Movie Reviews: “Psycho” (1960)

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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)

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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.

Film Reviews: “Chillerama” (2011)

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Directed by Adam Green, Joe Lynch, Adam Rifkin, and Tim Sullivan.
Starring Richard Riehel, Lin Shaye, Adam Rifkin, Ray Wise, Kane Hodder, Joel David Moore, Kaili Thorne, and Corey Jones.

“Chillerama” is an outrageous, perverted, comedic-gorefest and entertaining as hell!

It’s the final night at Cecil B. Kaufman’s drive-in theater, and to bid farewell, he is showing four schlocky midnight movies not to be forgotten. Little does he know that the final performance may be one that he and his audience will star in! The titles of the short films are: “Wadzilla”, “I Was A Teenage Werebear”, “The Diary of Anne Frankenstein”, and “Zom-B-Movie.”

None of the shorts are really “horror” per say. “Chillerama” is not to be taken seriously. It pays homage to the cheesy misunderstood films of the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, and crosses the line a little further. It’s a tribute to underground film buffs, with many of the characters quoting obscure movie lines.

Three of the tales were big hits with me. I didn’t really care so much for “Werebear” but I understood the humor they were going for. It just doesn’t seem to fit with the rest, but doesn’t drag the film down too much.

So if you want to see lots of cheese, sleaze, zombies, Nazis, singing werewolfs, and giant killer sperm, this film is for you!

3.5 out of 4.0 stars.

Film Reviews: “Drácula” (1931)

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“Drácula” is the Spanish-shot version of the classic Universal Bela Lugosi flick. It was made during the same time, on the same schedule, but shot at night. Both films share sets, locations, and equipment, with each having their own unique cast and script.

As a life long fan of the Lugosi version, I can say honestly that the Spanish “Drácula” is the better film. The American “Dracula” is 75 minutes, while “Drácula” is 99 minutes.

“Drácula” is darker, more in depth, more sophisticated, and more dramatic. I thought it was perfect. The highlight of the film for me was Pablo Álvarez Rubio as Renfield. Somebody give this guy an Oscar! He was so entertaining, animated, and interesting.

Carlos Villarías was great as Drácula. He was as effective, if not moreso than Bela Lugosi. He carried the balance of charm and reserve well, against showing his teeth in a menacing growl. He creeped me out more than Bela ever has.

It’s strange to see a film for the first time that feels new and also as if I’ve seen it before. What an experience! “Drácula” is a true gem. I hope that someday it’s as widely recognized as an iconic classic as the American “Dracula” is.

4.0 out of 4.0 stars.

Film Reviews: “Maniac Cop 2” (1990)

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Starring Bruce Campbell and Robert Davi.
Written by Larry Cohen (“It’s Alive 1-3″/ “The Stuff”/ “God Told Me To”)

Bruce Campbell returns as surviving NYPD cop Jack Forrest. Jack thinks that Maniac Cop-Matt Cordel is still alive somewhere. His boss doesn’t believe it and sends Jack to police therapy. Jack attends and sticks to his story. While walking home after the session, Jack stops at a newspaper stand when BLAM a knife shoots out his throat!

18 minutes in and Bruce Campbell is killed off?! WHAT THE HELL!!! What kind of shit is that?! Well, with Jack dead and more bodies turning up, Detective Sean McKinney begins investigating.

The film takes a “Bride of Frankenstein” turn with The Maniac Cop briefly befriending a local nut-job named Turkell. He tells Turkell (psychically?) in a flashback sequence, the story of how he was killed in prison and became a zombie cop. Interesting stuff…

Turkell is reckless and gets himself arrested at a night club, which leads the investigation right to Cordel, or should I say, Cordel right to them!

Overall “Maniac Cop 2” is a step up from the first, with more action, more ridiculousness and an awesome rap song during the closing credits! A fun cheesy movie. I approve.

3.0 out of 4.0 stars.

Film Reviews: “Maniac Cop” (1988)

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Starring Bruce Campbell and Tom Atkins.
Written by Larry Cohen (“It’s Alive 1-3″/ “The Stuff”/ “God Told Me To”)

A girl is walking the streets of New York alone at night. A group of thugs approach and chase her to an empty park. She spots a cop and runs up to him for help. He grabs her by the throat, lifts her up and breaks her neck. The thugs are terrified and run away. Thus we have our killer, the Maniac Cop. Tom Atkins stars as the Lieutenant on the case, while fellow cop Bruce Campbell is wrongly accused of the murders.
They must figure out who the killer is!

This is a fun and sometimes cheesy slasher flick with a body count. It’s an interesting twist to have the public scared of police in general, with no one to turn to or trust.

Tom Atkins is great as the detective. Wish he had done more films like this, “Halloween 3”, and “Night of the Creeps.”

2.5 out of 4.0 stars.

Film Reviews: “Lifeforce” (1985)

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Directed by Tobe Hooper. A team of astronauts in deep space discover an artificial ship-like structure. Inside the structure the astronauts discover 3 perfect bodies encased in coffins. One female, and two males. All look young and healthy, but are they alive or dead? The bodies are taken back to a laboratory on Earth, when the female wakes up, kills several people vampire style, and escapes the facility! It’s Earth vs. The Space Vampires, but way less cheesy. Overall an enjoyable film with really neat effects. Patrick Stewart co-stars.

3.0 out of 4.0 stars.