Movie Reviews: “Psycho” (1960)


Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
Starring Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, and Vera Miles.

Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” was a game changer for suspense/horror cinema. It gave its audience a career making performance out of Anthony Perkins as the eerie Motel owner Norman Bates. It also gave its audience stellar directing & cinematography with unique camera shots to highlight the chilling story based upon Richard Bloch’s novel. All of the necessary ingredients to make a classic film were there, but “Psycho” is extra special because of the filmmaker’s innovation and Anthony Perkins’ passion, making the film a masterpiece.

The story follows Marion Crane, a woman who committed a crime and is running away, not from her crime per-say, but from the life she had and to find the man she is in love (and been having an affair) with. She pulls into a small motel for the night, the Bates Motel. I consider the motel itself to be one of the film’s best characters. There she encounters Norman Bates, and his Mother.

If you haven’t had the privilege of watching “Psycho” then I recommend you make it a priority for Halloween! Many people cite “Psycho” as the first slasher film. While that might not be quite accurate, it certainly was monstrously influential and something special when it was released, and still something special to this day.

4.0 out of 4.0 stars.


Movie Reviews: “Red Lights” (2012)


Starring Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, Elizabeth Olsen, & Robert De Niro.

Murphy and Weaver star as Tom Buckley & Margaret Matheson, a skeptical group of paranormal researchers. They’ve debunked claims for years, yet to see something extraordinary and real, that is until world-famous blind psychic Simon Silver (De Niro) comes out of retirement. The closer they get to examining his stage show, the more horrible events happen around them. How far will they go to uncover the truth?

“Red Lights” held my attention for most of the duration, but lost me towards the climax. It’s an interesting concept close to my heart. The paranormal world had always fascinated me, as has truth seeking. This film does that field justice. The performances by Murphy, Weaver and De Niro are all as good as you’d think, but are slightly limited by script issues. This could have been fantastic with a more independent studio, but ended up just being all right. A lot of my overall feelings of a film depend on how they finish. Take that into consideration. Worth seeing though.

2.5 out of 4.0 stars.

Movie Reviews: “The Blob” (1988)


I’ve always enjoyed the original 1950’s “The Blob” but today I just fell in love with the 80’s remake! What an awesome movie! The effects are the centerpiece of this film as they are just outstanding & creative. A lot of hard work went into creating the giant slimy unstoppable killing machine.

The script is hilarious, cheesy, and entertaining as hell. Not a dull moment to be had. It was fun to spot actors from other films. For example, the Sheriff in this is played by a much younger Jeffrey DeMunn, Dale from AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” I spotted Jack Nance from “Twin Peaks” & Art LaFleur who looks a lot like the Doctor from the original “Blob.” Hmm…

This blows the original 50’s version away. (Sorry Steve McQueen.) I can’t imagine any studio today even considering remaking it again. You cannot CGI the blob! Once a concept has been fleshed out and made the best it can possibly be, even if it’s dated, it should be left alone to stand on its own for future generations. This is one of those films. A must see. I’m kicking myself for not seeing & enjoying this my first 29 years of existence, but also thanking myself for saving it to see something potentially great this late in life.

4.0 out of 4.0 stars

Movie Reviews: “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1978)


Starring Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum, & Leonard Lemoy.

The plot for this 1978 remake is very similar to the 1956 version. Sutherland plays Matt Bennell, a man who works for the Department of Health. When his co-worker friend (and secret love interest) Elizabeth complains that her husband is acting strange, the two of them start to notice that many other people are complaining of the same problem, that their loved ones are not really their loved ones.

I think where this remake shines most is in the last half where they try to flee the terror. It really builds on what the 56′ version started. It’s tense as hell, more violent, and more sophisticated. Sutherland makes a great horror lead. I wish he had done more films like this.

While plot remains mostly the same, this remake has a very different vibe from the 56′. It’s a perfect remake in that it takes the story and makes it it’s own without trying to be the original. It also has a bigger budget. Entire streets are lined with “them” chasing our heroes. Police, businessmen, women, children etc all transformed and on the prowl.

Lastly I think that the ending of this film is one of cinemas great endings. It’s truly memorable and shocking. Its even been parodied on “Family Guy.” What does that tell you? All in all, this stands alone, and on par with the original. This is what all remakes should aspire to be.

