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Featured Post - The Giallo Marathon

Yep I'm back with another marathon. This is a first for me here at Crappy Movie Reviews as I've never spent much time on Gialli. The...

Friday, July 30, 2021

Willy’s Wonderland (2021)

Nic Cage has been getting a lot of buzz with the odd horror movies he has been doing in the last few years. Everyone went nuts over Mandy, which I honestly don’t care for. I thought he was much better in Mom and Dad. But when I saw this trailer and it looked like it was Cage versus a twisted take on Chuck E. Cheese, I knew that I had to watch it. So as soon as the movie popped up on Hulu I was in!

Cage plays a mysterious drifter cruising down the road in his bitching Camaro and drinking energy drinks according to his watch’s alarm. Seriously he stops what he is doing, no matter what it is, and goes to grab a drink when it goes off. He hits a spike strip and blows all his tires. A convenient tow truck rolls by and picks him up offering to replace the damaged wheels, but only takes cash. So a local businessman offers to pay for the repairs if he will clean up Willy’s Wonderland, a kid’s restaurant with animatronic mascots that he is hoping to reopen. Cage’s character agrees and off he goes.

As a horror fan I’ve seen this before. This is clearly some sort of setup that the locals are in on. After the doors are chained the fun starts. The animatronic critters start to come to life and try to kill him. Oddly enough this doesn’t seem to bother him as he tears thru them like they were tissue paper. Wrapping his wounds up with duct tape after each encounter he changes into a different shirt and continues to clean the place up. Even after some kids break in to save him, he continues to clean and destroy the homicidal robots, ignoring their warnings. Though we do get a bit of background about how the place came to be the way it is and the bargain the locals had to strike to keep themselves safe. Spoilers he wasn’t the first traveler that was sacrificed. Though as one character eventually points out, “He isn’t locked in here with them. They are locked in here with him!”. That about sums it up as the tables are turned on the killers with that simple but fun twist.

This movie is vintage Cage at his craziest. Before I get too far in, I do need to explain that I would have used his character’s name in the review, if he had one. The credits list him as the janitor and since he has no dialogue there is nothing in the movie to change that. You heard me right, he has no lines! Cage’s performance is nothing but blank stares, grunting, violence, and occasional manic bursts of energy. Who is he and why isn’t he bothered by the situation he finds himself in? They never explain and I dig that. He is sort of like a force of nature that blows into town and kicks ass.

Again, I also thought it was a neat twist to turn the familiar trope of a stranger being victimized by a small town/locals on its head. Normally our protagonist is tossed to the wolves and survives by the skin of his or her teeth. Here it is clear that the killers are in trouble from the first time one of them shows up. One by one he waits for them to animate and take their turn trying to kill him picking them off as they appear. All the while quietly cleaning and going about his business. I do question the need to have the kids break in and do stupid shit to get themselves murdered. The extra kills are nice, but it might have been more fun if he just beat down the monsters and picked his car up in the morning leaving the town confused in his rearview mirror.

Cage is awesome!

The kills themselves are mostly tame with only the eventual demise of the sheriff being memorable. The best stuff is Cage’s character tearing apart the mechanical murders that are chasing him around. Hydraulic fluid flows freely as he dismantles them and stuffs them in garbage bags. The design of the mascots is decent and really do look like the sort of thing you would see at a place themed for kids. The only exception is this fairy character that is clearly a woman wearing an oversized mask. But the others are fun.

This is Cage’s movie, and I was amazed at how much I was digging the character. He is funny and interesting without ever speaking a word. He also has that special bit of crazy in his performance that only comes out with the right material and here it is perfect. I found Willy’s Wonderland to be an entertaining and different horror flick. I can’t ask for more than that. I highly recommend this flick.

 

© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Short Story - Perspective

Perspective

by John Shatzer

*This is something different for me here at the website. I write short stories but I never share them. I'm not great at writing fiction so please be kind when reading this. If you do like it or have some constructive criticism please email me and let me know. 

        

        Sweat rolls down the trooper’s back as he squeezes the weapon in his hand tightly feeling some security in its presence. His finger poised above the trigger he scans the dense brush desperately trying to find the creatures stalking him. He knows they are out there hiding, waiting for him to make a mistake. 

“This was supposed to be an easy assignment”, he whispers, not wanting to attract attention to himself. “Pacify the locals… keep things quiet until the project was completed. How could things go so wrong.”

It was just a few weeks earlier that the trooper stepped off the transport onto the roughly hewn tarmac cut into the ancient forest by the engineers. He and the others from an elite unit assigned to protect the critical base hidden in the middle of nowhere. Far from the action and the violence it was supposed to be a safe and secure location for the project, but they were found out somehow and the enemy found them anyway. 

The sound of a branch breaking draws the trooper’s attention his weapon swinging up to follow his field of vision. Where those eyes staring at him from the dense undergrowth sprouting from the base of the enormous old growth trees? Fearful of drawing attention to himself the trooper hesitates before firing knowing doing so would give his position away. Squinting he tries to focus his eyes on the spot in question and after a few seconds he sighs quietly and dismisses the sound. He begins swiveling his head back and forth once again searching for danger. 

Even before the enemy had arrived there were rumors about the inhabitants of the woods. At first glance they seemed harmless enough and fled at the sight of the well-armed troopers. But then a few men disappeared on patrol. Always it was the two-man patrols that came up missing, but the well-armed and highly trained troopers should have been able to handle anything they came across. Eventually command recognized the losses and issued orders that no less than four men should be on patrol at any given time. 

At first the orders were resisted by the proud troopers. Young men convinced that they were damn near invincible and could take on all comers aren’t used to fear. But then the bones turned up. Stripped of flesh and snapped open to get at the marrow the troopers knew even before medical confirmed it that these were their missing comrades. After that the orders were followed without complaint. 

A shadow darts to the left behind one of the enormous tree trunks. Training taking over the trooper steps forward to investigate and if necessary eliminate the threat. But he stops suddenly realizing that he is alone, and no one is there to cover his back. Changing his approach, he sprints towards the tree and throws himself back first against it. Assured that nothing can sneak up on him thru six feet of solid wood he begins sliding around towards the back. Cringing as the composite plates of his armor rub loudly against the bark. 

When they first found the bodies, everyone assumed that the scouts had somehow missed a large apex predator when they were evaluating the location for the project. It wouldn’t have been the first time a mistake had been made like that. What else other than that could take down a pair of highly trained and armed troopers without even a radio transmission back to base? Soon the specially trained and equipped hunting patrols were sent out to find and destroy the creature or pack of creatures. They all returned to base empty handed. No matter how many resources were thrown at the problem nothing was found. 

        It was then that the rumors started. Were the locals really as harmless as they appeared? The gnawing on the bones did seem to be made by many smaller teeth rather than those of a large animal. But they had seemed so passive and honestly quite harmless. But with no other suspects it had to be them. The men were beginning to organize a purge to destroy the local villages when the enemy attacked. 

