the crematorium where a guy is bagging up some ashes labeled “Sam Raimi” a jab at the writer/director of the “Evil Dead” Films.  

As promised we get more flying silver spheres chasing and mutilating people, but they do also have another purpose as the guys find out.  To round out the general awesomeness of this movie is a  chainsaw fight and another surprise ending.  Just like all of the 80s horror super villain’s you can’t really kill evil and the Tall Man will surely be back for more sequels.  In the time between reviewing the first film in 2009 and this review another sequel was made in 2016 called “Phantasm: Ravager” still starring the original Reggie (Reggie Bannister) and Angus Scrimm as the Tall Man.  Sadly Angus passed away shortly after completing the film as he was 89 years old.  As of right now all 5 Phantasm films are available to rent from Amazon’s streaming service. 


Time to get "In the Mood for Love"



11/23/2018

The first film ever reviewed on this blog, back in 2009, was the amazing “Chungking Express” by writer/director Wong Kar-Wai.  For the 9th anniversary of the Rockport Review I’m going back to the beginning with a review of Wong Kar-Wai’s masterpiece “In the Mood for Love” starring Tony Leung (who also starred in “Chungking Express”) and Maggie Cheung.  As I write this the film currently ranks #237 on imdb.com's list of the Top 250 rated films.

“In the Mood for Love” takes place in Hong Kong in the early 1960s and is a slow burn film about restraint, repression, guilt and relationships prior to a cultural revolution.  Mr. Chow and his wife move into a new apartment right next to Mrs. Chan and her husband.  Although we hear their spouses talk we never actually see their faces, which was a deliberate attempt to keep them isolated and mysterious.  Mr. Chow and Mrs Chan do have a sort of chemistry together but it looks to be purely plutonic.  They have a lot in common and enjoy each others company, while their spouses are supposedly away for business.  While out for noodles they begin to suspect that their spouses are having an affair with each other and realizing this has them mulling over whether it’s now okay for them to pursue a relationship of their own.  This film is interested in the ethics of human emotion and the human condition.  Everything that went into the creation of this film has been well done, from the actors, the costuming, the music and cinematography.  Even with everything I’ve mentioned above I though the film was good but not the greatest.  I think it has to do with cultural differences.  I can acknowledge that it is a great film, but I personally liked “Chungking Express” a lot better.  Even though both films deal a lot with love, relationships and loneliness at their core.  “Chungking Express” has this vital kinetic energy to it.  It was also a more modern depiction while “In the Mood for Love” plays a lot more like an old Victorian love story.  Both of these films are available from the Criterion Collection and I own them both.


Vintage 80s Horror Film "Pumpkinhead"


10/15/2018

The 1980s were a golden age for horror fans and in 1988 special effects wizard Stan Winston got behind the camera to direct a moderately successful film called “Pumpkinhead”.  This was a movie that was popular on late night Cinemax and HBO also on VHS. 

We open on a small farm house in 1957 with a mother, father and their small son.  There is a furious banging at the door, a teenager running for his life is looking for help, but the people inside don’t move and refuse to help him.  The boy outside is taken by some kind of monster with the little boy inside seeing the outline of a tall an ominous being.  Flash forward to the present (1988) and the little boy is all grown up.  His name is Ed Harley, played by Lance Henriksen, he has little boy of his own now named Billy.  He has a sweet and loving relationship with him that is built up for what looks to be an upcoming tragedy.  This appears in the form a couple carloads of teenagers from the city.  The teens are not overtly mean or evil except for maybe one of the guys who is kind of a douche.  Being that its and 80s movie the teens are hauling a trailer with a couple of totally rad dirt bikes that are taken out for extremely reckless driving.  Ed owns an old dusty road ride grocery store and leaves Billy alone with the teens to run a quick errand.  What could possibly happen right? Well, when Billy’s dog runs out the door after the bikes, Billy is close behind after him only to get a face full of rampaging dirt bike.  He lies unconscious as the teens all rush over to him, after some arguing some of them leave, while a few go for help while one of them stays with him until Ed gets back.

Riddled with unbearable grief Ed searches out a backwoods woman named Haggis, a witch with supernatural powers.  She performs a ceremony, with Ed’s blood, to summon the demon Pumpkinhead who resides in a pumpkin patch/graveyard.  Pumpkinhead is resurrected and sent on a mission of revenge against the teens responsible for Billy’s death.  Although as the teens start to die one by one, Ed also feels it and starts to regret his actions.  He then goes out to stop Pumpkinhead before they are all dead.

“Pumpkinhead” is a good but not great film from a decade that has so much more to offer.  Its got a very nostalgic feel to it, for me anyway.   The story is quite simplistic and deals with some well worn themes.  It plays out like a twisted fairy tale  The effects and performance by Henriksen do stand out as well as Pumpkinhead himself.  Shout Factory gave the movie a Collector’s Edition blu-ray release a few years back with number of special features that are worth checking out.  The movie is also available to watch for free with Amazon Prime.


"Run Lola Run"


8/23/2018

German Filmmaker Tom Tykwer set the world on fire with his 1998 hyper-kinetic film “Run Lola Run” starring Franka Potente and her blazing red hair.  A master class in editing, pacing and the use of music to pump up the action.  No matter what language you speak, Run Lola Run should be enjoyed by all.

When Lola’s boyfriend Manni leaves a bag of money on the train meant to pay off some pretty serious dudes, she now must come up with 100,000 Deutschmarks in 20 minutes in order to save his life.  The film is structured in a way that we see her goes through three different attempts each with different outcomes.  With a driving techno score, the pressure and urgency is bumped up to the max.  Color also plays a key role in the film with red obviously being most prominent, not only in her hair but with various other objects she comes in contact with.  Red is emergency, danger, and love.



Lola follows the same path and runs into the same people in each of her attempts to save Manni.  Although everything is just a little different each time.  Like a different plane of reality.  So where is Lola going to get the money?  Her father is a bank manager, but she is a little estranged from him as he left her mother and is in a relationship with another woman.  This plays out like a cheesy soap opera, but in a satirical way, just another distraction in Lola quest.  Manni contemplates robbing a supermarket and when Lola is held up and doesn’t meet him at the agreed time he goes for it only to be shot down in front of her.  After each attempt we have a scene with Lola and Manni in bed bathed in red light talking about their relationship.

Lola seems to learn from her mistakes in her previous attempts, but fails on the second time as well.  Will the third time be the charm?  This time she’s tries her luck at a casino and for a second time she lets out a glass shattering scream that seems to stop time.  Will she crack the code this time and make all the right moves to save Manni once and for all?  “Run Lola Run” is truly an intoxicating experience that will keep you going for all of its brief 81 minute run time.