October 31st, 2014

SILENT PREDATORS (1999) ** ½

Harry Hamlin stars as the new fire chief in town. Before he can even get into uniform; people starting dying from rattlesnake bites. These aren’t just any rattlesnakes though. These are the super-venomous mutated kind that kills its victim seconds after biting them. Of course, asshole real estate magnate Jack Scalia refuses to believe that the snakes are loose in his brand new housing development and makes it hard for Hamlin to warn the townsfolk.

Silent Predators is a moderately entertaining made for TV horror flick co-written by none other than John Carpenter. It was directed by Noel Nosseck (who also did another 31 Days of Horror-Ween flick, Nightscream) who keeps the flick chugging along. Hamlin, doing his best Chief Brody impersonation, anchors the film and keeps you watching, even when the clichés start piling up.

Like any Killer Snake Movie, there are lots of shots from the Rattlesnake POV Cam during the stalking scenes. Alas, most of these scenes are pretty tame (this was a made for TV movie after all), but it certainly has its moments. The scene where the snakes cause havoc at a Little League game is kinda cool, and the bit where a snake menaces a woman on her exercise bike is good for a laugh too.

Also, as an aside, I’m not sure why it’s called “Silent” Predators since the snakes all have rattles. Other than that, I sort of dug it. It’s a lot better than something you’d see on SYFY, that’s for sure.

Well folks, this is the final 31 Days of Horror-Ween flick for the month. Once again I apologize for not meeting my usual quota or horror movies, but I’ve had a hectic month. Next month, I’m not going to make any concrete movie-watching palooza plans, although I can say that the It Came from the Thrift Store column will return with John Frankenheimer’s 52 Pick-Up.

LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN (1973) **

Carol (Florinda Bolkan) has intense dreams of engaging in a lesbian affair with her sexy neighbor Julia (Anita Strindberg). Sometimes the dreams turn violent and end with Carol stabbing Julia to death. After Julia is found murdered, it doesn’t take long before Carol becomes a suspect.

Directed by Lucio (Zombie) Fulci, Lizard in a Woman’s Skin is a psychedelic Italian giallo that has a couple of cool moments of swinging ‘70s debauchery. Fulci also delivers a few trippy dream sequences that are quite striking (like Bolkan running through a train full of naked passengers) and the snazzy score by Ennio Morricone helps to heighten the surreal sense of depravity in these scenes. Once the police procedural aspects of the film take precedence over exploring Carol’s fragile mental state, the whole thing pretty much shits the bed. The scenes of the whistling inspector conducting his investigating are frankly, dull, and are shot with none of the pizazz found elsewhere in the picture.

There is one hilarious stalking scene late in the game where the motorcycle helmet-wearing killer chases Bolkan through a church. She somehow keeps finding new and stupid ways to clue the killer where she’s hiding to needlessly draw out the suspense. First she leans on the church organ, then she stumbles into the furniture, and finally she winds up inadvertently getting attacked by bats in the belfry. (Fulci clearly apes Hitchcock’s The Birds in this scene.) While that sequence is good for a laugh or two, the rest of the climax is long-winded, talky, and unsatisfying.

AKA: Schizoid. AKA: Carole.

FRIGHT NIGHT 2 (1989) ** ½

Fright Night was one of the best horror films of the ‘80s. This sequel never attains those lofty heights. However, it remains an enjoyable little vampire flick.

Charlie (William Ragsdale) has spent the three years after the events in Fright Night in therapy telling himself vampires don’t exist. One night, he is visited by a sexy woman named Regine (Julie Carmen) who bites him and slowly tries to turn him into a vampire. As it turns out, Regine is actually the sister of vampire he slayed in the first movie. Charlie doesn’t want to believe it, but the fearless vampire killer Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall) is more than game to bring her down (especially once she takes over his TV show).

Director Tommy Lee (Halloween 3) Wallace and cinematographer Mark (The Fly) Irwin evoke the style of the first film. Although the flick feels like it belongs in the same universe, the humor is a lot more on-the-nose this time out and it lacks the panache of the original. The bowling alley scene in particular, while fairly amusing in its own right, is a good example of how it goes for cheap laughs and silly song cues instead of allowing the humor to come from the situations and characters.

Like most sequels, it operates under the assumption that more is better. Instead of having one familiar like in the first film, Regine has an entire entourage. There’s a roller skating vampire (Russell Clark), a werewolf (Jon Gries), and a bug-eating musclebound chauffeur (Brian Thompson). I’m not saying that they don’t have their moments, but they feel shoehorned into the picture at times.

Fright Night 2 is also guilty of spinning its wheels too much. There’s a lot of rigmarole involving Charlie trying to find a “rational explanation” for all the supernatural acts that has a tendency to bog things down. Although the middle section of the flick is draggy, there’s an interesting reversal of the first film at one point when Peter believes in vampires and Charlie doesn’t.

The reason it works as well as it does is because of the chemistry between Ragsdale and McDowall. Just seeing them together again makes up for a lot of the film’s shortcomings. Carmen is serviceable enough as Regine, although she never really dominates the screen the way Chris Sarandon did. Thompson and Gries have a couple of good moments though and keep you watching whenever things slow down.

The gore is pretty decent too. There’s a juicy exploding throat scene, maggots emerging from a guy’s guts, and a nifty face melting sequence. It’s not enough to make or break the movie, but it gives it a little bit of a kick. No matter what its faults, it’s still better than either the Fright Night remake or the sequel to the remake.