Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982, Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace) English 6

Starring Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Dan O’Herlihy, Nancy Kyes, Brad Schacter, Michael Currie

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(6-Good Film)

Underrated. Tense. Mindless.

No, Michael Myers is not in this movie. Somebody decided to call this horror flick Halloween III despite having nothing to do with the previous two installments, and, regardless of what their plan was, they did Season of the Witch a major disservice. It’s no masterpiece but it’s also not the waste of time that so many disgruntled fans say it is on IMDB. It follows Dr. Daniel Challis (Atkins) and Ellie Grimbridge (Nelkin) working to uncover a diabolical conspiracy in the small town of Santa Mira. Local toy company, Silver Shamrock, is making Halloween masks that destroy the wearer. There’s more to it than that but it still won’t make much sense. I admitted it’s not a masterpiece. It is, however, creepy and effective, a tense hour-and-a-half experience; something like an adult Goosebumps.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(751)

Happy Death Day (2017, Directed by Christopher B. Landon) English 6

Starring Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Phil Vu, Charles Aitken, Rachel Matthews

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(6-Good Film)

Silly. Entertaining. Derivative.

By its own implied admission, Happy Death Day borrows/steals heavily from the Bill Murray classic, Groundhog Day. That’s not a problem though since the premise (an unexplained time loop that causes its selfish protagonist to repeat the same day) is so good, it could go in a dozen possible directions. Here, reworked for the horror genre, a college sorority girl named Tree is stuck on Monday, September 18th, which happens to be her birthday. Repeating your birthday wouldn’t seem so bad, if not for the brutal serial killer murdering her at the end of every loop. I enjoy a good slasher-whodunit, and Happy Death Day delivers on that count, although it’s more funny than scary. Suffers from downright silliness at times, but is engaging enough to be passable entertainment.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(749)

The Watcher in the Woods (1980, Directed by John Hough) English 5

Starring Bette Davis, Lynn Holly-Johnson, Kyle Richards, Carroll Baker, Benedict Taylor, David McCallum

(5-Okay Film)

Strange. Creepy. Disappointing.

Disney was trying things at the time (1980). I prefer the risk-taking, despite it not always working, over the cookie-cutter polish they’re churning out right now. The Watcher in the Woods is not particularly well-acted, nor is it a well-crafted ghost story, featuring a family that gets what seems like a bargain on a mansion, but finds out too late the reason why.  There’s an unresolved thirty-year-old tragedy haunting the grounds. As a Disney production, the film entertains solely on strangeness and the performance of Bette Davis. One of the creepier kids movies made. I just wish they pushed it further.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(734)

Prom Night (1980, Directed by Paul Lynch) English 5

Starring Leslie Nielsen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Eddie Benton, Robert A. Silverman, Michael Tough

(5-Okay Film)

Basic. Entertaining. Forgettable.

Formulaic slasher film, but it’s a good formula. What was to be a special night for a group of teenagers, prom night, becomes a nightmare as an old episode comes back to haunt them (and kill them). Scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis stars as the kind sister of a boy murdered years before; his death being the catalyst for the night’s events. Not original in the slightest, or ever truly surprising, but as your basic horror film, it entertains.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(730)

It Follows (2014, Directed by David Robert Mitchell) English 5

Starring Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Jake Weary, Daniel Zovatto, Olivia Luccardi, Bailey Spry

(5-Okay Film)

Creepy. Skilled. Monotonous.

One of the more successful and admired horror pictures of recent years, I found its intriguing premise by film’s end to be tedious and its gratifications too few and far between. A teenage girl decides to go all the way with a predictably dubious male character, and finds she’s being followed, slowly but surely by  some anomalous figure. Despite cool stylistic touches, like the dreamlike quality of the action or the fantastic retro soundtrack, the film just isn’t scary enough to me to recommend it. Aberrant, yes. Weird, yes. But not scary. I think it could  work better as a warning in sex ed classes than as a horror flick.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(715)

Videodrome (1983, Directed by David Cronenberg) English 8

Starring James Woods, Debbie Harry, Sonja Smits, Leslie Carlson, Peter Dvorsky, Jackl Creley

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Bizarre. Unnerving. Unforgettable.

Max Renn (Woods) runs a sleazy television station that pushes sex and violence with its programming. Always on the lookout for new material, Renn stumbles upon Videodrome, a pirated show made under mysterious circumstances that takes gratuitous sex and violence to new heights. Renn becomes obsessed with the show but when he does a little digging, reality and Videodrome begin to blend together, and he finds that what he thought was staged might actually be genuine snuff films. Directed by David Cronenberg, master of body horror, this movie alternates between seeming to have a lot of plot to digest and the plot apparently not mattering at all, and yet, I was never frustrated. From wonder to disgust, it’s best to watch and move with Videodrome as it goes from one striking image to the next. What’s it saying though? Is Renn corrupted by what he’s watching? Desensitized by sex and violence on television to the point where he has to look for stronger material to feel anything? I don’t have an answer but I’m certain I’ll watch this film again and again searching.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(707)

It Chapter Two (2019, Directed by Andrés Muschietti) English 6

Starring James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransome, Andy Bean, Bill Skarsgård

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(6-Good Film)

Entertaining. Solid. Repetitive.

There’s no suspense without rules. Late film critic Roger Ebert used to point to Alice in Wonderland as an example (in wonderland where anything can happen, nearly every problem’s resolution feels like deus ex machina). There’s an element of that to the It series of films more conspicuous in the second chapter. Maybe a better analogy would be the old “it was all a dream” solution in fiction. It Chapter Two, running over two and a half hours, has a number of sequences that belong to its protagonists’ imagination. What makes these scenes eventually tedious is that we know they aren’t real and the protagonists know as well, so not only is there no suspense, but there’s very little surprise or anxiety. The fantastic first chapter overcame this by being more of a scary adventure film centered around a great cast of young characters. The second chapter picks up 27 years later with its characters-Bill, Beverly, Richie, Ben, Mike, Eddie, and Stanley-now played by James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransome, and Andy Bean;all solid and well-cast, but not nearly as compelling as their young counterparts. On the whole, It Chapter Two is still enjoyable blockbuster entertainment, but it’s not as memorable as the first.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(706)