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Featured Post - Mystery Movie Marathon

I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

House of Ghosts (2012)

I’m a nostalgic kind of guy. If you poke around the website, you will see that I watch and review a lot of old movies. These are what I grew up watching and still love them. But nostalgia can be a double-edged sword. In the last ten to fifteen years there have been a lot of filmmakers that have tried to recapture the style and feel of the older flicks. Most of them fail miserably, but I keep slogging thru. House of Ghosts bills itself as a tribute to William Castle, one of my personal favorites. Those are mighty big shoes to fill.

We get an opening monologue with the director that explains to the audience about the fear shield. Basically, using something to hide your eyes if the movie gets too scary for you. It also warns that the process used to make the ghosts appear could also be fueled by you watching it. So ghosts could show up when you watch… This feels a bit forced and has more of an Ed Wood vibe than it does William Castle. Still it is a nice try.

After the narrator the credits roll, and I immediately noticed that they tried and succeeded to match the font and style from Castle’s House on Haunted Hill. Even the music was almost spot on from the earlier movie they are trying to emulate. Unless you are a big nerd like me you probably wouldn’t have noticed this at all, so I give them props for spending the time and effort doing it. Then we meet our main characters who are at a dinner party. The entertainment for the evening is a medium who is actually a science guy with a machine that will break the barriers between the land of the living and that of the dead. This means that the rest of the movie is one ghostly encounter after another. That is until we get to the ending, which is bit of a twist.

I’m glossing over much of the plot so that I don’t give anything away. If you have seen any of the movies of William Castle, then the fact that there is a twist and a couple of lapses in logic shouldn’t be surprising. But the fact that these are also present in House of Ghosts indicate that a lot of effort was made in writing the script. Those involved clearly love the movies of William Castle otherwise they wouldn’t have tried so hard. The dialogue is a bit stilted and the acting can be over the top at times. Again, this is what I would expect when sitting down to watch a Castle flick. Often when I’m reviewing a movie like this I point out that it is incredibly hard to make an entertaining bad movie without just making a bad one. They walk that tightrope and absolutely nail it!

Cheesy and fun
I was pleased that they shot it in black and white. There is also a bit of hiss and popping in the sound, but not so much that it feels forced. Too many times these “throwback” films try to overdo the attempts to look or sound old and end up distracting or annoying the audience. Here again they do just enough to put a smile on my face. As an added bonus there is a totally cheesy looking effect with a floating dog that is awesome!

I was ready to not like this movie because I’ve been burned so often in the past. I’m glad I gave House of Ghosts a chance because I enjoyed it a lot. The fact that the director, Christopher R. Mihm, managed to shoot this on a micro budget of around three thousand dollars boggles my mind. I’ve seen filmmakers with much more money make totally unwatchable garbage. I’m going to have to track down more of Mihm’s flicks. I recommend this one.

© Copyright 2019 John Shatzer

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Howling V the Rebirth (1989)

Not going to lie. I gave up on the Howling franchise after part three. But upon hearing some friends talk about part five I figured it was time to revisit the series. Though I skipped ahead a bit and checked out the one that they recommended.

It is the late 1400s and there are a lot of bodies lying around the castle. The lord and lady have killed everyone and finish themselves off last. While he is dying the lord hears a baby crying which disturbs him greatly. Fast forward to today, if today were the eighties. A group of people have been invited to the castle’s reopening as it has been uninhabited since the massacre. They were seemingly chosen at random and don’t know each other. After arriving and being met by the Count they head off for the party to celebrate and promote the castle as a tourist attraction. But not long after arriving the guests start to die. Eventually the Count lets everyone in on the secret to the castle and why they were invited. Spoilers, it wasn’t random.

This is a werewolf movie with very little werewolf in it and that is okay. The creature is kept in the dark for basically the entire movie, but still drives the plot. Howling Rebirth plays more like a murder mystery with Lycanthropy then it does a monster movie. At first no one knows that people are being killed. Then they still have to figure out it is a werewolf, which then leads them to trying to figure out who the werewolf is. Toss in another twist that the count has to offer about who everyone is and you have a movie that keeps you guessing. That is where the story excels. I was interested from start to finish and was guessing throughout as to who the monster was. Man was I wrong.

