Archive for the ‘horror’ Category

Book Review of Stephen King’s ‘The Outsider’: Aptly Titled

May 18, 2018

outsider

Stephen King’s latest horror work, The Outsider (Scribner, due May 22), is a departure from his oeuvre in several ways, notably in its devotion to today’s popular police procedural dramas. For awhile, King’s 561-page 60th novel is King-sized CSI.

As such, it focuses on analyzing two hellish crimes in which the obvious suspect somehow was in two places at the same time — courtesy of a supernatural being whose pursuit by good-guy lawmen detours the book’s second half into a more eventful cat-and-mouse chase.

The Outsider also is a departure because it’s largely set in Texas and Oklahoma — not exactly King country, unless you count 11/22/63.

King knows Maine, but he doesn’t know Texas, where I’ve lived most of my life (and even in Oklahoma for nearly five years). In fact, I can say with vehement certainty that Stephen don’t know Jack when it comes to either state — nor do his editors, apparently.

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DVD Review of MST3K The Singles Collection: It Lives!

May 15, 2018

MST3K Singlesx

Egad! With Eegah and others back, it’s not the end of the line for new DVD box sets of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Shout! Factory’s May 22 debut of The Singles Collection brings back six out-of-print titles first issued only as single discs during Rhino’s run releasing the show.

And not only that, but the discs sport lots of juicy new extras, including the mini-documentaries we’ve grown to love with great thanks to writer-director Daniel Griffith and his Ballyhoo productions.

No theme? No problem. The six titles are: The Crawling Hand (1963, Episode 106); The Hellcats (1968, Episode 209); Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964, Episode 321); Eegah (1962, Episode 506); I Accuse My Parents (1944, Episode 507); and Shorts Volume 3 (collecting seven shorts from various MST episodes — two with Joel, five with Mike). (Remarkably, all six discs are neatly packaged in a plastic case the same size as the single-disc cases in which they first came individually.)

As for those extras, besides trailers they include some real goodies:

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‘The Vampire Bat’: ‘Horror’ Oldie is Back

April 17, 2017

Vampire Bat

Whatever happened to Fay Wray? Just before making a monkey out of the big ape of 1933’s original King Kong (“It was beauty killed the beast”) she made goo-goo eyes with a young Melvyn Douglas in a more appropriate same-species romance for the same year’s The Vampire Bat, getting a new Blu-ray and DVD Special Edition Tuesday, April 25.

In fact, romance and a steady dose of humor gets this creaky “horror” show off the hook for being a creature of its time, with horror simply subtly suggested, while gruesome gore is still decades away for the big screen.

That’s not to say The Vampire Bat lacks creepiness and atmospheric dread, which are its main genre strengths. It’s also reliably familiar, serving a tale of a bubbly mad-scientist lab, a fragile damsel in distress, a stalwart hero and panicky villagers, all in 1930s Germany.

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‘Horror Hunters’ Debuts Wednesday

October 24, 2016

horror-hunters

So cool! Netflix and Amazon have company in the realm of original TV programming for non-cable outlets. Shout! Factory TV’s unscripted series Horror Hunters debuts Wednesday, Oct. 26 in a live stream at 8 p.m. CST, 6 p.m. PST, then encores at 11 p.m. CST, 9 p.m. PST. Video on demand viewing starts Friday, Oct. 28 on Shout! Factory TV.

The show is from and for fans of horror entertainment, as hosts Adam Rockoff and Aaron Christensen explore notable collections of horror memorabilia. They’ll also try swapping items from their own collections for unique items they find.

The pilot show has them meeting Phil Meenan, a major Frankenstein collector, then horror blogger Jon Kitley.

After episodes, watchers can offer feedback and enter to win a Blu-ray prize package from Scream Factory. During screenings, conversations can be entered with the hashtag #HorrorHunters. Also note the purveyors’ Twitter handles of : @Scream_Factory and @ShoutFactoryTV.

I happen to know a mega-collector of horror memorabilia myself, and his house is my favorite place to visit — like walking into a horror museum lined with classic one-sheets, lobby cards and so much more. Thus, I know how frightfully fun this show can be. Count me in!

— Bruce Westbrook

Review: ‘Carrie’ 40th Anniversary Edition

October 4, 2016

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If you, like me, are a fan of Stephen King, you should have a special place in your heart for Carrie, his first published novel (in 1974), which became the first film based on his now voluminous work (in 1976) and even a musical and a movie remake.

But Carrie is special beyond its firsts. The tale of a sweet girl whose religious zealot mother and cruel classmates push her to use her destructive telekinetic powers to the max, it’s simply a great King yarn, and it’s fascinating to explore how it changed, while keeping the same central characters and spirit, in director Brian De Palma’s film version.

You can do this by picking up Scream Factory’s new two-disc Blu-ray “Collector’s Edition” for the film’s 40th anniversary year, due Oct. 11. Along with a new 4K scan of the film’s original negative, it’s got loads of extras for dissecting and probing the production, some of which are repeats (trailers, TV spots, radio spots, still gallery, etc.) and some of which are new.

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Blu-ray review: ‘The Terror’

May 30, 2016

The Terror

If 1963’s The Terror had been on Mystery Science Theater 3000, the show’s movie-mockers would have wryly chimed “The terror!” during its many slow, meandering stretches punctuated by slight frights at best.

