mental manufacturers: halloween iii

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A friend was recently looking through my Blu-rays and remarked, “Of all the Halloween movies, the one you own is the third one?” Yes, the one I own is the third one, because it’s great. My Halloween 2019 rewatch cemented the fact that 1982’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch deserves to be on everyone’s seasonal marathon lineup.

Back in the day, I remember Halloween III being known as “the one that doesn’t even have Michael Myers in it.” There’s no arguing that, unless you count some off-screen tube TV cameo action. I’d love to say that it’s underrated as a result, but I think the general consensus—at least among horror fans—has really come around on this one over the years. And who could blame ’em? It’s got malevolently manufactured masks and the one, the only… Tom Atkins!

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My main takeaway from this watch of Halloween III, despite how great it looks on Blu-ray, is that Tom Atkins is a sex symbol? I think he might be, I just never considered it before. This one may not have The Shape in it like the others, but director Tommy Lee Wallace—who also helmed Fright Night Part 2 (!)—builds some solid tension and makes the most out of a story that somehow manages to connect a missing chunk of Stonehenge to masks that make snakes and bugs explode out of kids’ faces.

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The music is great, too. With Alan Howarth along for the ride, John Carpenter cooked up another solid score with a few particularly memorable tracks. And good luck getting the Silver Shamrock commercial jingle out of your head for the rest of the Halloween season.

If you wanna watch it yourself, it’s available streaming, but if you really dig it you should pick up Scream Factory’s excellent Blu-ray. I wish I had that version; I have the one that just plays automatically and doesn’t even have any extras! Now that’s scary.

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Halloween 2019 Movies:

1. Sequence Break
2. Deadtime Stories
3. Hell House LLC
4. Body Bags
5. Pumpkinhead
6. Friday the 13th Part III
7. Child’s Play 2019
8. Ghoulies II
9. Satanic Panic
10. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
11. Demons
12. You’re Next
13. Frankenstein
14. The Ranger
15. The Fly
16. Train to Busan

terror tracks: train to busan

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If you’ve heard anything about Train to Busan since the 2016 debut of Yeon Sang-ho’s feature, you might not be surprised to learn that I loved it. It may have taken me a few years to get around to it, but it definitely ranks high among zombie flicks, and it’s surprisingly swift given its nearly two-hour runtime.

The premise is dead simple: Workaholic Seok-woo (Yoo Gong) is an absentee father who finds it difficult (read: too time-consuming and inconvenient) to connect with his young daughter. As little of his time as he’s able to give her, he’d rather she didn’t travel to Busan to visit her mom on her own, so he elects to escort her on her train ride in the morning. Unbeknownst to them—or anyone else on the train for that matter—this particular journey happens to coincide with the moment a full-on zombie outbreak occurs.

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And there’s your hook: Zombies on a train! Even in these close quarters, Train to Busan is shot with real expertise, making up for the claustrophobic setting with well-paced action beats and the kind of emotional core we’ve come to expect from many of the South Korean smash hits out there.

Thanks to all the heavy lifting it does with its characters in the first act, Train to Busan sticks its heart-wrenching landing with gusto. It also has Dong-seok Ma totally stealing the show as this dude:

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As usual, despite breaking records upon its release in Korea and wowing critics around the world, Train to Busan is getting remade in English. At least it was as of a couple years ago; I’m not sure if this still holds true, but once again the assumption is that audiences here won’t read subtitles (which is probably accurate). I’m totally game for Sang-ho’s sequel, however.

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Halloween 2019 Movies:

1. Sequence Break
2. Deadtime Stories
3. Hell House LLC
4. Body Bags
5. Pumpkinhead
6. Friday the 13th Part III
7. Child’s Play 2019
8. Ghoulies II
9. Satanic Panic
10. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
11. Demons
12. You’re Next
13. Frankenstein
14. The Ranger
15. The Fly

mucky metamorphosis: the fly

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Halloween 2019 Movies:

1. Sequence Break
2. Deadtime Stories
3. Hell House LLC
4. Body Bags
5. Pumpkinhead
6. Friday the 13th Part III
7. Child’s Play 2019
8. Ghoulies II
9. Satanic Panic
10. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
11. Demons
12. You’re Next
13. Frankenstein
14. The Ranger

 

wick’d wilderness: the ranger

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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.

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Halloween 2019 Movies:

1. Sequence Break
2. Deadtime Stories
3. Hell House LLC
4. Body Bags
5. Pumpkinhead
6. Friday the 13th Part III
7. Child’s Play 2019
8. Ghoulies II
9. Satanic Panic
10. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
11. Demons
12. You’re Next
13. Frankenstein

living legends: frankenstein

Frankenstein (1931)
Directed by James Whale
Shown: Boris Karloff

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.

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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 DraculaThe MummyThe Invisible ManThe Bride of FrankensteinThe Wolf ManPhantom 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.

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Halloween 2019 Movies:

1. Sequence Break
2. Deadtime Stories
3. Hell House LLC
4. Body Bags
5. Pumpkinhead
6. Friday the 13th Part III
7. Child’s Play 2019
8. Ghoulies II
9. Satanic Panic
10. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
11. Demons
12. You’re Next