        The trooper had been sitting down for his midday rations when the alarms went off. Rushing off to the rally point they were informed that commandos had infiltrated nearby and that all available units were to hunt them down. Looking around at the assembled firepower the trooper was confident that he would be sleeping in his own bunk that night. His commanding officers were clearly of the same mind which might have led to the disaster that followed. 

        Reaching what should be the right spot where the movement was the trooper takes a deep breath and recklessly leaps out to see nothing hiding behind the tree. Breathing heavily his heart pounding away in his chest he begins thinking of his options. He never sees the fist sized rock come zipping out of the brush behind him. Bouncing off of his armor it does hit with enough force that his right arm is instantly numb. He manages to hold onto his gun with his left hand, but the right slips off the trigger. Grunting both in shock and pain the trooper dives forward again putting the tree between him and this new threat. 

        Panting from both the humidity of the forest and the pain coursing down his arm, he flexes the fingers on his right hand trying to force some feeling back and dexterity back into them. All the while scanning the undergrowth looking and waiting for the next attack. Hoping it will wait until he can again aim and fire with some hope of accuracy. He sees nothing but the moss-covered trees and think mat of plants entwined in the trunks.  

        Just a couple of hours ago the trooper had been sitting in the transport as it swayed back and forth on their way to being deployed. The men on his left were wagering if they would see any action, while those on the right were dozing off trying to get an extra moments rest before spending the afternoon crawling thru the woods below them. It was a large forest and a small commando team, so the chances were that wouldn’t find them. Still being able to maybe fight an enemy he could actually see would be a nice change from looking for the ghosts that had been plaguing their last few weeks. As it turned out they would see a lot of action, though not the kind they expected. 

        Within seconds of arriving in the designated area the troopers were disembarked and setting up a perimeter and base camp. Not long after that the officer in charge started sending patrols out to reconnoiter and report back. Assigned to a four-man team the trooper headed off to the assigned search grid. A half an hour later the radio went wild with chatter from the other patrols. All hell was breaking loose as one by one the patrols reported being attacked by something before their commlinks went dead. Then the transmission from the base camp cuts off with the last transmission seeming to sound as if they were under attack. 

        Calling a halt to the team the squad leader tries to radio in for instruction. When he gets no answer, he turns to his men. “I’m unable to contact base. I think we should continue our search patterns and wait for them to come back online to report.”

        “Shouldn’t we return to base?” The trooper asks, realizing even doing so breaks a cardinal rule of military discipline. You never question the chain of command! Still he continues. “It sounds as if they were under attack in the last transmission. Under the circumstances regrouping at the rally point seems to be the best course of action.”

        “Stand down trooper.” The squad leader responds quickly seeking to keep control of his small group. “We will continue as ordered.” Turing to continue down the path the small spear comes flying out of the bush. Expertly thrown its stone head slipping between the helmet and chest plate of the squad leaders armor dropping him before he can take another step. His body drops and a stream of blood stains the ground beneath him as the other three troopers turn and fire in the direction of the attack.

        “Did anyone see where that came from?” One of the others asks after the firing stops a few seconds later. Their attention is focused on the scorched spot searching for the body of whatever killed the squad leader but seeing none. Eventually the trooper responds. 

        “I saw nothing.” Turning to ask the third survivor when he doesn’t respond the trooper is stunned to see him lying face first on the ground the back of his helmet dented in by the large stone that sits next to his body. The body armor designed to stop modern weapons it seems all but useless against the brute force of these sticks and stones. 

        “We have another trooper down!” he calls, and the two survivors immediately step towards each other going back to back. “Do you see anything?” 

        “No. This is bad… really bad.” The trooper notices panic beginning to build in the voice of his only remaining companion. “We are going to end up like the others. On someone or something’s menu!”

        Trying to keep an eye out for their attacker the trooper also attempts to force the other man back onto mission, not so much out of bravery but the feeling he needs him to survive. Snapping at the panicking man he tries to shock him into following their training. “Cut that chatter trooper. We need to keep our heads on and we can get out of this together. Do you copy that?”

        After a few seconds the trooper hears, “Yeah sure.” Followed by a loud whistling sound and a weight slamming against the back of his helmet. Stunned for a second, he stumbles forward, a weight following him and knocking him to the ground. Slipping out from under it he turns to see the other trooper. Lying next to him on the ground his head at a strange angle a thin leather cord attached to a pair of smallish rocks wrapped around his neck. From the second he sees the body he knows that the man is dead and that he is alone against whatever is out there. Fear pushes away his training and he runs blindly away from the bodies of the fellow members of the patrol. 

        His arm still numb but painfully so as the feeling starts to return. His hand and finger find themselves back on the proper place on the pistol grip and trigger the trooper stands up trying to keep himself as small of a target as possible while bracing himself for a shot should the enemy make the mistake of presenting itself. Well not the enemy he was expecting, but whatever horror hunting him with their primitive weapons. He was most certainly not trained for this. Leaning heavily on the tree he tries to think over what to do. 

        Not sure how long or in what direction he ran before finding himself at the here he looks up briefly to attempt to get his bearings. But it is useless as the canopy of the forest blocks out any landmarks he might be able to see on the horizon. In his fear and blatant cowardice, he managed to get himself good and lost. Now he was trapped in this nightmare being hunted by something that wanted nothing more than to kill and probably eat him. This is not at all what he had expected when he signed up for the academy. 

        Lost in thought he almost misses the flash of brownish grey as something darts out of the undergrowth. Before it can disappear again he pulls the trigger and a flash of light fills his vision as the beam arches out and finds contact with his target. There is a large squeal of pain as the creature stumbles and falls to the ground a few feet away. Tensing and ready to fire another shot should it move again the trooper waits a few seconds. Seeing the stillness of the figure he steps forward and flips the body over. 

        The small creature is no more than three feet tall but surprisingly heavy and sturdy. There is an overwhelming smell of burnt hair as the hair around the wound is still smoldering from where the blaster beam hit it. The large black dead eyes stare up at him its mouth hanging open. A mouth filled with small sharp teeth that are perfect for tearing flesh and breaking bone. This is certainly what had been hunting and killing them for weeks. 

        ‘Not anymore you won’t’, the trooper thinks stumbling backwards until he hits the tree trunk. Slipping down he hangs his head between his knees in exhaustion. “It’s over”, he mutters smiling under the faceplate of his helmet. 

        There is another crack of a branch breaking and the trooper snaps his head up. He is surrounded by dozens of the creatures. Before he can bring his blaster up a stone axe smashes into his hand breaking bone and sending his weapon flying from his grasp. Instinctively pulling his injured hand to his chest the trooper cries out. 

        “What the hell do you want with me?”

