medieval mayhem: army of darkness

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Time is already a tenuous construct as it is, and after shotgunning a ton of movies this month it’s even less of a factor in my life. With that said, at some point this month I watched Sam Raimi’s Army of Darkness on my friend’s projector, and thoroughly enjoyed seeing it for the first time probably since it first hit home video. It’s not quite at the level of Evil Dead 2 for me as far as this series goes, but there are a few things I forgot about that are even more entertaining to me today.

First of all, rewatching this 1993 entry just a few weeks after watching (almost all of) Ash vs. Evil Dead was a trip. Bruce Campbell is so young in these movies, and pulls off an amazing combination of effortlessly cool and colossally stupid. I actually forgot just how Looney Tunes Army of Darkness gets at times, which is never on display more boldly than during the extended battle against Ash’s tiny doppelgangers.

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That second act sequence is just the starting point for when this movie goes completely bonkers. I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated that or the stop-motion skeleton hijinks more than I did during this viewing, and I don’t doubt that I’ll be watching it again sooner rather than later.

This time around I watched the director’s cut, which was a tough choice to make. I like both endings equally, but now I want to go back and check out the theatrical cut again. There are some other cuts on Scream Factory’s excellent collector’s edition Blu-ray set, which I highly recommend picking up. As many times as they’ve reissued this movie, I can’t imagine there being a more definitive version down the line as we enjoy what will likely be the last major physical media format.

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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
17. Halloween III: Season of the Witch

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