150 posts categorized "Horror"

February 09, 2018


WinchesterDefective from its conception, this would-be horror movie doesn’t take the bother to establish a compelling protagonist. Even taken as a generic haunted-house movie, “Winchester” dovetails suspense rather than building it, much less paying off the way Darren Aronofsky’s “mother!” did.

Helen Mirren is mesmerizing in the title role of Sarah Winchester even if the screenwriters/directors (The Spierig Brothers) don’t give her much room to run. Clearly, Mirren’s matriarchal character should have been the story’s protagonist. Instead we get substitution in the guise of Jason Clarke’s heroin-addicted doctor Eric Price, sent by the Winchester company board to assess Ms. Winchester’s mental stability. The mistress of the house has paranormal moments of clarity when she goes into a trance to diagram additions to the house that she is compulsively driven to have completed by a constant crew of workers. Ms. Winchester is constantly trapping the ghosts of people killed by her company’s firearms.


“Winchester” wants to be a noble genre film that can be appreciated for its anti-gun message and theme. The fact that the film is based on a real life person, namely firearm heiress Sarah Winchester, hardly adds much narrative impact. Here is a promising premise that was mishandled. The problem lies in the structure, the plot, and the dialogue. Back to the drawing board boys.   

Rated PG-13. 99 mins. (D) (One star — out of five / no halves)

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Groupthink doesn't live here.

October 30, 2016


Andy Warhol's FrankensteinCommonly referred to as “Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein” (what on Earth could be better?), Paul Morrissey directed “Flesh for Frankenstein” with a dry camp sensibility that he exploits hilariously, and relentlessly, for truly inspired gory (and nude) episodes of Grand Guignol exaltation. Makeup wiz Carlo Rambaldi (“Alien”) has a field day. Most significant in this gruesome parade is its premeditated use of the Space-Vision 3D process to allow disemboweled organs to dangle in front of audience’s noses. If this movie ever comes to your neighborhood in 3D, don’t miss it. It may well be the best use ever made of the stereoscopic process. The ratings board gave this movie an X rating for a reason.

Morrissey co-wrote the Hammer-inspired horror movie with two uncredited screenwriters (Tonino Guerra – “Blowup” and Pat Hackett). The movie is all about the set-up, style, and tone. If the dialogue seems atrociously stiff, that is the intention. Baron von Frankenstein (exquisitely played for hammy effect by Udo Kier) shares his remote castle with his nymphomaniac wife/sister Katrin (Monique van Vooren). Katrin’s pre-pubescent son and daughter secretly follow in Dr. Frankenstein’s footprints. With his submissive servant Otto (Arno Juerging) beside him, and hair slicked back in a Dracula-inspired style, the good doctor likes to stick it in the surgically opened gallbladder of his not-yet-alive female creation. Cue the 3D effects.

Udo Gets Busy

Udo Kier delivers the film’s money line when he categorically states, “to know death Otto, you have to fuck life in the gallbladder.” Hilarious.

Dr. Frankenstein goes on about creating life that represents Serbian ideals that “comes from the ancient Greeks” built of a head with the right “nasum” (nose).

Joe Dallesandro (“Little Joe” of Lou Reed’s “Take a Walk on the Wild Side” fame) steals the movie as Nicholas, the castle stable boy (a.k.a. stud) who Lady Katrin seduces and claims as her own. Dallesandro’s Brooklyn accent and physical bearing brings an intriguing undercurrent of global cross-pollination in the film’s European environs. Martin Scorsese followed in this film’s footsteps when he made “The Last Temptation of Christ” in 1988.

Flesh for Frankenstein

Other filmmakers also stole from “Flesh For Frankenstein.” David Cronenberg clearly took inspiration from this movie for “Videodrome” and eXistenZ. There is also no question that this deeply satisfying picture informed the set design and comic tone for “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” which also took its ideas from Peter Perry Jr.’s “Kiss Me Quick!” (1964).

Andy Warhol’s Flesh For Frankenstein” is a riot. Even its closing tableau is socially transcendent, and transgressive. The movie periodically achieves its operatic aspirations. It also happens to be one of the most simultaneously gloriously gross and sexy horror movies you’ll ever see. Oh what sublime joy.

Joe Dallesandro

Rated R. 95 mins. (A+) (Five stars — out of five / no halves)

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June 26, 2016


Shallows2Here is a good old-fashioned suspense thriller about a strong-willed young woman and a big mean shark. Blake Lively shows off her acting chops in this genre picture that belongs all to her. It's a popcorn movie make for gigantic drive-in movie screens.

Feeding on a whale carcass gets old after a few days for a mammoth shark, especially when there’s tasty human flesh around to supplement the entree.

Jaume Collet-Serra’s workmanlike direction is adequate. He still needs to learn a few lessons from Hitchcock and Friedkin, but the raw suspense he creates works well enough. Everything is a little low-fidelity in a gaudy exploitation way. The musical score is no bueno. What can you do?

There’s no point mentioning plot details of screenwriter Anthony Jaswinski’s lean, and implausible, script. Some of the CGI is lacking, and sure I could nitpick about a giant unrealistic looking prop, but the shark is plenty convincing when you’re staring down its gullet on the big screen.

The film is paced like a Swiss watch, and Lively’s gutty performance as Nancy, a surfer and med school student, makes it tic. A wounded seagull friend that accompanies Nancy during her tiny-island waiting game with the shark, is a nice poetic touch if not much else. It’s still not as cheesy as the cell phone conversation Nancy has with her dad about her future. Such is the sentimental white bread that bookends the action.


Yes, there is one moment that will shock you out of your chair regardless of how many scary movies you’ve seen. If that’s not good enough to send you after a cheap thrill at the movies, I don’t know what is.


Rated PG-13. 87 mins. (B) (Three stars — out of five / no halves)

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