Italian filmmaker Dario Argento’s Deep Red is considered one of the finest examples of the Italian horror/suspense subgenre known as giallo, and it would go on to have a big influence on later horror films, particularly the slasher movie genre, which took much of its inspiration from the movie’s blood-drenched murder scenes. Make no mistake, although Argento’s film contains generous amounts of blood and gore, with Deep Red he was clearly aiming for the art-house, not the grindhouse, and the result is considered by some to be Argento’s crowning achievement.
Deep Red is one of Argento’s most finely crafted films, containing some of the best camerawork and editing of his long career. In fact, some of the film’s images have an almost painting-like quality to their composition, which adds to the movies art-house appeal. The gore scenes are memorable and inventive, but they also never come across as tasteless or excessive, serving the story rather than overpowering it.
Another strong point is the musical score by Italian progressive rock group Goblin, who would famously go on to do the soundtrack to Argento’s Suspiria. Goblin’s music for the film ranges from atmospheric pieces, to bass and percussion heavy, almost funky tracks that sound like they were made for a chase scene in a cop movie rather than a suspense thriller, but it all works.
As much about psychological tension and creating a sense of pervasive uneasiness as it is about blood, gore and shocks, it remains a high point of Italian giallo cinema. While one could argue that some of Argento’s other films are more atmospheric, some are better paced and some are more shocking, Deep Red remains one of Argento’s all around best films.
Informed by a love of B-movie monsters and brimming with gore, The Deadly Spawn is a fun, if amateurish, horror romp that works despite some serious strikes against it. It’s a bad movie, with terrible acting and a dumb, silly script, but this ‘little movie that could’ also displays an infectious can-do spirit belying its minuscule $20,000 budget. Just about every penny poured into this thing went to the special effects, which are surprisingly good all things considered. Many bigger-budgeted films from the same period aren’t as entertaining or enjoyable, even with the benefit of professional actors and crews.
At 80 minutes Deadly Spawn is a relatively short movie, its lack of all but the most basic of plots means the running time is divided up between monster assaults, gore scenes and mostly pointless character interaction. The entire story takes place in only three locations, the woods featured in the brief prologue, the domicile in which the ‘mama’ creature sets up shop, and the home of the ill-fated family’s grandmother, which is invaded by a hungry horde of the smaller baby monsters. Truly an irritating scene, the minutes drag by as we watch the old lady and her daughter prepare a lunch buffet, until it turns unintentionally funny when the creatures attack.
A key sequence, in which Charles discovers the aliens in the basement, is ruined by the kid’s total lack of any acting ability, he sees mutilated corpses, one is a family member, then the aliens, barely showing any emotion whatsoever, the proposition that a young boy could be exposed to such stomach-churning horrors and then simply stand there for what must be 10 minutes, doing nothing, is, well, stupid. It’s eventually established that the monsters are blind and react to sound, the kid is smart enough to eventually figure this out but it’s simply unbelievable that he could watch the severed head of his aunt being devoured by extraterrestrial eels so impassively.
Okay, so maybe I’m being harsh here, to be fair, most of the cast members were not professional, or even semiprofessional, actors. Deadly Spawn has deservedly achieved cult status solely due to its imaginative creature designs and gore effects. The film, haphazardly made in fits and starts over a nearly two year period, for a mere pittance, actually features better gore than some of the squishier efforts of Italian splatter master Lucio Fulci. A facial skin-ripping scene and aforementioned severed head-munching are especially gross. It’s pretty amazing, too, how well the super-low tech puppets used for the aliens work on screen.
Is it good for a franchise to peak at its second installment? Such is the case with Child’s Play 2, as it is easily the best sequel in the entire series, and almost earns the top spot of best film in the series. That’s not to say the follow-up movies don’t have their enjoyable qualities, but none of them can equal what Child’s Play 2 accomplished. Fun kills, fantastic mechanical effects, a sly sense of humor and a score that’s far more epic than a Child’s Play sequel could ever possibly deserve, this is Chucky at his absolute finest.
So, what is it that sets the film apart from all the other sequels in the series to the point of making it stand out as the best? Well, there’s a lot of reasons why it’s so good, what immediately springs to mind is the score by Graeme Revell. All the great slashers have their own unique and iconic theme music, and Chucky should be no exception. Revell crafts a creepy melody which perfectly suits the Child’s Play universe, sounding like a twisted jack-in-the-box carol. It’s as memorable as any other horror theme, right up there with Freddy and Jason’s. One of the greatest crimes of the franchise is that the theme was dropped after this movie and never reused for any of the sequels.
