Candyman (1992, Directed by Bernard Rose) English 6

Starring Virginia Madsen, Tony Todd, Xander Berkeley, Vanessa Estelle Williams, Kasi Lemmons, Michael Culkin

Candyman: 13 Things You Didn't Know About The Classic Original ...

(6-Good Film)

Grisly. Bizarre. Absurd.

┬áCandyman: They will say that I have shed innocent blood. What’s blood for if not for shedding?

A graduate student, Helen Lyle (Madsen), is researching urban legends in Chicago, eventually stumbling onto the story of Candyman, a vengeful hooked-hand spirit that kills anyone foolish enough to say his name five times. Her research leads her to the Cabrini-Green housing project as her own life becomes tangled up in the legend. Candyman gets pretty abstract as it goes along but its basis is relatable enough: a white woman’s fear of walking through the ghetto; our childhood fears of ghost stories. The film is pretty silly if you sit and dissect it logically. For that reason, I find the horror rather shallow. However, the imagery is memorable and, though I don’t believe in ghosts, I’m not willing to say Candyman five times into a mirror.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Dressed to Kill (1980, Directed by Brian De Palma) English 6

Starring Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen, Keith Gordon, Dennis Franz, David Margulies

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( 6-Good Film)

Lurid. Skilled. Ludicrous.

Director, Brian De Palma, is a technical wizard. He is a master stylist and can do amazing things with a camera. He’s also never made a boring movie. Many times, though, he can work with lesser material, or, in this case, a plot that is pretty inane (not to mention derivative of Hitchcock’s Psycho). Angie Dickinson is Kate Miller, a bored, sexually-frustrated housewife who frequently visits a psychiatrist, Doctor Robert Elliot (Caine), for some guidance. De Palma’s wife at the time, Nancy Allen, plays a prostitute, Liz Blake, who witnesses a violent murder. None of this matters as much as the schlocky atmosphere or the impressive sequences De Palma puts together. The parts are truly worth more than the whole. A lot of the content is pure male fantasy. Supermodels for nurses. Bored housewives. Etc. Like I said, it’s not boring.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986, Directed by Brian Gibson) English 5

Starring Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, Heather O’Rourke, Zelda Rubinstein, Julian Beck, Will Sampson, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Oliver Robins

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(5-Okay Film)

Unnecessary. Slapdash. Anemic.

I’m debating how harsh to be about Poltergeist II: The Other Side. The obvious truth is that it’s not very good, but it’s difficult to gauge just how bad it is. Bringing back the Freeling family for another go-round with the supernatural, this time they square off against the ghost of an evil cult leader, Reverend Henry Kane (played effectively by Beck), one of the few things that work in this sequel. Aside from the creepy Reverend, there isn’t much of anything to remember about this movie. Tangina (Rubinstein), great in the first film, returns. A new character, Taylor (Sampson), is added, but the film has very few ideas and goes nowhere with them. It’s not an unpleasant watch. It’s over very quickly but there’s nothing remotely thrilling or scary happening. Horror and comedy rely so much on surprise. Nearly every remake or sequel in these two genres is worthless.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Invisible Man (2020, Directed by Leigh Whannell) English 7

Starring Elizabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman

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(7-Very Good Film)

Tense. Surprising. Skilled.

H.G Wells’ The Invisible Man followed a scientist, Griffin, as a botched experiment leads him down the path to madness and tragedy. It’s been adapted numerous times in varying degrees of faithfulness, but ultimately, I feel, I’ve seen that movie. Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man does something different. It makes Griffin a pure villain, an abusive husband, and his wife, Cee, the protagonist. She takes extreme steps to break free of her rich, brilliant husband, and just when it appears that she’s free for good (he’s ruled dead), a mysterious force seems to be plaguing her attempts at living a normal life again. This is a tense outing right from the get-go. It’s well-paced, strongly performed by Moss who, without vanity, plays the battered woman convincingly, which is the key to the film’s strength.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Cabin in the Woods (2011, Directed by Drew Goddard) English 6

Starring Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Connolly, Jesse Williams, Fran Kranz, Anna Hutchinson, Bradley Whitford, Richard Jenkins, Sigourney Weaver

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( 6-Good Film)

Clever. Surprising. Unsatisfying.

I like the “stupid teenagers in the woods” horror films, but we know their ins and outs by heart at this point. The Cabin in the Woods sacrifices a little in the gratification department in order to make it all seem fresh again. Yes, the fundamentals are still present. A group of five friends huddles together in some godforsaken cabin in the middle of nowhere. Something horrific comes there way, and…that’s all I’ll say because what works best about this film needs the element of surprise. It pulls the rug out from underneath our expectations. It’s for that same reason that I consider it more interesting to think about or discuss than to watch. Besides being unpolished, it’s designed to disappoint and it does. Others find its cleverness enough to make it a classic. I simply don’t. I also think it owes something to the superior Funny Games films by Michael Haneke.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Horror of Party Beach (1964, Directed by Del Tenney) English 3

Starring John Scott, Alice Lyon, Allan Laurel, Eulabelle Moore, Marilyn Clarke, Agustin Mayor

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(3-Horrible Film)

Laughable. Mindless. Unscary.

Deep down in the waters off of a Connecticut beach lives a new species of sea life. Grotesquely altered by radioactive waste, these corrupted creatures are heading for land and I’m prepared to be horrified- it is The Horror at Party Beach, after all- but then, the creatures surface, looking like an H.R Pufnstuf character. Once we see the “monsters,” the rest of the movie becomes a bad joke. To be honest, the movie was never good. From the start, the acting is wooden (in that independent-filmmaking, amateurish sort of way) and the dialogue is absurd. The characters are nondescript, all except Eulabelle, the black maid that made me roll my eyes with every line she’s given to read. The music sucks too.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Train to Busan (2016, Directed by Yeon Sang-ho) Korean 7

Starring Gong Yoo, Kim Su-an, Jung Yu-mi, Ma Deong-seok, Choi Woo-shik, Sohee, Kim Eui-sung

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(7-Very Good Film)

Exciting. Ingenious. Tame.

Trains have been prime real estate for a number of intriguing film premises. With the popularity of zombies, it was only a matter of time before we’d get zombies on trains. Train to Busan stars Gong Yoo as a selfish, neglectful father taking his kind daughter (Su-an) from Seoul to Busan (where her mother lives) aboard the KTX. On the way, an outbreak infects some of the passengers who turn into lobotomized, flesh-eating zombies, making the trip a survival of the fittest free-for-all, with a handful of uninfected working together. Trains are excellent set-pieces because they bring together a variety of people, making for diverse characters, and most importantly, they isolate the characters from the rest of the world. If characters can just leave a situation, it’s not as compelling. If you have ten or so passengers stuck inside of a moving train with a few dozen zombies, that’s compelling. Aside from its neat premise, Train to Busan gets a lot of mileage out of its father-daughter relationship, though the workaholic dad is a bit hackneyed at this point and the ending gets too sentimental for my liking. I also felt the horror element is rather tame for my taste but Train to Busan is more of an adrenaline rush than a horror film, and as such, it’s very good.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-