        The large black eyes and mouths full of sharp pointy teeth are the answer to his question as the creatures either can’t or won’t respond. They move towards him menacingly various stone spears and knives in their pudgy little furry hands. Hunger in their faces the trooper closes his eyes. The last thing that goes thru his mind before the sharp instruments find the seams of his armor.

        ‘I’m going to die for the Empire on this lousy backwater moon…’


© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Alligator (1980)

This is one of my all-time favorite movies and one of the best Jawsploitation flicks ever made. The fun kicks off here with a little girl bringing home a baby alligator as a pet after a vacation down south. We see her dad get mad and flush it down the toilet into the sewers of Chicago. Years later she has grown up to be an expert at gators and it has grown up into an oversized man-eating monster with the help of some illicit experiments. Well actually the bodies of dogs used in those experiments. We find out it this is due to eating the hormone laced bodies of the canine experiments and that as a side effect also has an insatiable appetite.

Giant gator that is always hungry. What could go wrong there? When bodies, or at least pieces of them, start to show up in the sewage processing plant local cop David, played by the always awesome Robert Forster, is on the case. Exploring the sewers, he loses a partner to the critter and when no one believes him eventually loses his job. Though part of the firing is him finding the source and wanting to expose the pharmaceutical company responsible for it. The owner is a friend of the mayor and calls in some favors to silence David. Eventually the gator pops into a fancy wedding and those responsible for it existing end up getting what is coming to them. So, all is well that ends well. Except for the gator that is just doing what comes natural and gets blown up for it.

I’ve always loved this movie. The pacing is solid with lots of action sprinkled throughout never slowing down to allow the audience to think about the logic of what they are watching. The characters are likeable, especially David, but thinly drawn. They don’t waste much time on character development or drama instead giving just enough to define them and getting back to the gator as quickly as possible. This is a hard trick to pull of successfully and director Lewis Teague with writer John Sayles do so perfectly. Yeah the guy who wrote Piranha and The Howling wrote this movie so it shouldn’t be any surprise it is as fun as it is.

The gator is brought to the screen with POV camera work and a giant rubber appliance. If I’m to be honest, and I always am, it works much better in the dark sewers than it does on land in the daylight. Still, the gator moves pretty good and while the kills are all people in the things mouth screaming, I still got a kick out of it. There are a respectable eleven kills in the Alligator including a silly smashed limo gag. We also get a hunter chomped, a maid eaten, and some legs yanked off… twice. Though the best kill is one we don’t see when a suburban kid walks the plank into the wrong backyard swimming pool. Yeah, they kill a damn kid!

I’m going to assume that most of my readers have seen this flick. It has been available for years, has had a special edition released, and was all over cable in the eighties and nineties. I know that I’m likely preaching to the choir here, but on the off chance that you haven’t seen it yet I highly recommend that you check it out. Currently it is on Amazon Prime streaming so there is no reason not to.

 

© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Bubba and the Cosmic Bloodsuckers by Joe R. Lansdale

This is the follow up… well actually it is the prequel to Lansdale’s excellent Bubba Ho-Tep. Yes, it was a book before it was a movie. I’m not going to go into much detail about that story other to say that if you have read it, I think you will enjoy the references and blanks that Lansdale fills in here. If you haven’t then they will go right over your head but won’t confuse you or take away from enjoying this one.

Elvis Presley wasn’t just the king of rock in roll but was also a monster hunter. At least in this alternate universe penned by Lansdale. The things that go bump in the night are drawn to those who are charismatic and there is a secret organization that recruits those people to fight the monsters that come calling. This is how Elvis ends up on the team that is sent to New Orleans to fight some interdimensional beings that have crept into our universe to feed on those unlucky enough to cross their path. The fact that the hole they are using happens to be at a junkyard where Elvis shot a movie is just a coincidence or is it? People get mangled, ghosts get laid, universes visited, and eventually a vintage Cadillac saves the day. Well at least the back seat full of explosives do!

I enjoyed Bubba and the Cosmic Bloodsuckers quite a bit. It is short, much like Bubba Ho-Tep, being more of a novella or short story than it is a book. But that makes it a quick and fun read so no complaints here. Lansdale does a wonderful job of creating some strange monsters that are Lovecraftian in their design and origin. These bloodsuckers aren’t just vampires but are otherworldly and alien, folding their victims up into balls to feed on at their leisure. He really does the horror well.

The non-monster stuff is just as engaging. The characters are well drawn and the situations they get put in are at times very funny. The entire story is irreverent and right in line with the sorts of off kilter tales that Lansdale is known for. Honestly if you haven’t read any of his stuff before you should correct that. His short stories are fantastic. Here he continues to develop his fictional Elvis expanding on the character we got to know in Bubba Ho-Tep which takes place much later in his life. I was interested in how he was going to explain him not remembering his monster hunting days in that other story, but I was happy with the explanation. It also sort of explains why he was so readily accepting of the events there as well.

My one negative observation about Bubba and the Cosmic Bloodsuckers it would be that it doesn’t quite rise to the level of the story it follows. Is it fair to compare this to Bubba Ho-Tep? I think so. The idea doesn’t seem so original here given that this is the second bite at the apple. I also thought that the story did seem a bit rushed, especially the resolution. That said this is still a very fun read and probably unlike anything else that most of you have seen before. For maximum enjoyment I’d recommend reading this first and thing tracking down a copy of Bubba Ho-Tep. You might miss some of the references, but I think the story will play better.

The ending of Cosmic Bloodsuckers leaves it open for more stories set in this world. Other famous people are mentioned, and I don’t know if that was just for fun or if Lansdale is planning to hit us up with more stories in this universe. I hope so. Until then I highly recommend this book.

 

© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer

 

 

Monday, July 26, 2021

Fear Street Part Three 1666 (2021)

Before I do anything else I’m going to warn you that this review is going to be very vague. The reason is this Fear Street series conclusion has a great twist that I don’t want to spoil. They took what was an already great time and made it better! Yeah, I loved this one too.

Thru some last-minute actions in the last movie we had one of the characters bleed on the bones again. Though instead of just a flash of the witch she jumps back and lives the last few days of her life. We get to see the events that created the legend of the witch play out in real time. Again, I’m going to avoid spoilers but will say things weren’t exactly what we the audience or the characters had been led to believe. This obviously switches around a lot of the motivations and explains some actions so that they make sense.

After we get that background sorted out everything flashes back to nineteen ninety-four and we are again with a grown-up Ziggy and the siblings Josh and Deena. The three of them enlist the janitor from the mall and head back there for a final showdown with the powers of evil. We get to see more of the killers as well as some of the settings from previous flicks getting referenced. Eventually all things are resolved, and Shadyside is finally lifted from the curse it has been under for centuries. Again, I’m keeping this vague because I want everyone to check this series out.