John Lafia’s direction is a nice mix of creepy, atmospheric moments and balls-to-the-wall action. A good example of the former is the scene where Chucky first arrives at Andy’s foster home on a dark and stormy night. As Andy’s foster mom hums a soothing tune, the camera slowly pans down the dimly lit hall, eventually arriving at the staircase where Chucky stands, lit only by the flashes of lightning. As for the latter, well, the entire climax at the factory is just one heart-pounding moment after another, as Chucky stalks through the maze of boxes to the dangerous assembly line, all the while losing body parts and replacing them.
The effects for Chucky are pretty amazing, making this the most visually impressive installment in the series. Chucky’s movements are lifelike and nuanced, leading to some really great moments. The scene where he strides out of the closet, slapping a yard stick in his hand and making menacing comments, make you almost convinced that Chucky is alive.
The kills in this film, while over-the-top, are some of my favorites, and best in the series. Particularly the bit where the maintenance worker at the Good Guy factory gets his eye-sockets punctured with fake doll eyes. While the first film is pretty low on the red stuff, and the kills were kinda lame, gore fans should delight in this one, especially the finale inside the factory.
Don Mancini, the series creator and script writer for every single installment, pens a great sequel. Since the cat’s already out of the bag that Chucky’s alive, Mancini wastes no time in having him spring into action. While the first installment was a pretty serious affair, the humor only coming from the ridiculous premise, with Child’s Play 2, Mancini sneaks in some genuinely funny gags that play toward the goofiness of the plot. Each installment in the series would lay the comedy on thicker and thicker, eventually destroying the entire franchise, but Mancini remains nicely restrained with this one.
So far as cast goes, while the previous movie had the spotlight split between Andy, his mother and detective Norris, everything pretty much rides on Andy this time around. Alex Vincent does a great job, and he hardly delivers any painful one-liners at all. While he’s still a strong character, Andy remains a weak and fragile child. The supporting hero, his foster sister Kyle, played by Christine Elise, adds an extra punch to the film. While she harbors a strong willed, punk-like attitude, it never overshadows her character enough to make her annoying. I wish she had hung around for another installment. The rest of the cast is filled out by familiar faces like Jenny Agutter(An American Werewolf In London), Gerrit Graham(Terrorvision), and Grace Zabriskie(Twin Peaks, Seinfeld).
Child’s Play 2 showcases the absolute best the series could achieve. As a matter of fact, I’d almost recommend it over the original Child’s Play. It’s just that good.
1984’s Gremlins can be blamed for a trend in horror movies that ran rampant throughout the late 80’s and early 90’s. The “little killer monsters” subgenre. You have your Munchies, your Ghoulies, your Hobgoblins and to a lesser extent the Troll franchise, but the most highly revered of all the Gremlins knock-offs will forever be the Critters.
I can probably count on one hand the number of genuinely good PG-13 horror films. Critters has to rank among the best. It’s surprisingly violent, if not all that gory for a horror flick of its rating. Granted, the majority of the critter bites are inflicted upon the father, but you still get some bloody goodness.
Critters has a decidedly comedic edge to it, which offsets the lack of gratuitous gore and helps even the picture out. Unfortunately, future Critters installments would focus too much attention on the humor aspect, such as Critters 3.
For such a silly horror movie, Critters managed to pull in some familiar faces for it’s cast. You have scream queen Dee Wallace, as the mother of the family, Billy Green Bush as the father, M. Emmet Walsh plays the sheriff, and, in one of his earliest roles, Billy Zane appears as a mullet sporting yuppie that takes a critter right to the chest. He’d actually be the first of two Titanic stars to appear in the franchise, with the second being Leonard DiCaprio himself in Critters 3. There’s also Don Opper as Charlie, the bumbling mechanic who thinks he’s picking up alien transmissions through his fillings. He doesn’t really factor too heavily into this installment, though he’d go on to be the lead protagonist of the franchise. Scott Grimes plays the kid and he’s actually likable, he’d go on to star in ER and voice Steve Smith on American Dad. Lastly, you have Terrence Mann, who is a Tony Award nominated actor, as Ug, one of the shape-shifting bounty hunters. His involvement in the franchise would gradually diminish with each film, but he’d still prove to be a staple character.
