October 6th, 2014

NIGHTSCREAM (1997) **

(Hey guys and ghouls! I was out of town this weekend, so I didn't get to post any reviews for my Bargain-Bin-Horror-Movie-A-Day-Palooza. Time to play a little catch-up...)

Drew (Candace Cameron Bure, who also co-produced) wanders into a small Oregon town in a trance saying she’s a girl named Laura. The problem is; Laura’s been dead for exactly a year. Drew then snaps out of it and wonders what she’s doing there. So does the rest of the town. Is she possessed by her dead doppelganger? Or is she faking it to cast suspicion away from the real killer? Or is it a bit of both?

Nightscream is another Made for TV thriller masquerading as a horror movie (at least on this collection of bargain bin horror flicks). It’s cheesy, obvious, and more than a little dumb. Since I grew up with a major crush on Candace Cameron Bure, it was totally watchable. I mean, how can any fan of Full House not want to see her playing a dual role and running around in a nightgown during blue-tinted dream sequences.

Of course, “watchable” isn’t the same thing as “good”. The movie plays its cards way too soon and a lot of Bure’s “visions” get to be a bit much. The plotting especially gets contrived near the end, although the fake Chris Isaac music that plays over the final shot did make me laugh.

Casper Van Dien is on hand as the bad boy killer with hidden motives. Teri Garr also gets some good moments as Laura’s grieving mother. But it’s Candace Cameron Bure who gets the best line of the movie when she says, “Either I’m totally insane or I’m possessed by a ghost. Neither choice thrills me!”

Tomorrow’s Bargain Bin Horror Movie: Live! From Death Row.

LIVE! FROM DEATH ROW (1992) **

Joanna Cassidy stars as a bitchy news reporter who is doing a live television interview with Bruce Davison, a convicted murderer who is minutes away from being executed. During the interview, he subdues the prison guards and takes Cassidy and her camera crew hostage. Davison takes over the broadcast and shames Cassidy and the guards for their various transgressions over the air. He then sets out to perform an execution on live TV for an audience of millions.

Live! From Death Row plays like a watered down, feature length, Made for TV version of the third act of Natural Born Killers. I guess it’s not the worst idea in the world, but the drama isn’t exactly involving. Also, all the points the movie makes about the evils of sensational tabloid journalism and the death penalty are done in a very heavy-handed manner. The scenes of Davison ranting on and on about “the system” gets repetitive after a while too.

Although Bruce Davison is miscast, he does a fine job as the soft spoken killer. If only the material gave his something worthy of his talents to do. Cassidy is usually pretty good, but she can’t do much with her one-dimensional character. Michael D. Roberts (from Ice Pirates) and Kathleen Wilhoite (from Road House) have some good moments as the other prisoners in Davison’s cellblock, although their roles are flat and underwritten.

Tomorrow’s Bargain Bin Horror Movie: Another Kind.

ANOTHER KIND (2011) * ½

Four friends go out snowshoeing in the middle of winter in the frigid Catskill Mountains. They spend their days endlessly walking through the woods and their nights arguing around the campfire. One night, they see some strange lights in the distance, but dismiss it. Eventually, they get lost in the woods and one guy winds up comatose with a weird scab on his head. Pretty soon, they realize they are not alone.

Another Kind feels like it should’ve been called The Burr Witch Project as the characters argue and curse at each other a lot in the woods while trying not to freeze to death. There’s also a scene where they are frightened by an unseen force outside their tent, just like in Blair Witch. Thankfully all of this isn’t filmed in the shaky-cam style.

The film never really captured or held my interest, but the big problem with the flick is that the characters get on the audience’s nerves right from the get-go. Because of that, it’s really hard to sympathize or care what happens to them. The scenes of the hikers walking around the woods go on forever and montage of them sledding and shit feels like outtakes from an extreme sports video.

The budget was also way too low to adequately depict the extraterrestrial aspects of the film. Most of the time, the aliens (or whatever they are) are represented by a flashlight, if you can believe it. The ending is especially disappointing and is a long time coming.

Tomorrow’s Bargain Bin Horror Movie: Behind Your Eyes.

JOHN DIES AT THE END (2013) ** ½

John (Rob Mayes) takes a new drug called “Soy Sauce” that gives him heightened senses and the ability to predict the future. His friend David (Chase Williamson) accidentally takes “the sauce” too and is able to communicate with John, even after he dies. John then tries to help David from beyond the grave to help him prevent the end of the world.

Don (Phantasm) Coscarelli is one of my favorite directors, and even his misses are filled with more imagination than most directors’ hits. That certainly sums up John Dies at the End. This is a movie filled to the brim with weird monsters and good ideas, and yet the messy narrative complicates what could’ve been a classic. The scattershot approach hampers the film’s momentum, but there are enough surprising moments to keep you watching.

The cast is pretty good and help to sell the outlandishness of the premise. Williamson has a knack for reacting to the otherworldly stuff in a deadpan manner. He also has a nice chemistry with Paul Giamatti in the wraparound scenes. We also get nice turns by Glynn Turman as a cop, Doug Jones as a guy with an insect, and Clancy Brown as self-help guru too.

Because the film is all over the place, it is equal parts frustrating and entertaining. For every scene that leaves you with a silly grin on his face (like when David and John fight a monster constructed of spare ribs, steaks, and Butterball turkeys), there’s one that just makes you scratch your head (like when the dog starts driving a car). The off the wall dialogue is often very funny though, my favorite line being: “Here’s to all the kisses I’ve snatched and vice versa!”

THE NEW ISSUE OF EXPLOITATION RETROSPECT IS HERE!

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