This review is for this movie as well as the series. I recommend going back and reading the reviews in order. You can start with the first one here. Part Three does a wonderful job collecting the stories we have seen and tying them up in a nice little bow. There isn’t a single character or plotline that isn’t explained. What is very clever about this is that I never saw the twist coming because the characters and their motivations made sense in the story we thought we were watching. That isn’t just good writing, but it is great writing. The attention to detail and character in the Fear Street movies, including this one, is what sets this aside from a lot of the other new horror movies that come out. This one doesn’t treat the audience like dummies that just want monsters and gore, but also figures we want a story with likeable characters.

Some other observations that I want to make. This movie has some kills in it, but it doesn’t have the volume or honestly the signature death that the first two do. This is less slasher movie and more witch movie. I don’t have an issue with it, but I did notice it and I don’t want anyone being disappointed. This movie also doesn’t stand alone like the first two do. I believe I mentioned in one of the other reviews that you could easily watch and understand the first two Fear Street movies without having seen the others. Part Three requires that you’ve watched the first two. I can’t imagine trying to make sense of it without knowing what happened in the prior movies. Though since they are tying up all the loose ends the story had to play out this way.

What else do I want to talk about before we are done? I dug how they brought back characters and gave resolution to even those that we mainly saw in the background. Also if you pay close attention to the dialogue there are other characters and their children mentioned. I refer you back to my comment about the writing. The filmmakers and writers too time and crafted a great story that built a world with fun characters. I honestly hope they make more Fear Street movies with this same cast or at least setting. Spoilers (okay there is one) a mid-credits scene has someone stealing something that won’t end well!

I highly recommend this series. Watch all three of them in a row. They are available on Netflix and are certainly worth six hours of your time. Be warned though that everyone I’ve talked to that started these binged them all in one sitting so set some time aside before starting.

 

© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Fear Street Part Two 1978 (2021)

I loved Part One and in that review I already spoiled that I enjoyed the heck out of this one as well. I recommend reading that review before you dive into this one. These movies do standalone but there is some world building that I will reference and not explain. To check out that review click here.

Part One left us with the grown-up survivor of the Camp Nightwing killings talking to the siblings Josh and Deena about what happened and how she survived. Here is when we flashback to another pair of siblings, Ziggy and Cindy, who are attending a summer camp. The campers are divided along town lines again with Shadyside being the oddballs and Sunnyvale being the perfect kids, at least on the surface. Ziggy and Cindy are from Shadyside, though the older sister, Cindy, is trying to “better” herself. When Cindy’s gentle and perfect boyfriend grabs an axe and starts to murder everyone blames the witch. She possessed yet another Shadysider causing them to go homicidal.

The rest of the movie are the killer finding and dispatching victims while Cindy, Ziggy, and another friend named Alice try to figure out the legend so they can stop the killings and save Shadyside from the witch’s curse. They find the witch’s hand but can’t find the body under the hanging tree. The legend says that if they reunite the hand with the body the curse will be over. Of course, we the audience know that the body isn’t there because of the first film, which leads to a brutal ending where the girls fail to stop the killers and instead become victims. And when I say killers one of them bleeds on the hand, has visions, and prompts the maniacs from massacres past to come after them. Though of course we know that one of them has survived. How does this help the kids from 1994 aka. the first movie? I’m not going to spoil it here.

They again do a wonderful job telling a standalone story that also serves to build the world and explain more of the legend of the witch, Sarah Fier. We find out more about the history of Shadyside and understand the rules as how our characters can banish Fier. It was also cool that the audience knows they will fail because we already know where the body is, and it isn’t where they were heading. Though even as jaded a horror fan as I am I didn’t expect the ending to be so nasty. Honestly, they gleefully linger on the agonizing death of a character that was made very likeable. I mean you had to see it coming, but damn.

I dig the look of the killer!
The pacing is solid and if you ignore the larger story this movie is still a great throwback seventies slasher flick. The kills are plentiful with nine, though four are offscreen. They also break some rules and kill kids in this movie. You don’t see it but there are limbs strewn about in one scene, so you know what happened! That said there is a nifty axe to the head, a couple axe kills with chests being beaten in, and a head goes flying. My favorite kill though is an axe to the face splitting it. The cuts are quick, but the gore is explicit, so I had a good time with them.

I see a lot of retro slashers coming out and honestly most of them fail miserably. Not only does Fear Street Part Two work to move the greater plot along but it is one of the best retro slashers that I’ve seen come out. Oh, and like the first movie they do a wonderful job with the music. Though I will admit that they use one song which is forever linked in most genre fans with a different franchise. That was a bit distracting as it shows up twice. But hey they had some Captain and Tennille so that was awesome!

I highly recommend everyone check out all three Fear Street movies. Netflix has certainly upped their game with these. I can’t wait to talk about the third installment and hope that this is a continuing project.

 

© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Fear Street Part One 1994 (2021)

I was never a huge R.L. Stine fan, though I can understand the appeal. I was just a bit too old for his stuff. That said I did enjoy the Goosebumps movies and even some of the television shows. When I heard that Netflix was going to release a series of movies based on Stine’s Fear Street books, I thought I’d give it a chance. I’m glad that I did.

The movie opens with a young lady working at B. Daltons in the mall. It is closing time and she is getting things buttoned up when a crazy guy in a skull mask shows up and starts trying to kill her. He has already killed a bunch of folks and we see him stab her thru the heart before the local sheriff, Nick Goode, shoots the killer in the head and brings it to an end. But of course, it isn’t over because that is the first few minutes of a movie that is two hours long!

We are then introduced to our main characters brother and sister Josh and Deena. There is also Deena’s drug dealing friends Simon and Kate as well as Deena’s ex, Samantha. This group is tossed into the chaos when the killer from the mall starts to stalk them. The dead killer from the beginning of the movie! They figure out that it has to do with them disturbing the bones of the witch Sarah Fier who cursed the town a couple hundred years earlier. There is also some stuff tossed in about the two nearby communities of Shadyside, where the characters are from, and Sunnyside which seems perfect. So, killers, two very different towns, and a witch’s curse. Got that? Oh and the killers from Shadyside’s past also return from the grave in pursuit.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie. It is an excellent bit of storytelling. The filmmakers are able to tell both the plot with killers running around and high school kids dealing with the curse, all while beginning to establish the greater world in which this tale takes place. In other words, I was totally sucked into the survival horror bit of the story all while picking up on the history that may or may not be important later on. I watched all three movies again with my wife a couple of days after my first viewing and I picked up on things that I missed on the first go round. You really need to pay attention and keep your eyes glued to the screen to not miss some of the clues.

Speaking of clues this is not only a great horror flick with some decent gore, but we also get a great mystery as well. We figure out who the killer is early on, but it is his motivation and connection to the killers from throughout Shadyside’s history that had me questioning what was happening. The how and why of this movie is very important and the details are doled out slowly to hold your attention. Add to this a cast of very good young actors and actresses you end up with an engaging and fun horror flick.

