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A BLOODY BAGFUL OF ECLECTIC HORROR & SUSPENSE

year: 1980 rating: ***
FRIDAY THE 13TH: After so many sequels and a remake, and the fact this is the beginning of one of the biggest, most successful and inspired horror franchises ever, one would expect the original to be an extravagant horror flick...

But FRIDAY THE 13TH is a low-budget exploitation with a cast who, except for a young Kevin Bacon, don't look like actors at all, underlining the realism as each doomed counselor gets picked off by an unseen menace who isn't Jason but Jason's mother, played by Betsy Palmer who, as a human being, adds an important element separating this from the other films...

Sole survivor Adrienne King actually has somewhat of a chance. And after the first hour there are plenty of fantastic Palmer/King cat-fights, and it's during this final act when the suspense builds to one of the scariest finales ever: involving the introduction of (a very young) Jason Vorhees.

year: 1986 rating: ****
HOUSE: No this isn't about a pill-popping, grouchy doctor... And if you missed this in theaters, HOUSE is a fun horror flick you might want to see for yourself...

William Katt is a horror writer with good reason to not only inhabit a haunted house but to stay: even after gardening tools, formidable monsters, and a mounted marlin tries either killing or scaring him off. Katt's son disappeared in the swimming pool years before, and the house might hold the secret of his existence: All coinciding with traumatic Vietnam flashbacks while writing a serious memoir, and visits from scene stealer George Wendt as a pesky but lovable next door neighbor. This extremely underrated comedy/horror is terrific from start to finish. Thanks for b-movie director Steve Minor, the humor is dark enough for rabid horror fans and the horror is never very grotesque or unengaging.

year: 1976 rating: **
GOD TOLD ME TO: The first half... as a dedicated Catholic cop played by FRENCH CONNECTION connector Tony Lo Bianco investigates random public killings... including a bizarre Andy Kaufman cameo as a police officer going berserk at the St. Patrick's Day Parade... and each assassin mutters, GOD TOLD ME TO as their last words... is mysterious and interesting. The last half, as the murders cease and the "God" in question is revealed, is absolutely banal, and yet, as usual, Larry Cohen's camerawork has flowing, artistic grace, but after the good parts even the cool shots are all dressed up with nothing to show.

1995 rating: **1/2
IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS: Decent mindtrip/horror about a insurance investigator, Sam Neill, thrust in a maniacal maze involving a famous writer's books turning the readers into lunatics, including himself.

Seeming at first like a gimmick from the author's promotional department, including stuffy editor Julie Carmen who joins Neill to a small town the author writes about (like Stephen King's Castle Rock). So many strange things happen it's hard to keep up with the "madness", you'll never get bored trying to figure what's real, a nightmare, or both at the same time.

John Carpenter's direction keeps the viewer interested, although the barrage of special effects can get tiresome.

year: 1987 rating: ***
PRINCE OF DARKNESS (HAS MOVED TO A NEW LOCATION IN HADES): This review has moved and is longer and has improved after buying the Blu Ray by Shout Factor with a terrific new cover showing most of the main characters including Alice Cooper's homeless zombie leader... We're keeping the thumbnail pic for internet search purposes but please CLICK HERE to read the new writeup of what's possibly John Carpenter's most personal horror film...

year: 1960 rating: ***1/2
THE LEECH WOMAN: Here's a movie where Coleen Gray, usually cast as the good girl in film noirs such as KISS OF DEATH, NIGHTMARE ALLEY, KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL, and THE KILLING, gets to be evil, desperate and naughty. 

She plays a whiskey-addicted older woman who wants her youth back to keep husband Philip Terry. Her need for booze will shadow, later on when she discovers an African potion that makes her into the bombshell of yesteryear, the need to remain young before turning into a hideous old woman c/o some great prosthetic makeup. And she's a killer to boot: men must die for the potion to work. This classic b-flick is misleading due to the creature-feature title... in actuality, it's a suspenseful ride where Coleen Gray proves her worth: and then some.

1970 rating: *
HORROR OF THE BLOOD MONSTERS: Warning, this is not a real movie... Yes, we realize the title is incredibly awesome, but don't get fooled into this patchwork catastrophe...

After a three minute montage involving vampires running through a city street, segments taken from a Filipino flick "Tangini" are spliced into a weak story of astronauts on a planet who witness scenes from said movie having to do with fanged neanderthals and crab people, cutting back and forth to either John Carradine giving orders from the ship, or, back home, Robert Dix in a control room, and then a bedroom, with Vicki Volante: having futuristic sex without penetration, strapped with electrical charges and wishing for the good old days: Really, really bad stuff, but will make you curious about the other film that makes up most of this one.

year: 1980 rating: **
THE WATCHER IN THE WOODS: Groundbreaking for Disney, this was their leap into the PG-rated horror genre.

Most of the film is a perspective camera aimed at a large house owned by Bette Davis, sold to a family consisting of a husband, wife and two kids. The eldest, real life ice-skater Lynn-Holly Johnson (FOR YOUR EYES ONLY), sees images of a blinded young girl in the mirror, hears voices in the forest, and thus investigates Davis's long lost missing daughter.

What begins as somewhat spooky turns into a mystery-based scavenger hunt as Johnson rounds up elder locals with a connected backstory: gathering clues resulting in a dull, yet happy, conclusion.

1983 rating: ***1/2
NIGHTMARES: A compilation of CREEPSHOW inspired horror tales. The first, TERROR IN TOPANGA, later updated in URBAN LEGEND, is about a woman played by Cristina Rains, who drives around at night while there's a killer on the loose. Very cool, and by now quite familiar, twist ending. Very reminiscent of THE TWILIGHT ZONE in tone and rhythm...

The second story, by far the best, has Emilio Estevez as a video game hustler trying desperately to beat THE BISHOP OF BATTLE... And when he does, he plays the game... for real. Basically TRON in reverse. There is a terrific set-up, getting into the intense brain of Estevez, playing a character bordering on geek and rebel, ultimately paying the price for not being able to choose one in particular.

Lance H.
In our third outing, THE BENEDICTION, Lance Henriksen stars as a faithless priest versus the Devil himself in the form of a black monster truck. A slow build-up has the always engaging Henriksen moping about losing his faith inside a dark church.

But thank God when things rev up when he's out on his own, faithless and alone on the long desert highway, suddenly stalked by a demon-driven vehicle. The best scene involves the hell on wheels rising up from the earth, reminiscent of the Chuck Norris flick LONE WOLF McQUADE if driven by Stephen King's CHRISTINE. 

And the fourth, fitfully titled NIGHT OF THE RAT, is, unintentionally, the funniest, centering on a suburban family with a really big rat problem. That is, there's a giant howling rodent that can't be killed, and it looks so superimposed there's never a sense the formidable antagonist is involved in the same story as the actors and actresses including the always-working Richard Masur, SAVANNAH SMILES starlet Bridgette Andersen and ALIEN screamer Vernonica Cartwright, who all deserved much better than this wannabe Bert I. Gordon sham.
NIGHTMARES dvd autographed by Lance Henriksen
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