Watch out for the "PROWLER"!

The Prowler
9/26/2010

This early 80’s slasher film by Joseph Zito is a horror classic. Tom Savini’s make up effect are simply amazing. When you look back at a film like this you really appreciate the time and craftsmanship that goes into these practical effects. In the time before CGI, problem solving and creativity was at an all time high. It is no surprise that these days with computer effects so readily available, filmmakers have become lazy and over reliant on effects to save their films.

The “Prowler” is the story of a soldier coming home from WWII to find out that his girlfriend Rosemary has left him. This doesn’t sit well with our soldier as he stalks and pitchforks a young couple at a college graduation dance. The Prowler always leaves a rose at the scene as his calling card. The Prowler as a character is a little weak. He is dressed head to toe in a WWII uniform and uses either a pitchfork or a bayonet to kill his victims. He is not as scary or as menacing as some of the other more infamous 80’s killers like Jason, Freddy or Michael Myers. But as I mentioned in the beginning the kills are phenomenal and make this film what it is.

After the intro, the story jumps ahead 35 years to the present (1980) to the same college as students get ready for the first graduation dance since the double murder. Classic 80’s clothes and hairstyles are always great to see, even if it is for cheap laughs. Our heroes are Pam, a beautiful blonde haired student and Mark, a big haired young deputy. The Sherriff goes on a fishing trip leaving Mark on his own for the weekend to cover the big dance. Like a lot of horror movies, the “Prowler” is not big on plot. The supporting characters are your average stupid college kids that make it way to easy for the Prowler to have his way with them. Pam and Mark piece things together and eventually wind up face to face with the killer. He is unmasked in the struggle and it kind of felt like an episode of Scooby-Doo. Pam survives the ordeal and when she returns to her dorm she gets a final scare. Zito and Savini got back together a year later and did “Friday the 13th Part 4.

Both DVD and Blu-Ray edition have a commentary track from Zito and Savini along with a featurette about the effects.

Evil Doll Movies #4 - "Dead Silence" is Just Plain Dead

Evil Doll Movies #4

Dead Silence

9/22/2010

When the movie “Saw” hit it big at the box office, director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell where thrown a bunch of money to make another horror movie. They made “Dead Silence”. Inspired by the creepy tricycle riding doll from “Saw”, they made a ghost story about an old ventriloquist and her doll. Mary Shaw is sort of an urban legend they created; she had no children just dolls, if you scream she’ll rip your tongue out or something like that.

Ryan Kwanten, who now stars in HBO’s “True Blood”, plays Jaime a grieving widow investigating the mysterious murder of his wife. That’s right a horror movie without a hot female lead. What gives? Donnie Walhberg plays the detective on the case; he also plays the lead cop role in “Saw 2”. He plays the usual gruff investigator who always seems to using his electric razor. Jaime comes from a wealthy family and his step mother, played by former super model Amber Valetta, is only there to be apart of the big final twist ending. The whole Mary Shaw myth and legend is not that scary and her back story is completely unoriginal and feels tacked on. The filmmakers use a lot of effects and bullshit to mask that fact that this story is pretty weak and not all that scary.

Billy is the name of Mary’s ventriloquist doll (also the name as the “Saw” doll) that seems to briefly come to life somewhat by Mary’s spirit or something. The other dolls just seem to move their eyes, which is creepy, but it has been done so many times that it does very little to actually frighten you. This is your basic gothic ghost story, which is code for boring. The whole male lead thing really through me off. Coming from the guys who made “Saw”, I guess I was expecting a whole lot more. This known as the M. Night Shyamalan effect. It sets the bar pretty high which will inevitably set you up for disappointment. This movie is really nothing special as it floats in a sea of mediocrity. Check it out if you find it on cable or satellite, but don’t pay any money to see it.

Evil Doll Movies #3 - "Puppet Master"

Evil Doll Movies #3

Puppet Master

9/19/2010

After the mild success of Stuart Gordon’s “Dolls”, producer Charles Band decided to fund the “Puppet Master” franchise. Currently there are nine films in this campy and purposeless franchise.

The first of these low budget films was released in 1989 to minimal success. Although it does have enough of a cult following to spawn so many sequels, this is one cult that hasn’t brainwashed me into following.

