The Fly (1986, Directed by David Cronenberg) English 9

Starring Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz, Leslie Carlson, Joy Boushel, George Chuvalo, David Cronenberg

The Fly's Deleted “Monkey-Cat” Scene Was Too Brutal

(9-Great Film)

Mesmerizing. Grotesque. Effective.

Ronnie: Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Seth Brundle (Goldblum) is quite possibly a genius. When the beautiful journalist, Ronnie (Davis), goes out with him one night, she stumbles upon his plan to create human teleportation. The two fall in love, and all seems well, but, in that grand H.G Wells tradition, Brundle’s experiment goes wrong and the result is his body’s slow decay and transformation into some kind of human-fly. Hard to watch at times, but harder to stop watching, The Fly is so beautifully disgusting. Goldblum and Davis have excellent chemistry and much of the first half plays out like a charming romantic-comedy. The second half, though, is pure horror mixed with tragedy. Whether you see Brundle’s downfall as symbolic of a cancer or another example of a brilliant scientist going too far and paying the price, The Fly is infinitely, grotesquely entertaining.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,019)

The Wicker Man (1973, Directed by Robin Hardy) English 9

Starring Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Diane Cilento, Ingrid Pitt, Lindsat Kemp

The Wicker Man (1973) | BFI

(9-Great Film)

Odd. Striking. Brilliant.

Sergeant Howie: Oh, what is all this? I mean, you’ve got fake biology, fake religion… Sir, have these children never heard of Jesus?

Nearing fifty years old, The Wicker Man, nevertheless, strikes me as a modern film, and, as such, its steadfast and impossibly earnest protagonist, Sergeant Howie (Woodward), seems misplaced. You won’t find many movies post-Hollywood’s studio era with a hero as moral and upright as Sergeant Howie. He’s more like a hero out of an old western. This, of course, is the point. Sergeant Howie is sent to the Island of Summerisle to investigate the disappearance of a young school-age girl. Once there, the devoutly Christian Sergeant finds himself in the center of a sex-obsessed pagan cult led by Lord Summerisle (Lee). Tempted at every turn, The Wicker Man is, on one hand, Sergeant Howie’s horrific, nightmarish descent. More conspicuously, however, this is one of the strangest films ever made; fish-out-of-water humor, Christopher Lee wigs, a catchy and perverse soundtrack. At its center though, is Sergeant Howie and the towering performance by Edward Woodward.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,018)

Hubie Halloween (2020, Directed by Steven Brill) English 5

Starring Adam Sandler, Julie Bowen, Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, Tim Meadows, Maya Rudolph, Shaquille O’Neal, Michael Chiklis, June Squibb, Ray Liotta, Rob Schneider, Colin Quinn, Blake Clark, Kym Whitley, George Wallace

Adam Sandler's Hubie Halloween Debuts at #1 on Netflix's Top 10 Trending  Chart

(5-Okay Film)

Goofy. Modest. Nice.

Hubie’s Mother: True bravery’s being kind, even to those who are being cruel to you.

Comedy and horror mash-up well together, and this film looked to have its roots in classics like the old Abbott and Costello monster flicks or Bob Hope’s The Ghost Breakers. That was enough to lure me in, despite an extensive recent record of mediocrity from Happy Madison’s productions. Hubie Halloween is middle-of-the-road Sandler. Not nearly as miserable an experience as Jack and Jill but not as funny as his best comedies like Happy Gilmore for instance. He plays the town dolt, a local punching-bag in the historic town of Salem, Massachusetts. Obsessed with Halloween, his purpose in life is to protect those around him, despite their disdain for him. One person who’s always been nice to him, though, is Violet Valentine (Bowen), his childhood crush. This Halloween, he finally gets a chance to face off with something sinister and to profess his feelings to Violet.

A couple of positives first: Sandler’s movies are often underlined by what feels like genuine sweetness and he makes a point of capping every story with a positive message. It’s easy to be cynical (and more artistic) but he’s made a career out of mixing his humor with saccharine sweetness. I also enjoyed the frequent nods to several of Happy Madison’s earlier films. Ultimately, however, Hubie Halloween could have been funnier, it could have been scarier, and I could have done without the annoying voice Sandler goes with here.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Scream (1996, Directed by Wes Craven) English 10

Starring Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Skeet Ulrich, Rose McGowan, Matthew Lillard, Jamie Kennedy, W. Earl Brown, Liev Schreiber, Drew Barrymore

Scream 5' Behind-the-Scenes Photos Reveal Sidney Prescott and the New Logo

(10-Masterpiece)

Thrilling. Clever. Virtuoso.