4.0 out of 4.0 stars.

Movie Reviews: “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1956)


Starring Kevin McCarthy & Dana Wynter.

They want you to go to sleep. The alien pods slowly transform into you, disintegrating your old body, as you dream into death. The new body wakes up emotionless and carries on, wanting to transform the others. Dr. Bennell discovers this in his small community of Santa Mira, CA. He flees with Becky, his life long love. What will happen to that love if one, or both of them is taken? They must stay awake. They must fight it, but who can they trust?

“Invasion of the Body Snatchers” is my favorite sci-fi horror film from the 1950’s. The story is like a curtain being slowly pulled back until the realization is made that these things are for real and they want to take over. It’s an intense film filled with a multitude of emotions. Fear, sadness, love, hate. All the things that make us who we are, and are all about to be taken away.

McCarthy is awesome in the lead. First as the mild mannered, suave Dr. Bennell, and later on, a frantic man fighting for his life, and humanity itself. Some of the final scenes where he is chasing down cars on the highway yelling & pleading for help “They’re coming! You’re next!” are fantastic and iconic!

There’s one scene in the final act of the film that may be the single most chilling shot in all of cinema. I won’t spoil it though. You’ll know it when you see it!

“Invasion” has been remade 3 times now. None of the remakes top the original. They just can’t. However, one of them, the 1978 remake is fantastic and may be as good as the original in its own way. I plan on reviewing that next. If you haven’t seen this 1956 version, then make it the priority over all the other “Invasion” remakes. It’s a classic American film.

4.0 out of 4.0 stars.

Movie Reviews: “Sinister” (2012)


Written & Directed by Scott Derrickson.
Starring Ethan Hawk.

(Note: I wrote this review while the film was still in theaters)

Ellison Oswalt is a one hit wonder true crime author. Its been 10 years since his last popular novel and Ellison is starving for another shot at fame. He moves his family into the house where a brutal murder took place so that he can fully research his latest (and hopefully greatest) next book. While putting things away in the new attic, Ellison discovers a box containing several reels of 8mm film and a projector to play them on. Where did the box come from and whats on the film? The answers lead Ellison and his family down a horrifying path.

I enjoyed this! “Sinister” doesn’t mess around. It’s as interesting as it is morbid. There’s no bad CGI or hokey acting in this film to distract from the spookiness. Its a good original horror film. Its also nice to see Ethan Hawk in a bigger budget film again. Welcome back!

Scott Derrickson also directed the successful “Exorcism of Emily Rose.” I think I like “Sinister” a little better. Its shot dark, and practical, and the acting is much better than we’re used to in a film like this. How refreshing it was to see a new horror film in the theater and not be disappointed. Could I call it this year’s “Insidious”? Perhaps, but it’s got a very different feel. I’d like to go see it a few more times to decide if my positive vibes aren’t just based off the fact that I wasn’t disappointed. How sad is that? The state of horror has really gone downhill and for a long time. If more films like “Sinister” come out, then perhaps that trend will change. I hope it does well at the box office.

3.0 out of 4.0 stars.

Movie Reviews: “The Master” (2012)


Written & Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.
Starring Joaquin Phoenix & Philip Seymour Hoffman.

“The Master” follows Freddie Quell, a scoundrel, and the result of brutal military service in WW2. He is lost, alone, and while in a drunken fit, finds himself stumbling onto the boat of one Lancaster Dodd, The Master. Lancaster is an author, a leader and a visionary. He takes the broken Freddie under his wing, studies him, loves him, with hopes to reform him, and document it against the naysayers of his work. What results is a gripping, and emotionally dark film.

Writer/Director PTA, has made some of my favorite films including “There Will Be Blood”, “Magnolia”, “Boogie Nights”, & “Punch-Dunk Love.” He works with great actors and knows how to get the very best performances out of them. This film is a shining example of that statement. To watch “The Master” is to be hypnotized by the world it visits upon you. In small moments we can relate to the characters, but mostly they are bizarre strangers that we gaze upon as if attending a carnival. Its raw barbaric emotion can be uncomfortable, but always remains compelling.

I feel like “The Master” is an instant classic, and a clinic on filmmaking. It doesn’t insult the viewers intelligence by filling in all the gaps. It challenges you to understand its motivations and message.

4.0 out of 4.0 stars.