Hey gang lets split up and wander around... again!
The movie appears to be a very low budget affair. Almost the entire thing takes place at the castle location and the cast is full of unknowns (at least to me). But it is a great location and the actors do a fine job in their roles. The direction, cinematography, and lighting are good as well. This is important with so much of the movie taking place in the castle, which is dark and creepy looking. The only place that the budget shows is in the creature effects. We get very little werewolf in movie and what we do see is again kept in the shadows. Given what we do see this is probably a good idea. But with the kind of story that they are telling not seeing the creature is a huge asset as it allows the mystery to build instead of getting bogged down in “hey look at the makeup” moments.

The only issue that I can find with the movie is that the characters do the typically silly eighties horror movie thing and keep splitting up. They split up to look for missing guests, split up again when they find a body, and split up yet again after they know a werewolf is wandering the halls of the castle. This is probably not the best idea. Other than that, I really enjoyed Howling Rebirth and am going to give it a recommendation. Crap I guess that means I should check out the other sequels… This is going to suck.

© Copyright 2019 John Shatzer

Friday, November 22, 2019

Bonehill Road (2017)

I’ve never shied away from covering independent flicks here at the site, though some subgenres of horror are much more difficult to pull off than others. But like I’ve said in the past in many ways the independent scene is where most of the creativity and interesting movies are coming from. Here director Todd Sheets gives us his take on a werewolf movie, which is one of those subgenres that are very hard to do on a budget.

Things start off with a woman and her daughter being caught up in an abusive situation. The husband/father is basically beating the hell out of his wife when the tables get turned and they escape. The mother decides to head to her father’s house but along the way they hit something in the road that eventually leads them to crashing the car. That is when the werewolves show up and terrorize them! They manage to escape to a nearby farmhouse only to discover a creepy psycho has been torturing women there and they end up tied to chairs at the kitchen table. Some days you just can’t win.

Horrible things happen including some murder, stabbing, forcing a vegan to eat meat… that turns out to be her friend! Eventually the ladies turn the tables and beat the hell out of the abusive man, which given how the movie starts is damn satisfying. But then there are still werewolves to deal with and now they have arrived at the house for supper. Also arriving is grandpa come to check on why his daughter and granddaughter are missing. Grandpa is played by the legendary Gary Kent which is insanely cool. More violence happens and then there is an escape. Who lives and dies? I’ll not spoil it because Bonehill Road is a must watch for horror fans.

Damn it Todd Sheets how did you manage this movie! It appears that this movie only had a budget of around fourteen thousand dollars. Not only does he put some decent gore effects on the screen for that, but we get several werewolves as well. Not shitty CGI ones either, but just like the gore it is all practical work. Did you hear that? He made kick ass werewolves with practical appliances for far less than the catering budget for those big budget CGI werewolf crap fests that the studios keep pushing on horror fans. Thru a combination of makeup artists who are just that… artists and Sheet’s knowing how to shoot the scenes it all works perfectly. And I’ll be damned if we don’t also get a couple of transformation scenes that are equally as impressive.

I love the werewolves!
The movie is worth spending your money alone on what I’ve already shared above about the makeup and special effects. Toss in a story that is entertaining, well-paced, and surprising and there is no reason not to love Bonehill Road. The twist with the werewolves disappearing for a while during the big fight with the crazy serial killer was odd but worked. Like I mentioned earlier it also the demise of the killer gave a nice resolution to the abusive conflict. Even if it is by proxy seeing the character fight back and kick ass was nice. I’ve also already mentioned how much I enjoyed seeing Gary Kent on screen, but he isn’t the only familiar face. Linnea Quigley pops up as one of the women being held hostage by the psycho. This isn’t your typical “stunt casting” which turns out to be a glorified cameo to put their names on a DVD box. Here Sheets gives both genre vets actual parts to play. I dug that.

I could keep going on but won’t. Bottom line is that this is one of the best independent movies to hit distribution in the last few years. Do yourself a favor and find a copy. I highly recommend Bonehill Road.

© Copyright 2019 John Shatzer