Are there better movies than David Cronenberg’s 1986 take on The Fly? Maybe. Legend has it that there could be a few better movies out there, but I’d phrase it differently: There are few better movies out there. There certainly aren’t as many tightly expressed love stories, with The Fly‘s economy of storytelling being second to none. If you haven’t seen it, or if it’s just been a while, please pop it in before the clock strikes midnight on Halloween.
The opening scene has Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldbum) meeting reporter Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) at a press event, after which he turns a potential interview opportunity into a full-on confession of his latest brilliant invention: A teleportation device. Before you can say “cheeseburger,” the two are in a relationship and he’s on the brink of perfecting what has, until now, been a flawed experiment missing one crucial component.
Veronica ends up being that component, as she provides the inspiration needed to push Brundle over the finish line. He quickly gets ahead of himself, though, and in a night of rushed frustration, gives his teleportation pods a personal spin. Little did he know he entered said pods with an uninvited guest: a common housefly. For the remainder of the film we bear witness to true Cronenberg body horror as Seth Brundle gradually and inelegantly transforms into… Brundlefly!
The Fly holds up beautifully over 30 years after its initial release. Goldblum is charming, his romance with Geena Davis is heartbreaking, and the effects are as disgusting as they ever were. Toss up a warm bucket of digestive fly vomit and make this a part of your regular holiday rotation.
Jenn Wexler’s The Ranger may not be the best indie horror flick in recent years, but when you put it next to movies like Ryuhei Kitamura’s dismal Downrange, or even the previously-reviewed Sequence Break by Graham Skipper, it’s downright dynamite. It’s a simple setup for a satisfying slasher with an antagonist that’s kind of… not? The Ranger isn’t quite Smokey the Bear vs. Punk Rockers, but it gets as close as it can muster.
The short pitch is as follows: A group of punks are on the run after a police raid goes way south, but thankfully one of them had an uncle with a place way out in the woods. As promising a solution as that sounds for their getaway, they didn’t take the local forest ranger into account, and he takes his job seriously. Mix his rigid sense of righteousness and strict adherence to state park rules with a curious connection to leading lady Chelsea (Chloe Levine), and you have the recipe for some violent deaths that these roustabouts may or may not have totally had coming.
At a tight 80 minutes, I have no problem recommending The Ranger to anyone looking for something modest and crunchy to digest this month.
Halloween 2019 Movies:
1. Sequence Break
2. Deadtime Stories
3. Hell House LLC
4. Body Bags
6. Friday the 13th Part III
7. Child’s Play 2019
8. Ghoulies II
9. Satanic Panic
10. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
12. You’re Next
I’ve been trying to mix it up with movies this month, so I thought I’d pop in a little indie gem you might not have heard of: Frankenstein. Okay, so the last thing the world needs in 2019 is a review of the Frankenstein movie from 1931, but this Universal Monster yarn was the perfect way to break up an enjoyable but occasionally grim lineup of flicks.
Though the opening credits would have you think the role of The Monster to be a still-unsolved mystery—it’s credited with a big fat ? in the opening—Boris Karloff is one of a handful of reasons Frankenstein is still so fantastic today. This was the legend’s big break, and the world of horror is something he’d go on to embrace for the rest of his life. The role was originally intended for Dracula himself, Bela Lugosi, but he ended up turning it down, reportedly due to how much of his face was concealed once all the makeup was finally applied.
It’s a good thing he did, too, because Boris Karloff is The Monster. Like most early Universal Monster movies, Frankenstein is short and to the point; content to play out almost like a play across its lavish sets. It still has plenty of time to humanize Dr. Frankenstein’s doomed creation, though, and Karloff speaks volumes with a few grunts and some pained but sympathetic expressions.
This one’s probably available “wherever movies are sold!,” but I got mine in a Blu-ray collection that packs Frank in with Dracula, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, Phantom of the Opera, and Creature from the Black Lagoon. It’s a nice set and its liner notes helped make me sound like I know at least one thing.
The 12th film for Halloween 2019 was my first exposure to Adam Wingard, who I quickly came to admire as a director. You’re Next (2011) really blew me away the first time I saw it, and that and Wingard’s 2014 thriller The Guest—which is like a mid-’90s made-for-USA movie but way more exciting—cemented the fact that I would be very forgiving to Wingard’s future output for years to come.
He hasn’t wowed me that much since, but that forgiveness remains, and I’m always excited to see what he has coming up next. I even kind of enjoyed his ridiculous take on Death Note, so feel free to judge me accordingly. As for You’re Next, this is the first time I’ve revisited it since, and while it didn’t inspire the same level of awe, it’s still a fun, violent ride that doesn’t overstay its welcome.
You’re Next is a home invasion flick with a great twist. What appears to be a family gathering interrupted by masked intruders has something even more sinister beneath it, and it unfolds in a really satisfying way. The characters, for the most part, range from forgettable to obnoxious—Joe Swanberg’s Drake is one of the most punchable dudes in the past decade of film—but it’s all clearly about the incident at hand more than the actual family dynamics, no matter how strongly the story suggests otherwise.
Some movies that hinge on their twists are enhanced the second time around as a result. Take Jordan Peele’s Get Out for example. Once you watch it and know its secret, watching it again is even more enlightening. You begin to see bread crumbs throughout, slapping your forehead like “Why didn’t I see that coming?!” But of course you didn’t, because Get Out‘s twist is insane.
You’re Next doesn’t quite benefit in the same way from repeat viewings. Thankfully, the action beats and absurd violence are still as effective, so it’s worth revisiting if you enjoyed the rollercoaster the first time around. Next up for Wingard is Godzilla vs. Kong, but give me another The Guest and I’ll be more than happy to show up on day one. You’re Next, on the other hand, is best left as a one-off thrillride.
You may never truly be able to “smash everything” as Bobby Rhodes’s character Tony so vehemently demands, but watch 1985’s Demons and you’ll certainly want to smash somethin‘. This classic from director Lamberto Bava was one of the first flicks I watched when I was getting obsessed with Italian horror some 15 or so years ago, and it’s one worth owning and putting on an annual rotation to this day.
Demons is, from the opening seconds, what I would consider a pretty “rowdy” movie. That doesn’t mean there’s something going on in every single frame, but there’s always madness right around the corner. I mean, if this jam doesn’t get your blood pumping, you might wanna head to the ER.
Most of Demons takes place in a theater, where people throughout the city have gathered for an invite-only movie premiere. When a morose man in a silver phantom mask hands you a shiny ticket, you go to that showing! The movie in question gets through at least a reel before the shit hits the fan and everyone inside discovers they’re locked in… with DEMONS!
Highlights include some nasty demon FX, all the moronic cokehead punks who wind up fleeing from the cops right into the theater as the aforementioned shit hits, and everything Bobby Rhodes does. Lamberto Bava—son of genre legend Mario Bava—doesn’t get the same level of attention as his contemporaries, but he scared up a few grimy good’uns as director. His résumé as assistant director prior to that is even more impressive, but for my money Demons is his masterpiece.
If you want to see Demons in all its glory, pick up the Blu-ray Synapse Films put out. It has virtually nothing in the way of extras, but the high-def transfer from the original vault materials and Synapse’s new color correction mean it looks better than ever. Thankfully, this version also has the same bitchin’ soundtrack—which includes the likes of Billy Idol, Scorpions, and Motley Crue—so CRANK. IT. UP.