But though misnamed and mismanaged (the script is a mess), this nostalgic cheapie from Roger Corman and American International Pictures is satisfying in many ways — especially now, with a beautiful restoration by The Film Detective for reissue May 31 on Blu-ray.

For one thing, it shows where the great Boris Karloff’s career wound down and where the great Jack Nicholson’s career started out.

Horror great Karloff was 76 and ailing, yet gave a robust performance as Baron Von Leppe, a recluse wearing Hugh Hefner-worthy house robes while living in a huge seaside castle with only his servant (Roger Corman stalwart Dick Miller) in early 18th century France. Enter wandering soldier Andre (Nicholson — looking so young!), who seeks an elusive, mysterious, cleavage-brandishing woman he briefly encountered on the craggy, cliff-ringed beach over which the castle looms.

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Blu-ray Review ‘Rue Morgue/Dunwich Horror’: Poe Meets Lovecraft

March 27, 2016

Rue Morgue

I love the double-feature concept of March 29’s Scream Factory (from Shout! Factory) Blu-ray disc with 1970’s The Dunwich Horror and 1971’s Murders in the Rue Morgue. What’s not to love about pairing dark, twisted authors H.P. Lovecraft (Dunwich) and Edgar Allan Poe (Rue Morgue)?

But in execution, the two films, which weren’t related in their original releases, fall short.

In part that’s because both were based on short stories expanded into movies, for which 1841’s Rue Morgue was wildly changed, morphing into less of a detective story and more of a Phantom of the Opera yarn, with a masked murderer haunting a Paris theater. As for 1928’s Dunwich, it loses Lovecraft’s brooding ’20s tableau in favor of a sunny setting in then-current day 1970.

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Blu-ray Review ‘The Outing’: A Fright at the Museum

July 8, 2015

OutingWhen The Outing — then called The Lamp — was filmed in Houston in 1987, I covered the production as an entertainment writer for the Houston Chronicle. Unlike RoboCop 2 or The Evening Star, it was a homegrown effort, written and produced by Warren Chaney and starring his wife, Deborah Winters, who both still live here.

The production company was Fred Kuehnert’s H.I.T. Films — though the name did not prove prophetic. The Outing had meager theatrical distribution.

After minimal home video exposure over the years, The Outing comes to Blu-ray courtesy of Shout! Factory on Tuesday, July 14, topping a double bill with 1980 chiller The Godsend.

This is not the full-length 105-minute cut often cited for director Tom Daley’s The Lamp, but rather an 89-minute version, and the disc sports no extras. But sometimes the movie is enough, and The Outing, given its low-budget parameters, is a surprisingly effective horror romp with a cast that largely sells the premise, despite its shaky foundation.

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‘Evil Dead’ DVD review: Gory, yet not as groovy

July 14, 2013

Evil Dead One of my favorite movie remakes of all time is 1987’s Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn, a film which was no sequel but a pumped-up new spin on the ultra-low-budget The Evil Dead of 1981. It’s a favorite because, as a remake, it actually improved on the original. And in what ways? It made the bizarre horror-show lunacy at a tiny, remote cabin even more vivid — and even more funny.

That’s right, funny. Star Bruce Campbell and director and co-writer Sam Raimi are big Three Stooges fans, so they slipped twisted slapstick into their tale of giddy gore, as demonic forces at a remote cabin assailed a group of young people, including Ash, played by Campbell.

Cut to 26 years later, long after 1992’s Army of Darkness (a true sequel) made the series a trilogy, and we find what’s essentially the second remake of The Evil Dead, this time called simply Evil Dead. (It’s due on Blu-ray and DVD Tuesday from Sony.)

Should we be worried our beloved little franchise will be trashed? Well, this reboot is produced by Raimi, Campbell and Rob Tapert (a producer of the originals), so that bodes well. (more…)

DVD review ‘Trailers From Hell Volume 2!’: Not so hellish

July 4, 2011

I didn’t see the first volume of Trailers From Hell, so I can’t comment from that perspective, but I can say that seeing the second volume makes me wonder: How in hell did they come up with this title? I realize these little featurette commentaries first were made for a Web-based series, but that doesn’t change my perplexity.

First, the trailers, when shown, aren’t that bad, so why are they “from hell”? Second, the movies themselves aren’t necessarily bad, either. In fact, some are glowingly extolled by the guest commentators, who include such luminaries as Joe Dante and Guillermo Del Toro.

The 20 trailer commentaries zero in on such hoary horror, sci fi, monster and exploitation features as Gorgo and Premature Burial — cheap but fun stuff. And as noted, the filmmakers who comment are on board with gusto. Though critical when needed, they don’t see anything about these movies or their trailers which makes them slag-heap-worthy or “from hell.”

Oh well — it’s only a title. Just as these are only trailers. If you liked the first batch, chances are you’ll enjoy this one, as I did.

And by some chance if you can’t get enough of Roger Corman’s original Little Shop of Horrors (Nicholson or no Nicholson, gimme the musical any day), know that it’s presented here in “anamorphic widescreen!”

Come to think of it, maybe that “from hell” monicker fits after all.