SON of HALLOWEEN HORROR MOVIE CHALLENGE [13-18]

DAY OF THE DEAD

Though it has its share of fans, Day of the Dead is generally considered the weakest of Romero’s original Dead trilogy. One good thing I can say about it is that the zombie effects are fantastic. Once again they’re handled by the great Tom Savini (perhaps with an assist by future makeup guru Greg Nicotero, who also has a minor onscreen role), but they’re leaps and bounds above anything seen seven years prior in Dawn of the Dead, and they really steal the show. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much the only reason to see this one. Chief among the movie’s problems is its severe lack of likable characters; though we’re given a few to root for, they’re not nearly as interesting as the group from Dawn. Conversely, the rest of the characters are so severely unlikable, that even their gory comeuppance doesn’t make up for the time we had to spend with them. This is one of those humans vs humans scenarios (which The Walking Dead, among others, would take a cue from) where the zombies are practically an afterthought. In fact, the entire first half of the film is basically one long dialogue or argument scene after the next. Though the final 20 minutes bring some much needed mayhem, it’s too little, too late.  2.5/5

HELLRAISER

For a movie that’s now over 25 years old, Hellraiser is still one of the most fucked up flicks the horror genre has to offer. Even if parts of it may seem relatively dated by today’s standards (the cheap electrocution effects toward the end come to mind), the central story is so bizarre and twisted, you really start to wonder about writer/director Clive Barker’s mental health. Although “Pinhead” would become the de facto mascot of the series once it fell into other hands, he’s strictly a supporting character here, and doesn’t even appear until the film’s second half. Though the following year’s Hellbound: Hellraiser II offered a relatively solid continuation, it was all downhill from there, and Pinhead would become a run-of-the-mill slasher villain by Hellraiser III. Still, this one holds up well.  4/5

V/H/S 2

V/H/S 2 is a minor improvement, with a better batting average among the several shorts, and a more manageable 95-minute runtime. Wisely, it also gets the weakest of the bunch out of the way first, a rather stale story where a guy’s bionic eye implant suddenly has him seeing ghosts in his apartment. Far more original is the next short, where a guy decides to go for a bike ride with a camera mounted on his helmet, gets bitten by a zombie, and then we witness in first-person as he slowly turns and begins attacking other people, including the guests at a child’s birthday party. The centerpiece, however, is “Safe Haven,” a 45-minute doozy that takes its time but progressively gets creepier and more fucked up, before everything just goes batshit insane. Them Asians be crazy! Like its predecessor, V/H/S 2  also has a rather weak wraparound story that’s mainly used as a way of introducing each of these segments, which I could care less about.  2.5/5

I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE 2

I Spit On Your Grave 2 is, surprise surprise, pretty much the first movie done again, with a different (but similar) twenty-something woman being terrorized by a different (but similar) group of sleazebags. If there is a significant change, it’s the European setting, though how these guys managed to smuggle this chick from New York to Bulgaria – in record time no less – is beyond me. In the first movie, the heroine suddenly turning into Jigsaw and rigging all sorts of elaborate death traps for her tormentors might have been a little ridiculous, but it did provide some entertainment value. Unfortunately that’s downplayed a little this time; while everyone meets their demise in different ways, they’re all fairly uncreative. There’s also a weak subplot involving a cop slowly figuring out what’s going on, but we’d be hard pressed to give a shit.  1/5

POLTERGEIST

To think of all the haunted house movies to come out over the years, none have nailed it the way Poltergeist did. The movie benefits from the awkward combination of producer/co-writer Steven Spielberg and director Tobe Hooper, who reportedly had an uneasy relationship during the shoot (Spielberg is rumored to have directed several sequences himself). But the results were worth it, as the film combines the wide-eyed fantastical elements Spielberg is known for, with plenty of white-knuckle horror. Of course, it’s not entirely adverse to some cliches, such as the family stupidly staying in the house even after they get the daughter back. But the movie is endlessly creative, throwing new things up at the screen right until the very end.  4.5/5

SLEEPAWAY CAMP

This one cracked me up. The acting is across the board awful, the direction and editing are awkward at times, and the twist at the end is fucking bonkers. Oddly enough, it’s one of the few summer camp-themed slasher flicks that actually has kids in it, rather than just the counselors (though they’re not seen much). You pretty much know who the killer is the whole time, although the aforementioned twist certainly puts a spin on things. The death scenes though, are few and far between, and seem to get lazier and more routine as the movie progresses. Most hilarious of all, the movie just suddenly ends, right when you think it’s heading towards some sort of climax. It’s as if they counted on making another one right after this, but it ended up taking several years before a Sleepaway Camp II would arrive.  2/5

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