This is a horror movie and I’ve already mentioned the gore. We get a solid seven kills with a couple off screen. What we do see includes a brutal stabbing to the chest, an axe to the noggin’, a stabbing thru the chin, and another knife poking thru a chest from the rear. Though the absolute best kill of all three movies… spoilers I suppose… is the bread slicer. One of the characters gets run headfirst thru the device and ends up neatly stacked. I haven’t seen that one before so that had my attention.

One other thing that I wanted to point out is how well they use the soundtrack to set the scene. If you were around in the nineties, you will recognize the music right away. Hell, when the movie opened with Nine Inch Nails playing, I got the vibe and understood where we were at before the first bit of dialogue. This is an outstanding job and is repeated in later installments.

Here is where I normally say, “Gosh I hope the next one is as good.” Though that would be cheating since I’ve watched all three already and know that they are! This is a fantastic way to spend a couple of hours. I do have to warn you that you will want to jump into the next one right away so set some time aside because this might be something you binge all six hours of in one sitting. I highly recommend Fear Street Part One 1994. 


Ó Copyright 2021 John Shatzer

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Dawn of the Dead by George Romero and Susanna Sparrow

Dawn of the Dead is my favorite movie and Romero is my favorite filmmaker. That statement shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who reads my reviews here at Crappy Movie Reviews. I’m a huge nerd when it comes to the maestro of zombies. I’ve had an original copy of the book for many years but was afraid to crack it open. I just like looking at it in the hermetically sealed acid free package I have it safely tucked away in. Yeah, I know it is obsessive. When I was on my road trip to Evans City, check out the link here, I found that it had been reprinted and snapped up a copy. Finally, I felt comfortable in diving into the novelization of my favorite movie.

Just in case you haven’t seen the movie I’ll give a brief recap. The world is falling apart as the zombies are overrunning everything. It doesn’t help that instead of banding together the people are fighting with each other. Society is going down the tubes quickly, so Stephen and Fran decide to get out of Philadelphia before it is too late. They work together at a local television station with Stephen serving as the helicopter pilot. They plan on taking the chopper and with Stephen’s friend Roger making a break for it. Roger is a S.W.A.T. officer and before he meets up with them invites Peter to come along. The four end up landing on the roof of a Mall and talking it over as their home. Just when things seem to get peaceful and the situation under control looters show up and the thing goes all to hell again.

I’ve seen Dawn of the Dead hundreds of times and was satisfied with the book. It is an easy read that, like the movie, gets right to the good stuff without getting bogged down. At its core the story is about four people trying to survive in a world gone crazy with the dead trying to eat the living. After briefly setting up how bad it has gotten and how far the plague has spread, we get to the attack on the apartment building by the authorities. They are trying to clean out the zombies that are being kept there by the families which leads to a lot of killing. Much of it unnecessary and heavy handed. This is the first time that the reoccurring theme of human beings being the real problem is shown.

After this they make their break from the city and end up at the mall for a rest. Instead of continuing to Canada they instead decide to stick around and fall into an oddly normal domestic life for a few months. They clear out the place and basically have access to anything that they could possibly want or need. After a bit of peace, it is shattered when more people show up to wreck it all due to their greed. What is interesting is that it isn’t only the raiders/looters that are greedy but our main characters who don’t want to let what they have worked for be taken. So again, people die because of each other and not due to the zombies who could have been easily avoided. The dead are winning because the living are stupid, greedy, and selfish.

Since this is a novelization of the script for Dawn of the Dead, I thought it would be interesting to compare how it differs from the movie. The biggest change from book to movie is how long the story lingers on our surviving characters hanging out at the mall before the raiders show up. In the movie we see a lot of them talking and montages of them shopping. Stephen even proposes to Fran, which she declines, in the movie. That isn’t anywhere in the book. I’m not sure why that is different. Perhaps Romero edited the film to show more of them living their lives and therefore more character development. Ironically if you have seen the European cut of the movie it also cuts this daily life stuff out as well. I don’t think that the story suffers either way, it is just different. Personally I like getting to know the characters but I also acknowledge that is what some zombie movie fans consider the worst part of Dawn of the Dead.

The above is the only big difference. The rest I think were just due to the shooting locations that they had and some inspiration on set. For example, in the book the hideaway was hidden at the end of a hallway full of offices instead of a hallway to maintenance. That I think was due to what they had to work with at the Monroeville mall. The iconic Hari Krishna zombie doesn’t make an appearance, nor does the attack in the department store. Both of these were last minute changes due to the look of an extra (Krishna zombie) and for continuity (the department store attack).

I know that I’ve already said this but I’m going to say it again. Dawn of the Dead is my favorite movie and I’ve spent the last forty years collecting everything that I could related to it and Romero’s other movies. I’m glad that I finally found a copy I felt okay cracking open and reading. In a way it allowed me to revisit familiar territory with a slightly new twist to it. Now if they would only reprint The Zombies that ate Pittsburgh! Yeah, I have it and won’t take it out of the bag either. I did mention that I’m obsessive, didn’t I? If you like zombies, then track down a copy of Dawn of the Dead novelization.

 

Ó Copyright 2021 John Shatzer

Saturday, July 17, 2021

The Atomic Submarine (1959)

This movie is set in a far distant future of I think the seventies where travel under the north pole is common. That travel is by nuclear submarine, including commercial passenger ships. Suddenly various submarines are disappearing, believed to be sunk. The pole is shut down and a special submarine, The Tiger Shark, is sent to discover what is going on. We know all of this because of some helpful voiceovers, a spinning newspaper, and stock footage of stuff sinking. 

The submarine goes to the pole and starts poking around. There is some drama in the crew as a couple people don’t like each other. We get lots of science talk before they finally see that it is a UFO only underwater. There is some talk of it being powered by magnetism which is why it keeps returning to the north pole. They set a trap and end up ramming the ship, only they get stuck. Boarding it some people get killed and they meet a giant eye stalk alien thing that tells them it is going to come back with its buddies to invade. Luckily, they have a rocket that shoots it down when it takes off. Cool…

This isn’t a very good movie. It has an interesting premise setting the typical Alien invasion flick underwater. I even liked the idea that it had to happen at the north pole so that the ship could keep recharging itself. But the filmmakers execute it poorly. The story moves along at a glacial pace with nothing happening until the last ten of fifteen minutes. The payoff with the alien is cool and the special effects for both it and the model work used on the underwater sub scenes are solid. But there are way too many scenes of actors sitting around a table talking about doing stuff rather than doing it. 