The movie starts at the Bodega Bay Inn in 1939. An old puppet maker who has the ability to bring his creations to life is being hunted down by two guys in sunglasses and trench coats. After hiding the dolls in the walls (hey that rhymes) he kills himself. There is this long puppet POV sequence of him going through the hotel and for some bizarre reason nobody seems to notice him. This is really the least of the movies many, many flaws. Ancient Egyptian spells, witchcraft and telepathy fill in the so-called plot. It seems to go for more of the campy B movie horror then for real terror and suspense. The puppets themselves each have there own distinct look and personalities, which is probably the films only good point. The animation of the puppets is also very strong. The human actors should have followed the puppets lead. The film looks very 80’s in the clothes and hair styles, but good character development and story is never out of date. This movie is what it is and has a very select audience.

Evil Doll Movies #2 - "Child's Play" Enter Chucky!!

Evil Doll Movies #2

"Child’s Play"

9/14/2010

The Child’s Play franchise with the loveably insane Chucky doll has become a pop culture icon. With five films and more to come, it hasn’t quite reached the legendary status of Jason, Freddy, and Michael Myers, but Chucky continues to slash his way to the top.

Tom Holland directed the original 1988 film as well as the Stephen King adaptations of “The Langoliers” and “Thinner”. Set in Chicago this is the story of a widowed mother (Catherine Hicks) and her son Andy (Alex Vincent). Andy is having a birthday and wants a “Good Guy” doll. It’s kind of like the boys version of a Cabbage Patch Kid. His mother buys one from a street peddler and Andy couldn’t be happier. Little do they know that the doll is inhabited by the soul of a serial killer the lakeside strangler Charles Lee Ray. Chucky talks to Andy, but when things start to happen and he blames the doll. Obviously nobody believes him, even his mother.

Chucky is pure satanic evil with a dirty mouth to match. Like Freddy Krueger he has a string funny one-liner that go to embarrassingly bad lengths in the later sequels. Chris Sarandon plays a detective investigating the mysterious murders and is finally convinced that Chucky is to blame. But who will believe him? This movie also has several of the now more familiar horror clich├ęs. The fake scare followed by the real one, Chucky comes back to life about three times, nobody believes the little kid. The doll effects are pretty good, and Chucky seems to be acting circles around Sarandon’s character. All in all the acting is quite good as well as the production values. This is another classic essential 80’s horror movie. What a decade!

Evil Doll Movies #1 - Stuart Gordon's 1987 film "Dolls"

Evil Doll Movies #1

“Dolls" (1987)

9/3/2010

When it comes to the horror movie genre there are several well known and defined sub genres. You got your slashers, aliens, vampires, werewolves, supernatural and numerous others. For the next few reviews I will be focusing on the Evil Doll movie. The biggest and most notorious of these is the “Child’s Play franchise.” Chucky the Good Guy doll has become a household name when it comes to diabolical little toys. There is also the vast collection of “Puppet Master” films produced by Charles Band. One of the more recent (and forgettable) of these is “Dead Silence”. These movies are effective when they can prey on the primal childhood fear of your toys coming to life to kill you. But with any movie in any genre you need a good story and good characters.

For this review I watched “Dolls” by Stuart Gordon. Gordon’s first film “Re Animator” is a cult classic that is a must have for any horror fan. “Dolls” is a very short 75 minutes and any longer would really be too long. This is not a great movie, but there are a few gems within its short life and as a whole it falls rather flat.

In the time before CGI, these numerous dolls were all meticulously hand crafted and brought to life (and death) through stop motion animation. The animation scenes are really pretty cool and by far the best part. The acting is absolutely dreadful, except for maybe the seven year old girl. The story is also rather weak. A family is traveling a deserted road when a pot hole blows out a tire. The seek refuge in a big scary old house inhabited an old doll maker and his wife. A few other characters pop in along the way including two punk rock teen girls seemingly pulled straight from a Madonna video. The many dolls throughout the house look pretty creepy as it is, until they start moving their eyes. After everybody goes to bed the dolls come out to play. Like a said before the plot is pretty thin and most of the characters are around only to be victims. If your feeling nostalgic for 80’s horror gives this a shot.