Ghostface: What’s your favorite scary movie?

I have a few favorites, but Scream and its immediate sequel are definitely in my top ten. Kevin Williamson wrote a tremendous script and Wes Craven perfectly captures the comic tone even when the film is at its most tense. The plot is simple and could describe dozens of other slasher flicks. A group of high schoolers, led by Sidney Prescott (Campbell), are terrorized in their small town in California by a masked killer (Ghostface). What made Scream fresh nearly 25 years ago, and what makes it so much fun to this day is that the characters have seen their share of horror movies. They know all the clichés. In turn, every element of Scream is better than its peers. The dialogue is better than your typical slasher. The actors are better, and Craven, who made his fame in the horror genre, creates his best film. The opening sequence, specifically, known by most film buffs, is a tour de force. The way Craven uses constant movement, space, and that house with its over-large windows is unbearably suspenseful.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,011)

The Frighteners (1996, Directed by Peter Jackson) English 7

Starring Michael J. Fox, Trini Alvarado, Jake Busey, Jeffrey Combs, John Astin, Dee Wallace, Chi McBride, Troy Evans

Looking Back: The Frighteners (1996) - MAUIWatch

(7-Very Good Film)

Goofy. Exciting. Fun.

Frank Bannister: I can’t fight it, Luce. I can’t protect you! There’s only one way to deal with this thing. I gotta have an out-of-body experience.

The Frighteners is Peter Jackson’s first big Hollywood production, years before he’d make his name with the Lord of the Rings saga. Jackson described his own humor as “moronic,” and it’s true that juvenile jokes are scattered throughout the film, but it’s his ability to mix a childlike spirit of fun with solid, adult material that makes him special. The Frighteners is a substantial, thrilling ghost story that follows a local shyster, Frank Bannister (Fox), who advertises as an expert on the paranormal. The town pretty much ignores him, but the truth is, despite his con man ways, he actually can see ghosts, and later, when a mysterious force starts taking the lives of town residents, Frank is the only one who can help. Trini Alvarez plays a kind widow and the only one to believe Frank. The special effects run rampant in this film and have dated significantly. That I still find The Frighteners an effective, exciting thriller proves that Jackson uses the effects well and is above all, a storyteller.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,009)

Naked Lunch (1991, Directed by David Cronenberg) English 5

Starring Peter Weller, Judy Davis, Ian Holm, Roy Scheider, Julian Sands, Monique Mercure, Nicholas Campbell

(5-Okay Film)

Grimy. Disturbing. Superficial.

Bill Lee: Exterminate all rational thought. That is the conclusion I have come to.

With this adaptation of William S. Burrough’s drug-influenced classic, I’m not sure where brilliant ends and pointless begins. The author’s alter ego, William Lee (Weller), an exterminator with an insecticide addled mind, drifts in and out of Interzone on a top secret mission delivered to him by a talking typewriter. Bizarre, shocking, always interesting, there is greatness on display scattered throughout this film. That it is wholly unenjoyable is, to some, beside the point. Cronenberg is a master at effects, but this film falls short in terms of affect. There are some truly horrific, memorable moments, and yet, I felt nothing.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(990)

Child’s Play (1988, Directed by Tom Holland) English 6

Starring Brad Dourif, Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent, Dinah Manoff, Tommy Swerdlow, Jack Colvin

Child's Play | Netflix

(6-Good Film)

Creepy. Humorous. Safe.

Chucky: Hi, I’m Chucky. Wanna play?

Chucky is one creepy doll. Hat’s off to whoever built the iconic horror character because I’d say just the design alone propels much of this film. The story is secondary. A  deranged serial killer, Charles Lee Ray (Dourif), transfers his soul to a nearby children’s toy. Young Andy Barclay (Vincent) is the lucky boy to get stuck with the result. Convinced that Chucky and he are destined to be friends until the end, Andy is quickly disillusioned after a couple of violent deaths materialize. Catherine Hicks plays his worried single mother, Karen, and Chris Sarandon plays the selectively effective cop, Mike, and they do dutiful work, but it’s the boy and Chucky’s movie, and they carry this film. The boy is very good and Brad Dourif is always excellent. Though existing mainly through voice work, his brief early appearance and exit make an important, lasting impression. Child’s Play is big on laughs and light on scares which is slightly disappointing. I feel it grows complacent over the course of the story, relying almost entirely on its superficial brilliance and shirks in the suspense department. That being said, there are some quality scenes and, overall, Child’s Play is fun and memorable.

