Starring Elisabeth Shue, Ving Rhames, Adam Scott, Steven R. McQueen, Richard Dreyfuss, Christopher Lloyd, Jerry O’Connell, Kelly Brook, Jessica Szohr
“This above all: to thine own self be true.” Polonius may not have been thinking about Piranha 3D when he said that, but the quotation works. This nudity and gore fest features a small town full of idiots and one or two likable characters during a spring break gone terribly wrong due to the horde of killer piranhas. There’s a large number of scantily clad extras used for fish food in hilariously over the top violence. The main actors, led by Elisabeth Shue and Steven R. McQueen, are actually very good and well beyond what a film like this calls for. Even Jerry O’Connell, with his supremely limited range excels as a middle aged frat boy who never grew up. You could call this movie, and the original film that inspired it, a blatant rip-off of Jaws, but, Piranha knows that and has fun with it. I thoroughly enjoyed its nonsense, the high level of skill masked by its lowbrow aspirations, and the surprises of the script.
Starring Anjelica Huston, Jasen Fisher, Mai Zetterling, Rowan Atkinson, Brenda Blethyn
A young boy raised by his shrewd Grandmother discovers that the hotel they’re staying in is infested with children murdering witches (led by the Grand High Witch), with a plot that could wipe out children everywhere. After being turned into a mouse, the boy teams up with his Grandmother to foil the evil witches’ plans. Adaptation of Roald Dahl’s horror story for kids. Children’s movies in the ’80s and, in this case early ’90s, were insane. This has some truly frightening stuff in it: the witches pulling off their masks to reveal their hideous true selves, kids being abducted in the street, weird body transformations. The opening sequence is remarkable, scary, and sad as we learn about a girl who became trapped in a miserable painting all her life. Anjelica Huston glides through the picture as the Grand High Witch if everything is dreadfully boring to her including the events of the film. She’s very funny and the film itself, which I believe compromises a little in the end, remains a solid creepfest.
Starring Nastassja Kinski, Malcolm McDowell, Anette O’Toole, John Heard, Ed Begley Jr.
Centuries ago, a race of cat people came into being, men and women who transformed from black leopards into humans, and roamed the Earth. As the film progresses, a descendant, the beautiful Irene (Kinski) meets her estranged brother, Paul (McDowell) in New Orleans, and gradually learns her ancestral secret. When aroused, Irene and Paul transform back into their cat form, and kill the unfortunate people around. A remake of an influential, B-Movie classic, this film seems to be pretty divisive. It’s pulpy, bizarre, erotic material, and no doubt uninteresting to many viewers. I love it. Somehow with its surprisingly absorbing romance, elements of body horror, neo-noir mystery, and large amount of gore and nudity, the film worked for me. Much of the credit has to go to Kinski, who commands the screen in both the virginal victim and the predatory hunter aspects of her role. David Bowie’s awesome title track goes a long way to making the film work as well.
Starring Paul Williams, William Finley, Jessica Harper
A nobody composer, Winslow Leach (Williams), has his work, what was to be his magnum opus, stolen by a ruthless record producer who runs a night club called the Paradise. A heinous plot against Winslow leads to disfigurement, and so he stalks The Paradise looking to exact his revenge. There’s touches of Faustus and The Picture of Dorian Gray in addition to the obvious Phantom of the Opera inspiration. What a trip this movie is. It’s completely nuts. The eye-popping colors, Brian De Palma’s technical wizardry, the excess. It’s incredibly silly at times, but often clever and satirical. “Beef” will forever live on in my mind, but you’d have to see the film to know what I mean. Hilarious and the music is fantastic. Easily my favorite adaptation of Phantom of the Opera.
Starring James Franciscus, Karl Malden, Pier Paolo Capponi, Catherine Spaak
A blind man (Malden) and his adolescent niece become witnesses to a grisly murder, which precedes a string of related deaths and corporate conspiracy. They team up with a newsman, Carlo (Franciscus), to put an end to the killing. Superb thriller, even if I struggled to follow its plot at times. The final fight upon the roof tops is spectacular, and a certain violent death that involves an elevator shaft is glorious. All the hallmarks of Argento’s best: gory, beautiful color, and a great ’70s score.
Starring David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia, Macha Meril
A medium (Meril) senses evil in the air, claiming a murderer is in the room at a demonstration, and is violently killed for it. Marcus (Hemmings), a British musician in Italy, witnesses her death and becomes the killer’s next target. Hoping to get to the bottom of things, he works with an overly eager reporter named Gianna to solve a string of murders. Argento is in a class of his own in terms of composition and camera movement. On the other hand, he clearly doesn’t care about dialogue, logic, or character development, and perhaps he’s right since none of the film’s deficiencies detract from its appeal. The lush color and brutal violence contrast nicely, and though the film is never all that scary, it’s thoroughly entertaining. Also, killer soundtrack.
Starring Dennis O’Keefe, Margo, Jean Brooks, Isabell Jewell
Jerry (O’Keefe), a promoter, gets a leopard to bolster his girlfriend’s act, but when it gets loose and women are killed, Jerry’s not sure if he’s after a rogue leopard or a human killer. A fairly obvious mystery plot with a running time of 66 minutes and no character development, the film is reduced to a series of drawn out suspense sequences, with three in particular standing out. A terrifying scene in a graveyard, blood pouring in under the door, and Margo’s cigarette lighting up the dark alley. Three great scenes is enough to recommend any movie, and the amount of creativity and inventiveness that transformed a shoe-string budget into a memorable horror classic is staggering.