October Horrorshow: Night’s End

It’s tough watching a movie lose it in the final act. Whereas a film that shows little promise at the start, but then builds and builds to something special at the end, is always a pleasant surprise, a film that stumbles to the finish after a strong start can’t help but be a disappointment. Much hard work, good acting, and fine storytelling is, if not wasted by a poor ending, at least squandered somewhat. I can’t say that Jennifer Reeder and company should have just packed it all in if this was the best ending they could come up with, but I would like to see what they could have done given another chance, and maybe a couple extra bucks in the effects budget. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Night’s End”

October Horrorshow: The Funeral Home, aka La Funeria

Have you, dear reader, ever thought about why it is a good thing that human beings are not immortal? Or, at least, that we don’t just plod along until some grievous injury does us in? From a personal perspective, the shortness of our lifespans in relation to the age of the universe is tragic, but from a cultural perspective the situation is ideal. Because all that is old becomes new again in much less time than it takes to turn over the entire human population. So, even though haunted house films have been made countless times, and have reused countless tropes and clichés, horror fans can still get a kick out of a new entry. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: The Funeral Home, aka La Funeria”

October Horrorshow: Mara

Sleep paralysis is a real condition that up to half of the people on Earth suffer at least once in their lives. Wikipedia describes it as, “…a state, during waking up or falling asleep, in which a person is aware but unable to move or speak.” That’s creepy enough as it is, but sleep paralysis can also be accompanied by hallucinations, which the sufferer may interpret as supernatural. Again, from the Wikipedia article on sleep paralysis:

 

Sleep paralysis may include hypnagogic hallucinations, such as a supernatural creature suffocating or terrifying the individual, accompanied by a feeling of pressure on one’s chest and difficulty breathing. Another example of a hallucination involves a menacing shadowy figure entering one’s room or lurking outside one’s window, while the subject is paralyzed.

My sympathy goes out to those who have gone through this, but that is great fodder for a horror flick. I’m surprised there haven’t been more. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Mara”

Attack of the Franchise Sequels: The Amityville Curse

We’ve seen a lot of franchise horror flicks here at Missile Test. We’ve seen horror franchises go from good to bad, as they are wont to do. We’ve seen creativity turn to shameless cash-grabbery, but we’ve never seen a horror franchise treated as poorly by its stewards as the Amityville franchise. Perhaps that’s because it has been through so many different hands. From George Lutz, to Samuel Z. Arkoff, to Dino De Laurentiis, to NBC, Image Organization and Vidmark, Amityville has always been in the hands of people who were just looking to make a quick buck. No thought has ever been given to continuity, and ongoing disputes with Lutz meant the word ‘Horror’ has only been in the original film’s title, and its 2005 remake. With this fifth movie the producers decided to go direct-to-video, acknowledging that there isn’t much else to offer viewers other than crap. Continue readingAttack of the Franchise Sequels: The Amityville Curse”

Attack of the Franchise Sequels: Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes

Oh, woe is this horror franchise. First in the hands of Samuel Z. Arkoff and American International Pictures, then picked up, with a trademark dispute, by Dino De Laurentiis and his company, and now, for this fourth film, into the grasp of American network television. Has any other iconic horror franchise been treated so poorly? I can’t think of one.

Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes, from 1989, is, believe it or not, not the worst horror film I’ve ever seen. But, it’s from the time before the internet age, when network television movies were a special kind of anti-art, purposefully devoid of most sharp edges. Yes, this was the era of television movies that brought us Roots, but there was a definite ceiling to the quality of a TV movie. Film critic Leonard Maltin, in his gigantic movie guide books, would not award stars to television movies, instead rating them as ‘below average,’ ‘average,’ or ‘above average.’ That makes sense. The difference in quality between television and film in the heyday of Maltin’s books was a vast gulf compared to today. This particular television movie I would rate as average. Had it been intended for cinema, I would rate it a ‘bomb.’ Continue readingAttack of the Franchise Sequels: Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes”

