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-


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-


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-


Wait Until Dark (1967, Directed by Terence Young) English 6

Starring Audrey Hepburn, Richard Crenna, Alan Arkin, Jack Weston, Samantha Jones, Efrem Zimbalist Jr.

Wait Until Dark (1967) Movie Review - MovieBoozer

(6-Good Film)

Convoluted. Suspenseful. Effective.

Roat: I cannot negotiate in an atmosphere of mistrust.

Three criminals- Roat (Arkin), Mike (Crenna), and Sam (Zimbalist Jr.)- of varying morality trick and torment a newly blind woman, Suzy (Hepburn), who may or may not be concealing a small fortune in the form of a heroin filled doll. A couple of truly terrific scenes to end the picture make up for a long setup that lags, a confusing narrative, and a conspicuous stagey feel that bothers most play adaptations. Hepburn goes a long way to make us care about Suzy and once the plot becomes clear, Wait Until Dark becomes a highly suspenseful thriller.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972, Directed by Lucio Fulci) Italian 6

Starring Barbara Bouchet, Tomas Milian, Florinda Bolkan, Marc Borel, Irene Papas, Georges Wilson

Don't Torture a Duckling Review | Blu-ray Review | The Digital Fix

(6-Good Film)

Creepy. Lurid. Grisly.

 Tagline: A classic tale of the perverse from director Lucio Fulci.

The majority of the Italian giallo films that I’ve seen have the same fascinations; a string of grisly murders, an unlikely hero trying to get to the bottom of it, for starters. Don’t Torture a Duckling is a little more thoughtful than most. A small superstitious town in Southern Italy deals with the unsolved murders of several school-aged boys. The local police and a clever news reporter investigate. Unlike other giallo films that I’ve seen, rather than following one protagonist, Don’t Torture a Duckling follows several characters at different times. It’s the town that’s the focus; how they handle these tragedies, how everyone has blood on their hands. Fulci gives the film a genuine psychological element that makes it stand out among its peers. It’s interesting work and, like most murder-mysteries, very entertaining. It does, however, become a little hokey in parts, a little melodramatic.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Better Watch Out (2016, Directed by Chris Peckover) English 6

Starring Olivia DeJonge, Levi Miller, Ed Oxenbould, Virginia Madsen, Patrick Warburton

Image result for better watch out

(6-Good Film)

Twisted. Effective. Gruesome.

Deandra Lerner: Now don’t stay up late and watch scary movies, okay? It’ll give you nightmares again.

It’s Christmastime, and a popular girl, Ashley (Dejonge), watches over two boys, Luke (Miller) and Garrett (Oxenbould). in what was supposed to be a boring night at home. There’s not much to say about this film without including spoilers, so don’t read on if you’d like to see the film fresh. The two boys decide to spice things up. We’re programmed through decades of teen comedies to cheer for the nerds in film. Better Watch Out throws our empathy back in our face as we watch two teenage boys torture their babysitter for not paying any attention to them. The performances of the young actors are excellent, and the film genuinely disturbs; an effective if modest horror flick.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


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.

 Candyman: 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

Image result for dressed to kill 1980

( 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

Image result for the invisible man

(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-