Joi Lansing is in this... for a hot second
None of the above is helped with what I’ve come to realize is an immediate red flag. What we have here is a series of disconnected shots of actors speaking to each other with not one but three annoyingly cheap cheats to connect them. First, we have the narrator popping up to tell us that they waited for a week or cruised around under the pole for a month. Not one character mentions that fact so it wouldn’t surprise me if that was added in later. I would have liked dialogue explaining their frustration. Something other than a disembodied voice talking at me. 

We also get the old spinning newspaper dropping headlines on us. And we also watch a hand write in the ships log telling us of their plans. Most of the last two are accompanied by the narrator. All of this leads to a movie that feels disjointed and sort of glued together by the editor rather than one that had a script and a director that knew what was going on. That kills the pacing and leads to the issues I mentioned above. 

When I first sat down to watch The Atomic Submarine, I was excited. It has a cool cast including a young Brett Halsey, who most of us would recognize for his later work with Lucio Fulci. There is also an appearance by the beautiful Joi Lansing, the always funny Sid Melton, and Tom Conway. That last name might not be familiar to you, but he did a lot of mystery flicks in the forties that I love and was an excellent actor. There was a ton of talent here that was wasted by a lackluster script. 

This one is only for the hardcore fans of science fiction and fifties movies. Even then I can’t see it being worth more than a single watch. For everyone else I recommend avoiding it. his is a bummer because I wanted to like The Atomic Submarine.


© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer


Monday, July 12, 2021

The Devil Below (2021)

I’m generally a pessimist when I see new horror movies coming out. They always seem to disappoint me, but when I saw this trailer, I was intrigued. Mysterious creatures from a deep mine start snatching and killing people. That seems right in my wheelhouse. Toss in the fact that criminally underrated Will Patton figures heavily in the trailer and I was sold. God Damn it movie…

The story kicks off with the aforementioned Patton’s character Schuttmann talking to his son about one of the workers in the mine. Something grabs his kid and takes him away. Then we meet our main cast. Yeah, Patton is a bit of stunt casting as he is hardly in the movie. Strike one. A group of scientists are doing environmental research, only in a plot twist you can see coming miles away they aren’t. To that end they hire Arianne, a mysterious woman who acts as security and a guide. They sneak into what they think is a disaster area surrounding a mine disaster. Sure enough they let the monsters out. 

The rest of the movie is them trying not to die as the locals work to put the genie back in the bottle. Not sure if they are being paid to or just feel responsible for the monsters, but they all work to keep them locked up in the old mine. Lots of people die, and then the survivors close the gate and go back to keeping them contained. Yeah, that is pretty much the entire story. So, there you go. Before I forget Patton does show up a bit in the middle and at the end for a couple of scenes. I guess they had him for a whole weekend?

If you can’t tell I was very disappointed with The Devil Below. Firstly, I hate it when movies do the stunt casting and make you think with their trailer that a familiar actor plays a large role. That seems to be a dick move and sets expectations higher than they should be. I don’t mind watching horror flicks with unknowns, I would just rather know that is what I’m getting. Additionally, I’d also like to be able to watch the movie, including the action. Far too much of what happens with the creatures in The Devil Below is either from the point of view of a camera one of the characters is carrying, or just shitty camera work where you can’t follow what is happening. Not quite to the level of a found footage flick, but it does go there a few times. That sucks because the couple of times we get to see the creatures they look decent. 

Pacing is also a big problem for this one. After an interesting opening there is a lot of stuff establishing the characters of the scientists and their guide. Well, there is an attempt to anyway. I wasn’t quite sure what the group dynamic was and what motivations were before they started killing them off. Though that isn’t because they didn’t have time. We get plenty of walking, talking, camping, walking, and more talking. It just doesn’t go anywhere. Once the creatures do get out things pick up, but by then I should have been invested in at least some of the characters. Spoilers… I wasn’t. 

Other than one fun gag with a spike or talon thru the head I found the kills bland. Nothing else stands out to me. In fact, looking at my notes taken while watching I don’t have much about them. Most of what you get is yelling, the camera bouncing around like a twelve-year-old off his Ritalin, and blood splatter. Again, the creatures look good when we can see them but overall, this was a disappointment. 
The Devil Below is an utterly forgettable and generic monster movie that had a lot of promise but fails to deliver the goods. I can’t recommend this one at all. There are much better movies just like this that you should spend your time on instead. 


© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer

Friday, July 9, 2021

Target Earth (1954)

A woman wakes up next to a bottle of sleeping pills. She tries the lights and water, but are both out. She gets dressed and discovers that there is no one else in her building or on the streets. She wanders around getting more and more stressed when she finds a woman’s body lying in an alley. Backing up in horror she runs into a man. His name is Frank, and he was mugged and knocked out. He also woke up not knowing what happened. They also find a couple of drunks named Jim and Vicki. The four of them end up running into a robot one of many who are killing anyone the mechanical terrors can find. 

Along with our survivors we see some army scientists trying to figure out how to defeat the robots. Luckily, they have found one that is damaged and are able to experiment on it. They keep cutting back and forth between our survivors and the army working on the problem. Eventually Frank and Nora, the woman with the sleeping pills, are corned on a roof about to be zapped by a robot when the army shows up with their new weapon and saves the day!

I’m shocked that I had never seen this movie before. If you have paid attention here at the site, I love old fifties science fiction flicks. This is a decent one with a superior script and cast. I loved the characters and the actors portraying them. Richard Denning, who played Frank, was in The Black Scorpion (an underrated monster movie) and Creature from the Black Lagoon. He is excellent in this kind of role, that of the hero, and nails it yet again in Target Earth. Whit Bissell has a small part as an army scientist. He also was in Creature from the Black Lagoon and many other awesome genre movies. Though I mostly

remember him as the psychologist who turns Michael Landon into a werewolf in, I was a Teenage Werewolf. The rest of the cast is also solid and were all working actors. This is what is great about these lower budgeted genre flicks from the fifties. They took the time and effort to get good actors in the roles no matter how silly the premise was. 

The story is paced evenly and keeps you guessing for a while as to what is going on. They mention “A” bombs and biological weapons, giving you some other options. When they do reveal the robot, it is only as a shadow. We get a neat gag with a newspaper explaining things before finally seeing what the threat is. My only complaint is the constant cutting away to the army story. This happens too often and is told with a lot of stock footage. I was way more interested in the survivors and them hiding from the deadly invaders. They even toss in a human threat which could have been fleshed out more. Still overall I found the story satisfying and decent. It just could have been better. 

If there is one thing that might trip up a modern viewer it is going to be the look of the robots. Honestly, they look cheesy as hell. Now I love that sort of thing and it doesn’t take away from what is a serious storyline with death and murder. Heck I forgot that we find out that Vicki tried to kill herself with sleeping pills which is why she slept thru the invasion. This movie isn’t playing around. I understand that this was decent looking for fifty-four and that it was a serious attempt but like many of these older science fiction flicks the creature design doesn’t hold up. But don’t hold that against Target Earth.