Attack of the Franchise Sequels: Amityville II: The Possession

The Amityville Horror was a surprisingly competent horror flick from American International Pictures and Samuel Z. Arkoff, names not often covered in glory, except in the land of shitty movies. It made a pile of money, recouping about twenty times its budget at the box office. With a hot property like that, it’s no surprise there was a sequel. This time, however, it wasn’t Arkoff and company that were set to reap some of that sweet Amityville cash. Like a hyena scavenging a kill after the lions have had their fill, it was Dino De Laurentiis and his people who crept up to make Amityville II: The Possession. Things didn’t work out quite as well for Dino, as the production began with a rights dispute. That’s why this film is called Amityville II and not The Amityville Horror II. It also wasn’t the cash cow that De Laurentiis wanted. It’s still an Amityville flick, though. It was even filmed at the same house in New Jersey as the first film. Continue readingAttack of the Franchise Sequels: Amityville II: The Possession”

October Horrorshow: The Amityville Horror (1979)

Early on the morning of November 13, 1974, at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, NY, Ronald DeFeo Jr. murdered his family — both parents and four siblings — as they slept in their beds. He shot them all with a lever action rifle. A year later DeFeo went to trial for the crime, and his attorneys chose to use an insanity defense. It didn’t work, DeFeo was convicted, was sentenced to six life sentences, and finally died in prison this past March.

Some strange aspects of the murders entered the cultural zeitgeist of the era. For one, all the victims were found in their beds, and that’s also where they died. DeFeo walked through his house, shot six people, and none of them were awakened or alerted by the shots. Evidence suggests DeFeo drugged his family beforehand, but that didn’t stop people from wondering why his victims appeared so docile. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: The Amityville Horror (1979)”

October Horrorshow: Insidious: Chapter 3

Leigh Whannell has had one of the most impressive runs in horror films so far this century. He’s responsible, with James Wan, for the Saw and Insidious franchises, and has even managed to amass over thirty acting credits. Insidious: Chapter 3, from 2015, is his first time in the director’s chair. A prequel to the first two Insidious films, the film doesn’t feature the Lambert family this time around, but Lin Shaye, Angus Sampson, and Whannell all reprise the characters they played. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Insidious: Chapter 3″

October Horrorshow: Girl on the Third Floor

Haunted house flicks are often very formulaic. A family, or a couple, or just an individual, moves into a home they’ve purchased, and not long afterwards, strange things begin to occur. These ghostly tricks and shenanigans are harmless at first — basic funhouse trickery. As the movie goes on, the disturbances become stronger and have more effect, leading to denouement in the final act. It’s a formula that has worked for decades, from The Haunting to The Conjuring. But, the formula can get stale, especially when there are piles of bad movies that utilize it. Girl on the Third Floor, the 2019 film from screenwriter Trent Haaga and director Travis Stevens, starts out as if it will adhere to the formula, then veers into something that, while totally unique, displayed a substantial amount of originality. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Girl on the Third Floor”

October Horrorshow: Ghosts of War

What a disappointing mess. There are a bunch of solid ideas in Ghosts of War, the new horror flick from writer/director Eric Bress. It’s the execution that is lacking.

The film takes place during World War Two, after the Allies have invaded France. A squad of paratroopers, led by Chris (Brenton Thwaites), is assigned to guard a French chateau that had been used by the Nazis. On the short journey to the chateau, we meet the other members of the squad. They are boilerplate WW2 movie characters. There’s the tough guy, Butchie (Alan Ritchson); the smart guy, Eugene (Skylar Astin), the tough from the city, Kirk (Theo Rossi), and the soft-spoken but lethal southerner, Tappert (Kyle Gallner). Accents and attitudes are used to establish their war flick bona fides, and then viewers see them committing a few war crimes before they arrive at the chateau. War is hell, right? Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Ghosts of War”