I don’t know what I expected here. In a lapse of judgment, I thought this might be kind of like a Gremlins-esque yarn but with trouble-making gargoyles. Not only did I not look at the date when I found this next to Munchies on Tubi, I didn’t read the synopsis or even bother to note that it was a TV movie before I dove headfirst in what should have been a quick and breezy watch of 1972’s PRIMETIME EMMY-WINNING Gargoyles.
It took me four days to get through it. To put that into perspective, Gargoyles is just 75 minutes long. That’s a mere 10 to 13 minutes shy of what I consider to be the perfect length for any feature film. If the above picture is me prior to watching Gargoyles, the one below is me after.
In this positively interminable movie, a paleontologist and his daughter find an amazing artifact courtesy of this wonderful man.
Uncle Willie has a ton of must-see items, but the one Dr. Mercer Boley is most interested in is a complete skeleton that belongs to a mysterious creature. I’ll go ahead and spoil it for you: It’s a gargoyle! Before you know it, its wingéd (and non-wingéd) pals descend upon our heroes to get their bones back, eventually leading the doc to an entire colony of them after they kidnap his daughter.
The ultimate plan involves the rise of the Gargoyles, who aim to overtake humanity entirely and rule the world on their own. You know who’s gonna stop ’em, though? THIS GRUMPY GUS.
Cornel Wilde’s face sums up my reaction to this limp ’70s TV movie that hails from the haunted halls of Svengoolie. I can absolutely guarantee you the stills I’ve included here are more entertaining than even the most ‘Goyle-filled section of the movie, so save yourself an hour and some change this Halloween and watch literally anything else on my list or your own.
The first phase is hallucinogenic… The second phase is glandular… And the third phase is…
1993’s Body Melt is a deeply satirical Australian horror flick by director Philip Brophy, and its tagline pretty much sums up the entire picture. It all goes down in a small suburban neighborhood, the residents of which are the unwitting subjects of a new dietary supplement experiment. Get ready for equal parts questionable comedy and gross-out effects in what I hesitate to call a hidden gem.
For every buckwild effect, there’s at least one unfunny scene that drags on for about five minutes too long. I’d love to see a cut of this with less of the story and more nonsensical body melting horrors. Give me a Body Melt short film any day of the week.
There’s some fun to be had in Body Melt, and it’s certainly the type of movie that would benefit from being watched with a group of fellow trash enthusiasts. Actually, I was just watching the trailer to pop in here, and it almost made me want to go back through it again, so maybe there is something special there.
Or, more likely, it’s just a really good trailer! Most of the memorable moments are in there to some degree. Anyway, this one’s on Amazon Prime for free, or if you’re feelin’ nasty you can pick up a Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome.
There are a lot of movies from my childhood that stand out just based on how much they scared me at the time. One of the most rewatched freakout flicks for me was Tobe Hooper’s 1986 take on Invaders from Mars. To this day it very much remains a “you probably had to be five when it came out” movie, but those memories are still vivid and easily poked and prodded.
Like Ghostbusters and the Large Marge scene from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, this was a movie I had to make myself watch over and over to zap away its power to scare me. I used to be convinced those big, lumbering Martian monsters would come trundling through my door at any second whenever I watched it, and I’m still not entirely sure they won’t!
Watching this again for the first time in ages was mostly a nostalgia trip. From the moment, ahem, DAVID GARDNER!! sees his teacher eat a frog to the swirling sand traps and the furious underground invasion in the third act, Hooper’s movie is all about stoking childhood paranoia. It reinforces the thought that something about your parents, your teachers, and everyone else in your life isn’t quite right. Maybe they know something you don’t, or maybe there’s something else cooking under it all that proves every adult around you is a dang ALIEN.
Hunter Carson should have gotten an award for best child actor that year. Just look at the way he reacts to all the horrific sights in this film! I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that no one told him he was filming a movie. This is the face of someone who believes it all, just like I did over three decades ago.
So, is Invaders from Mars a classic? It depends on who you ask. I still think it’s pretty fun, but I also still have the same diseased brain as that five-year-old kid who grew up watching a ton of weird shit on TV.
Back when I started the month off with Graham Skipper’s Sequence Break, I mentioned that I preferred the movie he starred in rather than the movie he directed. Jackson Stewart’s 2016 indie Beyond the Gates isn’t anything groundbreaking or amazing, but there’s something I dig about its endearingly awkward crack at ’80s VHS board game nostalgia.
In Beyond the Gates, Skipper plays Gordon, who meets up with his estranged brother John (Chase Williamson) to sort through his missing father’s old video store and put a bow on some family matters. In the process they find an old VHS board game called Beyond the Gates, and together with Gordon’s girlfriend Margot (Brea Grant), they fire it up and dive headfirst into its sinister trappings.
At the heart of the game is a mysterious woman played by Barbara Crampton (From Beyond, Re-Animator), who beckons them to dive deeper, even when the path to saving their father comes at the cost of a handful of innocent lives along the way. The deaths are few and far between but goofily gory, and the music plays on the faux video nostalgia that drives the project.
The end result doesn’t really attempt to hide how cheap it is, but it still looks better than a lot of its contemporaries. The performances are fine, and there’s just enough weirdness under the skin to make it interesting. I like Beyond the Gates enough to own it, even if I find it difficult to classify why, exactly, it’s better than something like Sequence Break or Satanic Panic. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and it also doesn’t play ironically, so I’ll chalk it up to the dopey earnestness of it all.
I love that Crampton is the only person featured on the poster despite the fact that she only exists on a small black and white tube TV for the entirety of the runtime.
One of the thrilling prospects of horror movies is the thought that you’re always one movie away from discovering some gem you can’t believe you’ve never seen before. For me, Popcorn—a 1991 slasher flick directed by Mark Herrier—is exactly the type of movie I’m hoping I’ll come across at any given moment.
Jill Schoelen plays Maggie Butler, a film student who keeps having these bizarre dreams about a young girl being chased by a maniacal man. She hopes to turn it into a movie some day, but in the meantime she and the rest of her class need to raise some money for their struggling film department. Their big plan involves hosting the ultimate horror movie all-nighter, complete with gimmicks for each showing and plenty of crowd-pleasing special effects to go along with them.
Once the big night arrives, it soon becomes apparent that a twisted killer is on the loose in the theater, and this story collides in a major way with the very dreams that have been both plaguing and inspiring Maggie. Who is THE POSSESSOR, and what does he have to do with Maggie and her mom (Dee Wallace)?!
Much like the all-nighter itself, Popcorn is a crowd pleaser through and through. I imagine this one plays really well with an amped crowd at a movie marathon, so if you can get some other folks together to watch it with you, definitely do so. No matter how you see it, though, Popcorn is a ton of fun nearly 30 years after its initial debut.
You can find this one online if you’re so inclined. If you dig it, though, Synapse Films put out a collector’s edition Blu-ray a couple years ago, which is something I might have to pick up down the line for the new scan and special features alone.