Now to talk about the critters themselves, created and executed by the Chiodo Bros.(Killer Klowns From Outer space), this is actually my favorite portrayal of the little murderous fuzzballs. As the series progressed they seemed to lose an ability with each installment. By Critters 4 they didn’t even shoot quills out of their backs anymore. This first movie is the only one of the franchise to feature the critters increasing in size as they eat. The critter puppets are nice and gruesome, with several rows of sharp teeth and some real nasty features. The puppetry can range from good to bad, depending on what’s happening, often times when being attacked by the critters, the actors simply hold a fluffy pillow to their stomach and run around screaming. They have plenty of personality, with their vocals being provided by voice-over artist Corey Burton, better recognized as Dale from Chip ‘n Dale’s Rescue Rangers, Shockwave and Spike from Transformers, and about a billion other cartoons.
Critters is short, more or less than eighty minutes. That means it gets to the point fast and doesn’t let up.
I adore this movie. It’s so bad, but so so good.
Zombies, sex, incest, gore, it’s got to be an Italian flick, Burial Ground, known in Europe as The Nights of Terror, among other titles, came smack dab in the middle of the frenzy spawned by the success of Lucio Fulci’s Zombie in 1979.
There isn’t much of a plot or many characters on hand. The flick is concerned only with getting to the exploitation elements in fairly short order. As such, Burial Ground isn’t really a good film, but it’s fairly entertaining as far as low budget Italian horror goes. It gets right to the zombie action, no waiting around for a half hour before the splatter starts.
There’s plenty of gore on display but while effective, it doesn’t reach the excesses of Fulci’s Zombie, fans should nonetheless be quite pleased. One sequence rips off Zombie’s most infamous scene, the one in which a character is pulled headfirst through a broken door.
An interesting aspect of this film is the nature of the zombies themselves. These ghouls are “ancient”, dressed in either Etruscan robes or monk’s garb, and are completely silent. They also use tools and weapons, most notably in the decapitation-by-scythe. Unfortunately their makeup is rather disappointing. Quite effective in long shots, when shown close up the zombies faces are revealed to be Halloween masks slathered with putty, accentuated with rotten teeth and the occasional dangling eyeball. You can plainly see the actors’ black-painted lips and noses beneath the masks.
A bit of nudity makes for attractive garnishing on the plate, while the dubbed dialog provides unintentional laughs to leaven the carnage. As played by Peter Bark, the bizarre Michael character will certainly raise a few eyebrows, particularly when he starts feeling up his shapely mother while cooing about how much he loves her breasts. This über-kinky element of the story, and how it’s ultimately played out, should linger in the memory long after similar zombie flicks are forgotten. The kid, I think, is supposed to be about 10 or 12 years old. It’s hard to tell because Michael is played by a then 25-year old midget. Unlike most “little people” seen in films and TV shows, he has arms and legs more or less in proportion to his body, so from a distance he can pass as a young boy. Close up, though, with his huge eyes and very bad wig, this “child” is creepier looking than the zombies! An adult trying to sound like a prepubescent boy, dubs Bark’s voice, which only adds to the off-kilter weirdness of the character.
Still, zombie fans should find the film entertaining enough. It gets right to the good stuff and doesn’t let up.
"In 1964 rural Mississippi, the honeymoon of newlyweds Eli and Caroline MacCleary is interrupted when their car breaks down off a wooded country road. While Eli jogs to the nearest town his bride is attacked and raped by an unseen assailant. She gets pregnant and 17 years later her son Michael is dying from a strange, unknown disease. Caroline convinces Eli that they must return to the scene of the crime and try to learn the identity of her attacker. Perhaps the genetic makeup of the rapist holds the key to Michael’s illness."
The explanations behind Michael’s illness and the genesis of the cannibalistic monster just don’t make a lick of sense. Yet The Beast Within is an enjoyable B-movie horror that stands a notch above the pack, due chiefly to some quality acting.
The special effects are sufficiently gruesome and should delight gore fans. Wisely the director keeps the monster, in its final form, mostly in the shadows. However, the transformation scene in the clinic, is a prime example of too much of one ingredient nearly spoiling the recipe. The sequence goes on for nearly three minutes, with the crowd of witnesses simply standing there and gawking the whole time at the horror unfolding before them. Not one of them flees the room or starts seriously freaking out.
Some folks might have a problem with two scenes in which women are raped by the monster. Though not sexually explicit, it’s plainly obvious what the creature is up to.
The early 1980’s saw a sea of horror flicks featuring transformation scenes involving elaborate makeup effects. Despite a tenuous grip on logic, The Beast Within remains one of the best of these.
The most important film ever made.
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