Clearly, I liked this movie and am going to recommend it. It blows my mind that this is the first time I checked it out. It won’t be the last as I can see it going into the rotation with Thing from Another World or The Deadly Mantis. I liked it that much!


© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer


Wednesday, July 7, 2021

The Crawlers (1993)

A truck is driving with ominous music playing in the background as the credits roll. Then we meet a couple of girls on a bus, Susan and Josie. The bus stops at a gas station and leaves before Susan can get back on. She ends up catching a ride with a creepy dude who gets all grabby and ends up chasing her into the woods. Susan is attacked by something and killed. Then we see that Josie is returning to her hometown nearby. She has an ex-boyfriend, a precocious brother, and a few other familiar/friend character archetypes.  

There is also a science guy who works at a nearby nuclear power plant. He likes to walk around the woods with his Geiger counter and notices that there is a lot of radiation. Maybe that is what got Susan! Well sort of. The plant is run by a crook who has been embezzling money meant for the disposal of nuclear waste and instead has been dumping it in the woods. This mutated not the trees but just their roots. Yep, mutant tree roots are killing everyone! Stuff happens like suicide, the sad demise of the heroic hooker, rednecks shooting at trespassers, and of course the big final battle. You know how you kill roots? Why you bury them of course! Wait… what?

I should have known. The minute that I saw this was co-written and co-directed by an uncredited Joe D’Amato my alarms should have been going off. I mean when he is good, which honestly isn’t often, he makes some fun cheesy flicks. But when he is bad… well you get the idea. This is a bad movie. The story is inadequate for the ninety-minute runtime. We have far too many characters and storylines for the movie to build any momentum. Instead of seeing the roots attacking people we get a lot of walking and talking. There are not one, but two scenes with different guys hanging with the hooker talking about stuff. By the time the bodies start to drop I was already bored out of my mind and wanting the movie to be over. That isn’t a good thing at all. 

Someone needs to layoff the Miracle Grow!
The creatures in this movie are basically just roots. That means they can just have some rubbery tentacle like things flop onto the actors when the things attack. I’m not kidding about this either. This movie reminded me of a very sad Bela Lugosi rolling around being “attacked” by the rubber octopus all while trying to wrap the tentacles around himself. It is that bad. Things aren’t helped by the goofy faces that many of the actors make as they are dying. Though it is kind of funny and is one of the few things I enjoyed about The Crawlers. 

If I’m honest the terrible writing also gives us some awkward dialogue that itself is further complicated by a cast that simply can’t act. Some people overact and others barely can get their lines out before apparently falling asleep. I’m used to some bad acting, but this might be the worst that I’ve seen, at least in a long time. This movie was a real chore to get thru and I’m recommending that you don’t bother. Bottom line here this flick is bad… really bad. 


© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer


Tuesday, July 6, 2021

The Blob by David Bischoff

This review is for a novelization of the Blob remake from a script written by Frank Darabont and Chuck Russell. I used to read a lot of these novelizations when I was in High School. It was a fun way to revisit my favorite horror movies when minimum wage was still less than five bucks an hour and tapes ran upwards of eighty bucks. Plus, sometimes you would get bits that never made it in the movie but were in the script and therefore ended up in the book.

The story here is easy to follow. A satellite carrying an experiment crashes near a small town and is discovered by a local homeless man derisively named Can Man for his penchant of making a living off recycling. When he pokes it with a stick a small gooey thing grabs onto his arm. It is then that he goes running off and bumps into local bad boy Brian. Freaking out Can Man then runs into the road and is hit by a couple of teenagers, Meg and Paul, who are on a date. The three of them take him to the hospital where of course things get worse. The blob digests him and then others, growing bigger as it goes. Eventually the army shows up, but they are more worried about capturing their experiment then they are the locals. Luckily for everyone Brian has a plan to save the day and get the girl!

This is a perfect example of what makes a great novelization of a movie. Much like the movie it is quickly paced and gets right to the action. The language is concise and descriptive making for a fast and enjoyable reading experience. I was able to knock this one out in less than two hours and enjoyed every minute of it. The characters were defined enough to know what archetype they were and for what purpose they would serve to move things along. While some folks might be annoyed by the book following the monster movie formula so closely, I liked that. There is nothing wrong with a familiar experience which is exactly what The Blob is, an old-fashioned creature story.

It is always interesting to compare the movie and the book, especially in the case of a novel written off a script like this one was. I’m guessing other than a few changes due to the actor that was cast, the character descriptions are a bit off, the shooting script was not much different from what the author was working from. I can’t think of any deviations from the story and if there are they are minor. I can almost guarantee that if you dig the movie you are going to have fun with the book.

If you have read my book reviews, then you are aware that I don’t shy away from challenges. When I’m in the mood for a complicated novel that takes a commitment of time, I jump right in. But there are also days where I just want to kick back, but my brain on cruise control and nerd out with something easy. This is that kind of book and I dig it. Much like I say about many of the movies I review here at the site not everything has to be art and here that applies as well. I recommend The Blob from author David Bischoff.

 

© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer

Monday, July 5, 2021

Web of the Spider (1971)

The movie opens with the great Klaus Kinski stumbling around a crypt. He finds a particular grave and then a raven caws and freaks him out. Taking a swig from the bottle he starts busting the grave open only to have the camera zoom up on his face while he screams. Then the scene moves, and we see that he was telling a rapt audience in a tavern a story. Kinski is playing Edgar Allen Poe who is visiting England and telling stories to the locals. 

An American journalist named Alan Foster shows up and begins peppering Poe with questions. He has been sent to follow him and collect information for a story. This leads to Poe telling him that he doesn’t write fiction but just relates the truth. All of this leads to a bet where Foster spends the night in a nearby haunted castle to prove that there are no such things as ghosts. Soon he is dropped off with a key and told they will return at dawn. Now at this point I’m debating how much more I should give away. I will say that as the night goes on things get creepy and that the supposedly abandoned castle is surprisingly busy. But are they ghosts or something else? What happens when they arrive to pick him up at dawn? These are things that I think I’ll keep vague while trying to explain why you should watch Web of the Spider. 

This is a good movie. The characters are well drawn out and the story is satisfying. We get an opening, middle, and end with a resolution that I saw coming but still liked. The cast is good with Anthony Francciosa (Death Wish II, Tenebrae) having to carry most of the story as Foster. The movie focuses on him and what he experiences in the house. So, we get characters coming and going but the only consistency is Foster. Kinski only shows up at the beginning and end but is very memorable. Often when he is in a movie he chews on the scenery but here he is a bit more subdued and does a wonderful job as Poe. 