 -Walter Tyrone Howard-

(982)

Poltergeist (1982, Directed by Tobe Hooper) English 7

Starring Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, Dominique Dunne, Zelda Rubinstein, Beatrice Straight, Heather O’Rourke, Oliver Robins, James Karen

Poltergeist' cast: How the haunted movie became a real-life horror ...

(7-Very Good Film)

Tame. Elaborate. Memorable.

Carol Anne Freeling: They’re here.

The idea of a family-friendly horror film isn’t too compelling but Poltergeist manages to bypass the gore and the deaths of a typical horror flick with an abundance of creativity, effective (still) special-effects, and overall spectacle. It’s a freak show. A well-paced ride through terrible sights and sounds. Your rare expensive horror film that works. The Freeling family, led by Steve (Nelson) and Diane (Williams), discover their picturesque, suburban home was built on top of a gravesite and is now under attack by supernatural forces. They reach out for help from parapsychologist, Dr. Lesh (Straight), and her team, then later, a medium, Tangina (Rubinstein), but ultimately, it’s up to the parents to save their family (two daughters and a son). Spielberg is billed as a producer but there’s a lot of evidence that he directed Poltergeist. In any case, he played a huge role creatively and his strengths show through-directing children, pacing the action, building suspense. Poltergeist is a bloodless affair, too tame to do much damage to me nowadays, but as an attraction of sorts, it’s as fun as they come.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(974)

The Cat and the Canary (1939, Directed by Elliot Nugent) English 8

Starring Bob Hope, Paulette Goddard, Gale Sondergaard, John Beal, George Zucco, Douglass Montgomery, Elizabeth Patterson

The Cat and the Canary (1939) – Journeys in Classic Film

(8-Exceptional Film)

Funny. Creepy. Effective.

Cicily: Don’t big empty houses scare you?

Wally Campbell: Not me, I used to be in vaudeville.

Quentin Tarantino once explained why Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein was his favorite film as a kid, “it bent my mind that my two favorite genres could be put into one movie.” Bob Hope, my favorite classic Hollywood comedian, made a career’s worth of films in this mold-he’s lampooned westerns (The Paleface), private detectives (My Favorite Brunette), spies (My Favorite Blonde), costume dramas (Monsieur Beaucaire), and pirates (The Princess and the Pirate). Among his best films, however, are his ventures into horror. Horror and comedy (both dependent on the element of surprise) go well together and they go well together here. The Cat and the Canary is one of Hope’s finest. He arrives at a creepy secluded mansion on the bayou along with a host of other guests including Joyce Norman played by Paulette Goddard to find out the will of their wealthy deceased relative. When Joyce is named the sole heir, she spends the rest of the night with a target on her back with only Bob Hope as an ally. Psychics, murder, mystery, secret passageways, monsters in masks, and Bob Hope, it’s Scooby-Doo meets Agatha Christie. Sheer fun.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(969)

Predator (1987, Directed by John McTiernan) English 8

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura, Elpidia Carrillo, R.G Armstrong, Shane Black, Richard Chaves, Sonny Landham

Predator (1987) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes | Gareth Rhodes Film ...

(8-Exceptional Film)

Exciting. Hyper-masculine. Gratifying.

Dutch: If it bleeds, we can kill it.

Perhaps the manliest movie ever produced, Predator teams Arnold Schwarzenegger with Apollo Creed, or Carl Weathers, if you prefer, and a bunch of other buff guys thrown into the Central American jungle. Arnold leads a band of mercenaries sent to rescue an official but instead discover the ultimate killer/predator, an alien who crash-landed on Earth and seems to spend his time hunting other predators. Critics complained about the alien’s unclearly defined motivation. I disagree. Very few films have such a firm grasp on what they’re trying to be and accomplish that ambition so efficiently. Motivation is superfluous here. What we want is Arnold versus alien and we get it. We also get a handful of cool characters, Mac (Duke) being my favorite, and a great location for an action film. Predator is a contender for the best action flick of that decade.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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