The performances probably have to do with some great direction from Antonio Margheriti (Seven Dead in a Cat’s Eye). I was also impressed with how well the old school visual effects were done. This is a haunted house flick, so I wanted some scares. From a great mirror gag, a clock that seems to tick when it wants to, and finally a camera that feels like it is spying on him all adds to the fun. The audience gets to feel like we are watching him from the eyes of some mysterious entity. This helps set the tone and sell what happens later. There are also some beautiful shots that are framed at odd angles as well as a few close ups that are just unsettling. All of this creates an unsettling visceral reaction that makes Web of the Spider a great watch. 

This movie has been sitting on my to watch pile for a long time. Mostly because I’m always scared to watch a Klaus Kinski flick. When he is good, he is great, when he is bad it is awful. Here he was great, and the rest of the movie was as well. While I’ll admit there are about twenty minutes in the middle as they are setting up the story that things get a little slow, this is necessary for the ending to have any meaning. Though the rest of the movie is so much fun that this didn’t bug me at all. I highly recommend Web of the Spider. 


© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer



Saturday, July 3, 2021

Road Trip to Dead End Cinema – ‘50s Double Feature Night

Damn it has been a long time since I was able to toss one of these Road Trip reports together. Between COVID and the time of year there wasn’t an opportunity. My good friends Mr. and Mrs. Fright announced that they were reopening their backyard drive-in. The first night was a Clint Eastwood night, but we only made it thru one flick, so I didn’t have much to talk about. But with a full double feature on night two it gave me plenty to report. 

The day started off early as my buddy Sean and I had an morning event to attend. I’m nerdy in ways other than movies and was running an event for Goodman Games at our local hobby store. After that we hit up a late lunch and ran some errands before driving to the Fright estate! By the time we got there they were already setting up the screen and gear. We also had a chance to hang out and shoot the shit about movies, how much the pandemic sucked, and family drama. Mostly my family drama… long story that I’m not going to talk about here. Then it was time for some movies!

This week’s double feature was a pair of classic fifties flicks. The first up was The Thing from Another World. I’ve covered this for the site already, you can read the review here, but I’ll give a brief recap for those that haven’t seen it before. This gem stars familiar face Kenneth Tobey who showed up in a lot of science fiction and horror movies. Though most younger fans will probably recognize him as the gas station attendant that buys the smokeless ash tray in Gremlins. We also get an appearance from Marshall Dillon himself James Arness, though he is buried under the monster makeup as he is the Thing. 

The story unfolds with an air force crew being summoned to an artic base to assist some scientists. It seems that a UFO has crashed nearby, and they are to assist in the recovery. That doesn’t go well, and they lose the ship, though they do find one of the passengers and bring it back to base. It thaws out and goes on a killing spree. This movie sets up the classic tropes of what many future science fiction flicks would use. The scientist blinded to danger in the pursuit of knowledge and the isolated setting that so many stories would use later. This is a fantastic flick that everyone should watch. 

After a short break to get refills and use the bathroom the bottom half of the double bill started. What pairs well with The Thing from Another World? How about Vincent Price in the Fly? This is another classic that everyone must see. Price plays Francois a wealthy industrialist who tries to figure out why his sister-in-law killed his brother. They were a very happy couple, and it makes no sense. Not only does she admit to the crime but refuses to tell anyone why she did it. 

Eventually Francois tricks her into talking and he is horrified to hear that his brother was experimenting with a teleportation device when it went horribly wrong. In the process of experimenting on himself he rematerialized with the head and arm of a fly, with his head and arm buzzing away from him on the body of the fly. Obviously, things don’t go well since we know he is dead, crushed under an industrial press so that he is unrecognizable. The drama is whether they can convince the police that she is innocent, especially since all the evidence was destroyed, except for the fly that is. 

This really is a must watch for anyone that considers themselves a fan of the horror genre. Hell, it has one of the most iconic scenes in movie history with human headed fly caught in a spider’s web calling out “Help me…help me”. I realize that I’ve not covered this for the website yet so keep an eye out as I’m determined to correct that. 

That wrapped up the night at the Dead End Cinema and a rather successful one at that. I had a blast watching a couple of classics, talking movies with friends, and generally just getting out of the house. It still feels weird to be allowed to be around my peeps again. Before we left plans were already being made for the next event. The theme is action movies with aliens. The double feature? Predator and They Live! I’m already excited for this one. Until next time stay safe and watch some good movies. 


© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer



Friday, July 2, 2021

The Cyclops (1957)

This bit of sci-fi horror from the fifties introduces us to a woman named Susan who is looking for her lost fiancé Bruce. He disappeared in a plane crash three years prior, but she hasn’t given up hope. Along with her are a hired pilot named Lee, a friend named Russ, and a businessman named Marty who tagged along while paying some of the expenses. Marty is looking for some uranium to stake a claim too, while the others are looking for Bruce. This becomes important later on. 

Their plane is forced to land in some forbidden territory that the local authorities refused them permission to search. They quickly realize that the area is heavily irradiated, which makes Marty happy. But Susan doesn’t care and insists that they keep looking for Bruce. They find him but along the way realize that the radiation has caused all of the local critters to grow very large. This includes Bruce who looks like he was banged up really bad in the crash. Stuff happens and they eventually make their escape. 

This is a straightforward creature movie from director Bert I. Gordon. We get giant lizards, a giant mouse, a giant hawk, a giant spider, a giant snake, and of course a giant Bruce. These are brought to the screen with a combination of old movie tricks. Composite shots are stitched together with rear projection to make it look like the actors are interacting with the oversized critters. While far from Gordon’s best work this isn’t too terrible. You do see on more than one occasion the creatures become transparent, but that is normal for the techniques that they were using. For a movie that is over sixty years old it isn’t too bad. 

I normally talk about the plot first but that isn’t why you watch a Bert I. Gordon movie. Still lets briefly take a look at it. The movie is very short, clocking in at barely over an hour with a running time of sixty-six minutes. That is a wise decision because there isn’t much to the story. They get told they can’t fly somewhere, they do anyway, Marty freaks out and the plane lands. Then giant monsters happen, someone does something stupid, and they fly away. See not much to it, but it does adhere to the “B” monster movie tropes. Again, you watch a movie like this to see the oversized assorted threats to the cast rather than an engaging story and/or interesting characters. 

Despite not having much of a story they do have a fairly strong cast. The highlight for me is Lon Chaney Jr. as the businessman Marty. He does some inexplicably dumb things, but I blame the script and not the actor for that. It was also cool to see Gloria Talbott who I recognized from I Married a Monster from Outer Space. Tom Drake who plays the pilot Lee did a bunch of television, including one of my favorite Kolchak episodes. Most everyone in this movie were working actors and do a good job. 

I like these cheesy fifties flicks. I know that they aren’t for everyone and I think that you have to be a fan of these to get a kick out of The Cyclops. Silly and gimmicky this was right up my alley but may not be up yours. With that caveat I recommend this one. 


© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer