Jack Frost (1997)


My History With the Film:
My experience with Jack Frost in the 90’s was limited to admiring the awesome lenticular VHS box art. Horror movies really went all out in the 90’s with awesome lenticular covers, and while they looked amazing on the video store shelf, that usually was a sign that the film was absolute garbage.

I’ll admit, I’m picky about my horror comedy and I’m not a fan of the whole “let’s take something wholesome and make it evil” for irony sake. It just comes off too goofy most of the time and I’m not fan of intentionally bad movies. Despite all this, I decided to pick one Christmas horror film from the 90’s to review this year, and Jack Frost is the one I chose. I chose this for a few reasons:

1. It was streaming on Amazon Prime.
2. It has Shannon Elizabeth in it.
3. Mainly because it was streaming on Amazon Prime.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
A freak accident genetically mutates a serial killer with a grudge into a snow man.

What I Liked About It:
-Jack Frost is obviously a low budget film with terrible special effects and acting. However, the cinematography is actually quite good and gives the film way more legitimacy than it deserves.

-I loved the use of classic Christmas songs throughout the score. It was done tastefully and humorously at times. One scene that comes to mind particularly is Shannon Elizabeth’s (13 Ghosts) tease as she slowly unbuttons her shirt to the soft tones of The Twelve Days of Christmas.

What I Didn't Like About It:
-There was no budget for the snow man special effects and for the most part they are portrayed by someone wearing a white snow man arm that looks like it’s made out of fleece.


-I feel like the script started off as a legit horror film and once they realize they didn’t have a budget, they infused comedy into the script in order to shield themselves from any mockery to come. It’s easy to laugh it off and say, “Well it’s not meant to be taken serious” when the film is so absurd.


-Scott MacDonald does the voice of Jack Frost and he seems to be channeling Brad Dourif’s Chucky voice, but a poor man’s version. It’s not good and his one liner’s don’t even come out well.

-The lack of real snow or convincing fake snow hurts the film. They are supposed to be snowed in, but only small patches of snow are around. The fake snow they use for snowballs and the snowmen is so terrible it’s obviously not snow. Also, they started to spray the windows of the cars with that fake frost stuff you see around Christmas time, but as the movie went on they got lazier and lazier about spraying the cars down.

Additional Notes:
-The film was shot in the winter of a drought year, so no real snow existed on the ground. Foam and cotton balls were used to simulate snow.

-One of Shannon Elizabeth’s first acting gigs.

-It was shot in just eighteen days.

-To save money, the film was shot on short ends (left over pieces of film from other projects).

-It was originally slated to be directed by Renny Harlin with a $30 million dollar budget.

-Spawned one sequel: Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman.

Rating:
Jack Frost was more watchable than I thought it would be. Don’t get wrong, it’s absurd and a bad movie, but it’s not so bad its unwatchable the way Lover’s Lane was. I have no interest in seeing the sequel, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a legit killer snowman movie created by someone who can handle the idea and is able to make practical effects work.

I would rate Jack Frost a one and a half out of five and say it skip it, unless you love bad movies.

Krampus Review (2015)


My History With the Film:
When I first heard that a Krampus movie was coming out I was less than enthused. I had heard Kevin Smith discussing his version of a Krampus movie for at least a year before this Krampus film got made, and it just didn’t sound all that great. The plot from what I could tell was: an evil Santa comes down to punish the wicked.

Around August of this year, I finally got around to watching Trick ‘r Treat, a movie I’d owned for years and didn’t watch because I was afraid it had been overhyped and I would be disappointed with the film. I finally gave the movie a shot and it was fantastic. I loved the anthology aspect of the movie and found it be one of the best modern horror films I’d ever seen. I did a quick IMDB search on the director Michael Dougherty and saw that one of his only other directing credits was Krampus. The film immediately went from an “I doubt I’ll ever watch that” to a “Must see.”

I’ve been on the lookout for the film since August, but hadn’t run across it at a great price until I found it at Walmart in a bin of leftover Black Friday DVDs. I picked up Krampus and watched it the following day and enjoyed it quite a bit, although not nearly as much as Trick ‘r Treat.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
A boy loses his holiday spirit and ends up releasing a demon upon his family and town.

What I Liked About It:
-The design of Krampus, the elves, and his assistants were fantastic. Each of them was unique and creepy in their own way.


-I was initially worried about Adam Scott and David Koechner being cast because I didn’t think this film should be a horror-comedy. It isn’t, although it doesn’t take itself serious at all, and that allows for some over-the-top moments that do come off comical. I’m just glad the actors didn’t play it that way. 

-There is a scene done entirely in stop-motion that is so well done I wanted it to last longer. It made for a brilliant break in the story and gave the movie a special look.


-I thought the final scene was brilliant and an excellent way to end the movie.

-The film definitely pays homage to Christmas Vacation and that worked in making the film feel even more like a Christmas movie.

What I Didn't Like About It:
-The film is definitely a horror movie, but it really lacks the tension and gore a quality horror movie needs. I would have love to have seen this film with an R rating. I think it would have gone down as one of the greatest.

-Some of the CGI could have used a little more polish.

-I didn’t buy Max’s remorse towards the end, especially his concern for his cousin.

Additional Notes:
-Krampus is a real part of German/Austrian folklore. He comes to punish children that are bad.

-The “noodle incident” that was mentioned in the film by Max’s mom is most likely a tribute to Calvin and Hobbs who constantly refer to an undefined “noodle incident.”

-The snow was made from the same material that is used to make diapers.

-You can see Sam from Trick ‘r Treat’s lollipop in Max’s page of leftover Halloween candy.

-Almost the entire movie was shot on a soundstage.

Rating:
Krampus was an entertaining film that offers horror fans a new Christmas film to add to their collection. I thought the atmosphere, set, and character design were good, but ultimately the movie fails at channeling the same energy that made Trick ‘r Treat so great. It’s very worthy of a Christmas watch, but I do not see this film making it into my yearly holiday rotation.

I’d say Krampus is a two and a half out of five and a rental.

Gremlins Review (1984)


My History With the Film:
I honestly cannot remember the first time I saw Gremlins. It came out a year after I was born and was one of those movies I think all kids growing in the 80’s saw over-and-over again. Gizmo was the pet we all wanted and the movie offered enough horror and goo to really keep us coming back to watch the film. 

There is a huge debate on whether Gremlins is actually a horror movie or not. I feel like it’s a family movie with horror elements, as strange as that may sound. It has been several years since I last saw Gremlins and upon my most recent viewing right after Thanksgiving, I found myself a little astonished at how graphic the movie really was. I love that films were made in the 80’s without a specific audience in mind, it made for unique movies that don’t feel like they come from the same cookie-cutter factory that most movies come from nowadays.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
A teenage boy is given a unique pet that comes with a strict set of rules that when no obeyed causes the pet to turn into an aggressive monster.

What I Liked About It:
-The animatronics and puppetry are great and Howie Mandell knocks it out of the park as Gizmo’s voice.


-The movie just feels like the 80’s and it’s the perfect mixture of both Steven Spielberg and Joe Dante.

 -The music is iconic for a reason. It’s so well used throughout the film and really sticks with you after watching it.


 -As I mentioned earlier, I love that this film wasn’t sent through a dozen filters to make it the most palatable for all audiences. The film has no problem dipping into some really dark stuff and I’m not just referring to a Gremlin being cooked in a microwave. Kate’s monologue about her father’s death was horrifying.

What I Didn't Like About It:
 -It blew my mind when Gizmo first gets wet and is obviously screaming out in pain as the other Gremlin hatchlings are exploding from his back that neither Billy nor Pete seem to care one bit about Gizmo. It was arguably the most disturbing scene in the whole movie.

-The ending was not the happy ending we all wanted, but it was probably the mature and responsible ending which was most realistic considering what happened.

-The movie is about twenty minutes too long. The original cut was 2 hours and 40 minutes, which I could not imagine sitting through.

Additional Notes:
-The set for Kingston Falls is the same one used in Back to the Future.

-Apparently the studio felt the film featured too many Gremlins, and sent a note to Joe Dante and Steven Spielbeg. Spielberg responded with offering to cut them all out of the movie and retitled it “People.”


-This film, along with Red Dawn, and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom are credited with help creating the PG-13 rating. Gremlins was rated PG, which many felt was too tame, but it wasn't hard enough for an R rating.

-All of the Gremlins were animatronic and cost between $30,000 and $40,000 apiece. They were brought onto the set in trunks and guarded by security to make sure they weren’t stolen.

-It was released the same day as Ghostbusters.

-Originally Stripe was going to be Gizmo as he turned into a Gremlin but Steven Spielberg felt that at least one Gremlin should remain good so that the audiences could relate.

-The original script was much darker included several on-screen deaths including Billy’s mom. There was also a scene where the Gremlins were at McDonalds eating people instead of burgers.

-It was the first movie in years to use the Warner Brother’s shield logo. The logo was restored for the movie and there was an attempt to include the Loony Tunes short “Falling Hare” where Bugs Bunny plays a Gremlin. The Loony Tunes deal didn’t work out but the shield logo was used.

-Mushroom, who played Billy’s dog, was also Lance Henrikson’s dog in Pumpkinhead.

-Gremlins was the fourth highest grossing film of 1984. Ahead of it were:
1. Beverly Hills Cop
2. Ghostbusters
3. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Rating:
Gremlins is a classic. It still looks great and is a fun movie to watch. It features some great voice work and fantastic animatronics, but it does run a little long and has some dry spots in it. I’m attempting to assemble a yearly Christmas watch list and was hoping to add Gremlins to it, but I just don’t see myself watching this film every single year. I think I’ve just seen it too many times in the past.

Everyone should see Gremlins once, and while it isn’t a perfect movie, it’s a fun movie that is well worth your time. I rate it a three out of five and say it’s a high priority rental.

Dracula 2000 Review (2000)


My History With the Film:
Dracula 2000 flew right under my radar. I don’t recall seeing a single trailer for the movie or hearing anything about it. My introduction to the film came in the form of a VHS screener that was sent to the Blockbuster I worked at. Back in the video store days, the film companies would occasionally send movies out early for employees to watch. This helped educate the employees and encouraged them to recommend the films to customers.

I was working when the screener came in, and after seeing Wes Craven’s name on the front cover, I immediately put my name on it. I went home and watched the movie that night and really enjoyed it. It was a modern take on the old Dracula story that seemed to work well for the time it was released.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
A group of thieves unknowingly release Count Dracula, who heads to New Orleans to find the daughter of his arch nemesis Van Helsing.

What I Liked About It:
- The movie oozes with late 90’s cool. It captures the fashion, vibe, and even absurd product placement. Did anyone want to visit a Virgin Records after seeing this?


-Vitamin C can act! So, Vitamin C was a two hit wonder in 1999 whose hit song, The Graduation Song which was a very popular in high schools across the country. Horror films from this era loved to cast hip singers/rappers and this was met with mixed results. Vitamin C is one of the ones that actually worked out well and it’s a shame this role didn’t lead to better opportunities.


-I was shocked a few years ago to see that Dracula was played by the then unknown Gerald Butler. I was pleasantly surprised at how good he was and well he plays the dark, mysterious figure. He was a very effective Dracula, something I couldn’t see him playing in 2017.

-I remember loving the Christian storyline in the film and found it to be a fascinating twist, however, this isn’t nearly as impactful when watching now.


-The casting of this movie was insane. They just cast anyone with any sort of popularity and who was available at the time. You had Jeri Ryan from Star Trek Voyager, the before mentioned Vitamin C, and Danny Masterson from That 70’s Show. The remaining cast Omar Epps, Jennifer Esposito, Christopher Plummer, Nathan Fillion, and Sean Patrick Thomas were all well rounded and fit with in the movie.


-Great late 90’s soundtrack featuring the likes of Disturbed and Linkin Park.

What I Didn’t Like About It:
-Surprisingly, the two actors that just didn’t seem to really fit in this movie were the two leads: Jonny Lee Miller and Justine Waddell. This movie could have used one of those big name TV teen actresses that Dimension Films liked to cast.

-The third act actually bogs the film down. Prior to it, the first two acts come across almost like a Buffy The Vampire Slayer episode without the humor. I think this film works best when Dracula is stalking and not actually around in person.

-The CG is a mixed bag. Some of it is really well done and some of it is not (I’m thinking the scene with Danny Masterson and the smoke on the plane as an example of it not working.)

- I actually forgot that this film was not directed by Wes Craven until my most recent viewing. His name was so heavily advertised that you’ll find this movie on Hulu under the “W”s for Wes Craven Presents: Dracula 2000.

Additional Notes:
-One of the writers Joel Soisson, wrote Trick or Treat, the 80’s heavy metal horror flick.

-The Weinstein’s bought this film just for its title Dracula 2000.


-Two sequels were made: Dracula 2 and Dracula 3 which were both directed by Dracula 2000 director Patrick Lussier.

-Cast members with roles in other notable horror films:
  • Jennifer Esposito (I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, Don’t Say a Word)
  • Omar Epps (Scream 2)
  • Danny Masterson (The Faculty)
Rating:
I was a little intimidated going back in to watch Dracula 2000 here in 2017. The film surprised me though; it didn’t come off too hokey and for the most part is a decent flick. I think the Weinstein’s knew they put together a ho-hum film and that’s why they attached Wes Craven’s name to the box, just to try and give it some credibility.

I like the opening scene and the middle of the movie, but I think the biggest flaw of the film is the lead actress Justine Waddell who is just not sympathetic. As she begins to dominate the screen time towards the end of the flick, I feel the movie stops being as effective and ends much weaker than it began.

I think fans of Dracula who don’t mind something a little different will enjoy this flick. Fans of the late 90’s teen horror (although this is very debatable on whether or not it’s a teen horror film) should also find a few things to enjoy. However, as a film, I’d say this is a two and a half out of five and a low priority rental.

Final Destination 2 Review (2003)


My History With the Film:
Recently, I talked about my fondness for the original Final Destination. I felt like the movie ended well enough and it didn’t need a sequel. Of course, the first movie was successful and it’s a horror movie, so a sequel was green lit and came out three years later. I picked it up on DVD mainly because it had Ali Larter in it. I was/am a fan of her acting and really was interested in seeing where they were going to take her character in another movie. 

Of course, Clear isn’t the main character of the second film, but AJ Cook’s Kimberly Corman is. AJ Cook is another actress I became a fan of because of her early work including Ripper (which will be covered in the future) and Out Cold. I enjoyed AJ’s work as the lead actress and found the movie to be equally as entertaining as the first Final Destination, just in a different way. The tension from the first movie was cut back, and in its place was gore and some humor. In all honesty, it works well. I think the reason this franchise holds up so well is that it takes death seriously, but not itself.

Of course, that’s not to say nothing in the film is scary. In fact, the opening scene may go down as the most terrifying and scarring sequence ever put on film. It’s rare to find someone whose seen it and not been affected by it all these years later. In a way, I feel like it was my generation’s Jaws.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
On the one year anniversary of the Flight 180 tragedy, Death tips its hand to another person who escapes fate with a group of reluctant survivors.

What I Liked About It:
-I know I just touched on it, but it goes without saying, the opening scene is brilliant. It’s well made with practical effects and CGI that works and holds up all these years later. It’s realistic, scary, and creates a phobia of log trucks for anyone who ever sees it.

-AJ Cook (Ripper) was brilliant and I liked how much Clear (Ali Larter) had developed and come out of her shell since the first film. Tony Todd’s (Candyman) cameo was great as well.

-Some of the deaths are taken lightheartedly and I both liked that and hated it. It allowed for the audience to laugh, which was nice, but it also appeared the director didn’t think he could pull off these deaths without resorting to humor, which was different from the first film.

-The other death scenes were great. There wasn’t one that I didn’t enjoy, however, many of them were quite impractical and not scary.

What I Didn’t Like About It:
-The supporting cast was not nearly as strong in this film. In fact, I felt like Kimberly’s friends in her SUV would have been more entertaining to follow than the group of survivors. Michael Landes really felt out of place in this film.

-Devon Sawa’s absence was only made worse by mentioning him and showing off his newspaper clipping.

-The tonal shift of the franchise was something I enjoyed, but also hated. It was nice to laugh at times (especially the final death) but I would have liked to have experience that dread that the first film conjured up in me.

Additional Notes:
-The Stonybrook Sanatorium where Clear resides is the same hospital used in Halloween Resurrection.

-There are lots of references to 180, the flight number from the first film. For example, the accident occurs at mile marker 180 and there is a road work sign that says “180 feet.”

-Devon Sawa was originally scheduled to return as Alex, but a conflict in his contract made production go on without him.

Rating:
Final Destination 2 is a great addition to the Final Destination franchise, even with the humor and tonal shift it brings. It’s not nearly as effective as the first film when it comes to feeling like “This could happen to you” with exception to the opening highway scene which is by far the greatest moment in this entire franchise, and one of the greatest horror moments in general.

I give Final Destination 2 a three out of five and say it’s a high priority rental.

A Tribute to House of Horrors and Horror Speak

It's Halloween and I spent a lot of time trying to decide what review to post today. At one point I thought of posting the only other Halloween movie that fits within my 90’s time frame (Resurrection) but that seems quite anticlimactic. I started putting together a review of all the various one off specials and Halloween episodes that I watched this year, but ultimately decided against that too. I was ready to press ahead and just post my review of 1922 when I ran across an old blog written three years ago. It was a tribute to the website and forum that really groomed me for my love of horror. These two sites played a huge part in developing my love of horror and the community that surrounds it. I decided to leave the post intact from how I wrote in 2014. I fixed a few grammatical errors, but otherwise it’s identical to the one I published three years ago.

Horror movies were always taboo which appealed to me. It was that section of the video store you weren’t supposed to go into, but it was impossible to keep kids out of it. I was attracted to all the gross, bloody, and perverted box art that lined those shelves and looked forward to getting to watch them one day.

The first horror film I ever saw was Popcorn. I grew up watching Ghostbusters, The Monster Squad and Gremlins, so taking the next step to full blown horror wasn’t all that difficult. Back in the late 80’s, Freddy and Jason were icons that you could find in Nintendo games and action figures, so while it wasn’t “for” kids, it was definitely marketed towards them.

It was a thrill getting to see a scary movie, but it wasn’t until my dad purchased a copy of Halloween from a Blockbuster that I truly fell in love. I wasn’t a teenager yet, but he told me that I’d enjoy this movie and it would scare me. Boy was he right, and my love for horror movies began.

Back then it was a win/lose situation for horror movies. Tons of rare and strange horror movies filled the shelves of all sorts of video stores, but sometimes movies were just near impossible to find. When I first heard about Evil Dead it was out of print and people were trading bad bootlegs over the internet for it. If you ever went into the AOL Horror Chat room, you’d instantly get Instant Messaged looking for a copy of it.

This of course made it a priority for me to see, because what the hell was Evil Dead? I watched Evil Dead 2, and Army of Darkness, but it took me three years to finally get my hands on a copy of Evil Dead. It was a joyous occasion that I remember to this day. It was like digging for gold and then finding it. I don’t get that thrill from streaming video these days.

Besides the movies I knew such as Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Nightmare on Elm Street series, Friday the 13th series, and Halloween series, I didn’t really know what was good and bad horror. I tried out tons of movies and some I enjoyed others were just awful, but I needed a horror mentor, someone to guide me and verse me in the ways of the horror film. That guy was The Cryptkeeper at HouseofHorrors.com.


You got to remember, this was pre IMDB being a big deal with tons of information. It was hard to find a good website dedicated to horror movies that would reveal trivia about the movies or even which movies were worth watching. In the Vault at HouseofHorrors.com lie the key to the horror movie kingdom, a proverbial who’s who of the horror movie industry, independent and all. It was here that I learned the ways of a good horror movie and the masters of horror.

AOL had a Horror chatroom as I mentioned, and there was a good alt.horror newsgroup as well. Along with Fangoria magazine and Cinescape, these were my sources of horror information. I can actually find a few posts that I made in alt.horror all the way back in 1998.

Here is one called New Movies to come out from July 20th, 1998. It focuses on some upcoming horror movies. There is even a discussion about who is going to play Inspector Gadget in the live action movie. BTW: I was right, screw those guys.

Another one is from July 19th, 1998 where I compare the movements of WWF wrestler Kane to Michael Myers.

And while I found some great discussions and some good information from the chatroom and the newsgroup, it wasn’t until I found HorrorSpeak that I felt truly complete.


HorrorSpeak was actually part of HouseofHorrors. It was the most active and most intelligent horror message board I had ever seen. You’d find analysis, news, reviews, and opinions of everything horror. The threads would go on and on with great banter back and forth and for a guy who mostly lurked, I learned a TON. I had several usernames over the years, but I rarely joined in unless I really needed to get some information like what was the best version of the Evil Dead DVD to get.

For five or six years it was a site that I visited at least twice a day. It was just so active you had to so you could keep up. Sadly, that is not the case anymore. (2017 Note: HorrorSpeak was officially closed down last year.)

I visit HorrorSpeak probably once every six months. I can usually read the three posts or so that have been posted during that time. Almost without fail, an old member pops back in to say hi and reminiscence about the good ole days when HorrorSpeak was the ultimate in horror movie discussion boards.


But nowadays its sad when I go to visit, it’s like going to an abandoned theme park. Once there was so much joy and activity going on, and now it’s just a ghost town.

Other sites over the years took over at being the biggest and baddest horror sites such as Bloody Disgusting. And for a while I lurked there and even posted a few times, but it just never was as good as HorrorSpeak.

HorrorSpeak remains up in the pretty much the way it was when it was in its prime. (2017 Note: This is no longer true as of 2017) All the old threads are still available which is a neat way for me to go back in time. Most websites end up offline, but both HouseofHorrors and HorrorSpeak are still up and pretty much in the same condition they were when I first found them. I hope they stay up forever. Even if they aren’t updated, it’s like going home for me and I appreciate more and more as the years go by.

HorrorSpeak has become the haunted house that we all know and love. It’s a reminder of the fun times, but is in a rundown condition unchanged from those days. A few creatures lurk in the shadows, and the ghosts of happier memories remain.

2017 Note: After HorrorSpeak shut down, I waited to see if the domain would be renewed. I fully intended on purchasing the domain and creating a blog/website called Horror Speak just as a way to keep the name alive. Sadly, it seems the webmaster wasn’t quite ready to give it up yet and renewed it. I plan on keeping an eye on it and if he chooses to abandon it, I will definitely take ownership of it.

Final Destination Review (2000)


My History With the Film:
I remember the trailer for Final Destination looked great. It was one of those trailers that had all the kids in school talking. It looked refreshing, fun, and scary, which is what every high schooler really wants in a horror movie. Of course, I wasn’t like a normal high schooler, I wanted my horror filled with 80’s cheese, so I dismissed Final Destination as another “weak ass horror movie”. Yeah, that’s probably how I referred to it.

Despite my hipster attitude, I bought Final Destination on DVD when it came out. It was released in one of those horrendous snapper cases, but I didn’t mind at the time. DVDs were new and exciting, and I bought new movies pretty much every single week. The week Final Destination came out it was the best looking release, so I bought it and went home to watch it.

I wasn’t really ready for what I was about to watch. When people talk about innovative horror movies in the 90’s, Scream is usually the only film that gets mentioned. But Final Destination deserves some acclaim as well. At its core, it’s a slasher film with an invisible killer, but it’s also a mystery movie with some fun horror fan moments.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
After a premonition saves several classmates from a plane crash, death begins stalking them.

What I Liked About It:
-This past year, I’ve gone back and started watching the original Unsolved Mysteries. As a kid all the ghost and monster stories scared me. As an adult the home invasion and murder stories scare me. I feel like Final Destination works the same way. As a teenager, I preferred ghost stories and vampires, but as an adult what I really fear is that loose bolt on a Ferris wheel, slipping in a puddle of water in the bathroom, or a plane exploding mid-air. I can relate to the deaths in this franchise way more than I can in Friday the 13th, Alien, The Conjuring, etc. and that makes watching this film uneasy.


-James Wan (director) really takes the time to honor and give you the full effect of the deaths. For example, in the plane crash you get to see several minutes of this plane ascending, tearing apart, and eventually blowing up. You see people struggling to put on the oxygen masks and being sucked out of the plane. You get to see all those little details that most movies leave out because they make the viewer uneasy. I love that Final Destination doesn’t shy away from the details in death and that makes this film that much more horrifying.


-The whole concept of this movie is brilliant. The idea that death cannot be cheated is amazing and it creates for some amazing tension and kills. Even after five sequels the plot of this movie still feels fresh and exciting.

-The cast is great! Devon Sawa (Idle Hands), Ali Larter (House of Haunted Hill), Kristen Cloke (Black Christmas), and Sean William Scott (American Pie) shine, but even some of the smaller character such as the French teacher Larry Murnau seemed perfectly cast.


-The creativity when it comes to the kills is something to admire. The way it has to change and adapt based on the victim is great, and doesn’t get near enough recognition.

What I Didn’t Like About It:
-I feel like Devon Sawa’s acting was a little uneven at times.

-I’ve never liked the ending. I’m not talking about the final scene, but the part involving the electrical wires. It just never felt right to me.

Additional Notes:
-The success of this film launched the franchise which extended five films from 2000-2011.

-The story originated from an abandoned X-Files script.

-Some of the news footage was actual plane crash footage from TWA Flight 800 that occurred in July 1996. TWA Flight 800 was also carrying a high school French club.

-John Denver’s music pops up several times throughout the film. He died in a plane crash.

-Clear’s cabin was also the cabin featured in Lake Placid.

-Several of the cast members had roles in other notable horror films:
  • Devon Sawa (Idle Hands)
  • Ali Larter (Resident Evil Series, House on Haunted Hill)Kerr Smith (My Bloody Valentine)
  • Kristen Cloke (Black Christmas)
  • Tony Todd (Candyman, Wishmaster)
Rating:
I cannot think of another horror film that takes the time to appreciate the death scenes like Final Destination does. In fact, they are put on full display and given the audience’s full attention, which is wonderful. All the gore and shock come at you full blast and you get enough time to enjoy every single second on the screen. As an adult, seeing deaths that are more natural than most found in horror movies is quite unsettling. It takes a lot to actually strike fear in my heart, but rewatching Final Destination did just that. There were several times throughout the film (despite seeing it half a dozen times) that I felt the tension rose so high that I really felt uneasy. I love it!

Final Destination is a great film and is one of the most consistent horror franchises out there. I think the first film is a very solid four out of five and is a must own for horror fans.

I highly recommend you read Death is Not the End: An Oral History of Final Destination. It's a fantastic article.

Marc Summer’s Mystery Magical Special (1986)


In 1986, Marc Summers, the popular host of Double Dare, starred in a Halloween special for Nickelodeon called The Mystery Magical Special. The show also starred Jonathan Brandis (IT), Shiri Appleby (Roswell), and magicians Lance Burton (ya know, the other 80’s/90’s magician that wasn’t David Copperfield) and Tina Lenert. John Astin, the original Gomez Addams also made a cameo appearance.


I ran across The Mystery Magical Special on YouTube and decided to give it a watch this Halloween season. I was convinced I had never seen it before, but after a couple minutes the show started coming back to me. There is one particular scene of magic with Tina Lenert and a mop that really stood out. I can recall watching this special just for that scene each year.

The plot is simple. Marc Summers and three kids get a flat tire and go into a creepy looking house to look for a phone. This house isn’t just a normal house, but a house filled with magical mystery and the group encounters several stage acts throughout the course of the twenty-two minute show.


There is nothing scary about The Mystery Magical Special and nor should there be. It’s a 1986 Nickelodeon special! But it has that spooky vibe that really fits with the Halloween season and I found myself smiling while watching the special. It was as if I was transformed back into a five year old all over again.

The Mystery Magical Special was created in 1986, but it aired for ten years on Nickelodeon! I’m pretty sure I watched it in the 90’s and I thought it would be a worthy addition to this year’s Halloween countdown.

If you are looking for blood and guts, look elsewhere, but if you are young enough to have grown up with Nickelodeon and want something to channel the nostalgia for the spooky TV movies and specials of the 90’s The Mystery Magical Special is a great place to start.

Check out The Mystery Magical Special below:

Never Hike Alone Review (2017)


Let’s get this out of the way first: Never Hike Alone is a Friday the 13th fan film. You most likely won’t see me reviewing another fan film ever again. It’s just not something I want to cover on this site. But this fan film is a little different. The production value is incredibly high and the film is damn good. It’s arguably better than half the films in the franchise. So, I’m making a special exception for this Halloween season.

My History With the Film:
I first saw the trailer for Never Hike Alone early in 2017. It’s not something I’d typically watch, but the folks over at r/horror were praising the production values so I gave it a go. What I saw was pretty impressive. A YouTube personality documents his hikes throughout the various forests and stumbles upon the ruins of Camp Crystal Lake. It’s a good plot that is modern and simple enough to actually work. So, I looked forward to its release which came on October 13th, Friday the 13th in 2017. I was actually getting married on Friday the 13th, but once I returned home that following Sunday, one of the first things I did was watch Never Hike Alone. I liked it… a lot.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
A YouTube personality stumbles upon the ruins of Camp Crystal Lake.

What I Liked About It:
-I loved the plot as mentioned above. It’s simple and extremely effective. The filmmakers use a GoPro along with traditional filmmaking and it worked wonderfully. I am not a fan of found footage films, but in this case I felt like the footage not only made sense, but actually enhanced the storytelling experience. If I had to compare the amount of GoPro footage to traditional footage I’d say the film is 15% Go Pro footage and 85% regular film.


-The film stars just one actor, Drew Leighty, who does a masterful job of creating a character you care about and believe in. His athletic ability is showcased before he encounters Jason and his response to Jason’s appearance was believable.

-Everyone knows I hate to spoil anything, so I won’t dive into the ending. Let’s just say the film takes a dramatic turn towards the last ten minutes and becomes straight up Friday the 13th fan fair. Fans of the series will love it and it’s icing on the cake for an already strong Jason movie.

-The runtime was perfect for a film starring just one person. It never dragged on or got boring. There was always something going on and the tension was masterfully done.


-The cinematography was wonderful. The use of drones helped make this film like a big budget production and the previous mentioned GoPro style shots were tastefully done.

-The film is not perfect, but it channels the energy and tension that the best Friday the 13th movies have. It feels liked a stripped down, back to the basics approach to the Jason character, and I think its something fans have been begging for.


-The tension and gore are balanced in almost perfect harmony.

What I Didn't Like About It:

-As much as I enjoyed the ending, I do think fans that are not familiar with the franchise will be confused and this could dampen their enjoyment.

-I felt like a bigger actor for Jason might have helped create a more menacing presence.

Additional Notes:
-Never Hike Alone was actually produced thanks to a Kickstarter funding. The Kickstarter collected over $18,000.

Rating:
Look, I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but this film is a four out of five for me. I wish there was a blu ray release so I could add it to my collection. I hope that the folks at New Line/Paramount (or whoever owns the rights now) see what Womp Stomp Films did and bring back Friday the 13th in the same tone and style. And if they decide to go that route, they owe it to the folks at Womp Stomp to find them some part in the production.

The movie industry is not always fair and sometimes its feast or famine. Friday the 13th fans have been taken for granted for years, and have been offered very little in return. This film is the closest that we’ve gotten to a proper Friday the 13th film since the late 1980’s. That’s saying something. If you enjoy the franchise like I do, check out this fan film. I can’t recommend it enough.

Check out Never Hike Alone below:

The Family Matters Halloween Episodes

Family Matters was one of those sitcoms that I watched a ton in the 90’s, but haven’t seen much of it since. Recently it was added to Hulu, and I dived right back in with The Winslows and that goofy neighbor of theirs. I was shocked to see how normal and interesting the first season was pre-Steve Urkel. I haven’t finished watching the first season yet, but I decided to jump ahead and check out some of the Halloween episodes. I didn’t complete them all, but I thought I’d do a quick recap and offer some impressions on the episodes that I watched.


Season 2, Episode 7 “Dog Day Halloween”

This episode centers around Steve and Laura who inadvertently get caught up in a bank robbery. Steve is dressed up as Superman, but feels inadequate because he can’t properly protect Laura. Laura is dressed up as Tina Turner, which confuses the Abraham Lincoln dressed bank robber who mistakes her for pretty much any singing diva you could think of pre-1990. Meanwhile, Carl is outside trying to control the situation. There are no winks or nods to Die Hard, but it’s hard to watch and not think of Die Hard.

It’s not a perfect Halloween episode, but it does a good job of channeling the spirit of Halloween with costumes and the scenes back at the Winslow house dealing with trick-or-treaters. I found myself really enjoying the episode, even if it’s a bit cheesy towards the end.

Recommended


Season 4, Episode 6 – “Whose Kid Is It Anyway?”

Eddie promises Richie that he’ll take him trick-or-treating, until a beautiful girl shows up at the front door needing directions to a Halloween party. Always the ladies’ man, Eddie ditches Richie and convinces Waldo to take him trick-or-treating. Richie isn’t happy about it, but there’s not much the little boy can do. Things take a turn for the worse when Waldo shows up with another child in a Spiderman outfit that isn’t Richie.

Similar to the first episode, this episode featured several Halloween costumes and some decorations that made it feel like the holiday. It’s obvious that Family Matters liked using Halloween as a setting, but they never fully embrace the holiday the same way Roseanne and Home Improvement did. Still, this was a decent Halloween themed episode.

Recommended



Season 5, Episode 6 – “Best Friends”

After Waldo is fired from a tattoo parlor for misspelling Mom, Eddie gives him a job at the Mighty Weenie alongside Steve Urkel. Waldo is horrible at his job, and Eddie is forced to deal with the decision to fire his best friend.

Did you notice that I didn’t mention anything about costumes, trick-or-treating, or Halloween? That’s because other than a few decorations in the house and around The Mighty Weenie there is nothing Halloween about this episode at all. It has to be the laziest Halloween episode I’ve ever seen. The set designer just put up $20 worth of decorations to make it feel like Halloween, which is a missed opportunity.

Skip It.



Season 6, Episode 6 – “Dark and Stormy Night”


After the previous season’s waste of a Halloween episode, Family Matters bounced back with its best Halloween episode of its run. The entire family is costumed up and ready to go trick-or-treating when a terrible storm begins and the power goes out. Carl decided to keep the family entertained by starting a ghost story and then turning the story over to another member of the family to continue it. It’s a very creative concept that works well for the show. It’s way over-the-top and a lot of fun and by far the best Halloween episode Family Matters produced.

Highly Recommended



Season Eight, Episode Seven – “Stevil”

This episode begins with a warning that the following might be a little intense for young viewers. It’s surprising to see, especially since Family Matters is such a tame show. I don’t know if the warning is justified by the episode, but I will admit things are more intense in Stevil than any of the previous Halloween shows.

Steve Urkel attempts to put on a ventriloquist act complete with a dummy that looks like him. It doesn’t go over well and Steve retires to his room and falls asleep. A storm arises and dummy Steve Urkel is hit by lightning and brought to life. Steve pleads his case that the dummy is alive, but no one will listen to him. Stevil (the name of the dummy) begins attacking the family and it’s up to Urkel to save the day.

So, this episode is batshit crazy. I mean, it’s off the walls insane. Its part Chucky and part Urkel, the combination you never knew you wanted. The dummy is a combination of puppet and little person in a suit and it’s hard not to laugh and enjoy this episode because it truly is pretty bad.

Part of me wants to say Skip This, but the other part of me wants to say it’s Highly Recommended. I figure I’ll settle in the middle and say it’s Recommended.



Season Nine, Episode Seven – “Stevil II: This Time He’s Not Alone”

Ya know, the should have left it alone.

In this episode, it's been a year since the first Stevil incident and Steve Urkel is afraid to go to sleep. Ahhh... I'm not even going to explain the plot of this terrible, terrible episode. Do yourself a favor and just skip it. It's more Stevil and his new pal Carlsbad and what little charm the first Stevil episode had is long gone. 

Skip It.

Gerald’s Game Review (2017)


My History With the Film:
Gerald’s Game was announced by Netflix late summer of 2017. It came out on Netflix a few weeks after IT premiered in theaters and had Stephen King fans excited for yet another rendition of his work. I was familiar with the title, but had never read the book. The trailer Netflix released was fantastic and with both Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood starring I knew I had to see it. Then when I saw that Mike Flangan (Hush, Oculus) was directing it quickly became a must see as soon as possible.

I watched it with my wife who asked me to turn it off half way through. She just couldn’t take it anymore and the film almost put her in tears. I finished it up the next day and wow, what an incredible film.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
A couple heads out to a vacation home in hopes of spicing up their love life. After an accident occurs, the wife finds herself handcuffed to the bed with no hope of being rescued.

What I Liked About It:
-The better question is what didn’t I like about it? The casting was spot on fantastic and pretty much consisted of just Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek) and Carla Gugino (Sin City). The acting was amazing. Gerald's Game is basically a play, its set in one location with just two actors carrying the entire load of dialog and these two put on a clinic. If this wasn’t a horror movie, they’d both be in the running for some sort of award next year.


-The way the story works itself out and the whole survival angle is incredible. Mike Flangan worked with his usual writing partner Jeff Howard in crafting a story that many have called unfilmable. They did a fantastic job.

-Gerald’s Game taps into the horror that actually frightens me. It’s plausible and the horror arguably mostly comes from within.


-There is a scene that will test your limits when it comes to handling horrible imagery. It’s the first time in years I’ve cringed and had to look away, only to find myself fighting only to look back at what was going on the scene.

What I Didn’t Like About It:
-Nothing.

Additional Notes:
-The film is peppered with small references to Stephen King works like calling the wild dog Cujo. It also makes a great reference to the 90's film Dolores Claiborne.


-Mike Flangan stuck in the mirror from Oculus in the film. The headboard on the bed is made of the frame from the mirror in Oculus.

Rating:
Gerald’s Game is not only a fantastic horror film, but a fantastic film in general. It tells a great story and is beautifully directed and well-acted. I cannot say enough great things about Gerald’s Game and feel that all horror fans owe it to themselves to see this film.

I enjoyed Gerald’s Game about as much as I enjoyed IT. 2017 is definitely a great year for Stephen King adaptations (for the most part).

I rate Gerald’s Game a four out of five and say it’s a must own.

Slasher: Guilty Party Review (2017)

 

My History With the TV Series:
In 2016, I watched the original Slasher after it was added to Netflix. Slasher is a Canadian TV series that aired on Chiller in the US and on the Super Channel in Canada. I always describe the show as a mature version of the Scream TV series. It’s essentially a slasher movie set across a series of hour long episodes. It’s a strange format for the slasher genre, and to be honest, hasn’t been incredibly effective in any version that I’ve seen, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some fun to be had. I enjoyed the first season of Slasher, but I felt it ran two or three episodes too long. I didn’t have high hopes for a second season, but I was glad to see Netflix swooping in to bring the series back to the masses. The series returns with new characters, plot, and setting.

Slasher debuted on Netflix on October 17th, 2017, and I watched all eight episodes within the first week of its release. I found the show to be of much higher quality than the first season, but still flawed.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):

A group of summer camp counselors return to the scene of a crime they committed five years later. Something or someone was waiting to punish them for their sins.

What I Liked About It:
-The snow setting. We’ve heard the rumors of a Friday the 13th movie set in the snow and seeing Slasher only makes me want to see that movie that much more. The blood reflects so well on the snow and the feeling of isolation is incredible.


-This season seems to have been inspired by the Playstation 4 game Until Dawn, which is not a bad thing. It has a similar setting and the characters feel like they could have easily fit been cast in that game.

-The cast is made up of several former Degrassi actors/actresses (it is a Candian production after all), and I loved that I only recognized one of the cast members Ty Olsson from Supernatural. Everyone felt familiar, but there were no well-known names which is always great in a slasher.

-The kills were plentiful and gruesome, which is always fun.


-I don’t try too hard to figure out the killer in movies, because I think that takes away all the joy. I thought the series did a good job of keeping the mystery going and slowly eliminating potential killers along the way.

-I’m not a fan of flashbacks, but I thought this series used them well.

What I Didn’t Like About It:
-In horror movies, sometimes characters are so annoying or unlikable we root for them to be killed. This series struggles with defining who is good and who is evil and I was always conflicted regarding the deaths. I felt like the characters I liked the most (and seemed most interesting) died too soon and I was left with a bunch of people I was happy to see die. It felt uneven and I think a better order to the deaths could have made the series more enjoyable.

-As much as I look forward to these slasher TV series (Scream is a guilty pleasure of mine), the formula for a slasher does not work in this format. Every show suffers from the same problem, they starts off strong, then slow down well too much in the middle, before wrapping everything all up. This show is especially guilty of that. The first two episodes are fantastic, but then episodes three and four are pretty horrible. It almost feels like a separate movie as they go off exploring one of the character’s past and justifying his current behavior.

-The killer did not obey any sort of rules, which was interesting and justifiable in the end.

-Like the first season of Slasher, I felt like this season ran two or three episodes too long. I found myself getting bored by the middle of it, and the final episode was something I had to force myself to get through. It’s not that it was bad, I just thought of things I’d rather watch.

-We know that in horror movies a lot of times the victims do stupid things. It’s just a given and is probably pretty accurate when looking at people in society would do under terrifying circumstances. But in this series, I grew frustrated in how many times someone would run outside in the middle of the night for some BS reason. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a stupid group of people.

Additional Notes:
-Netflix acquired the Slasher series after the first season. This season did not air anywhere outside of Netflix.

Rating:
When I started Slasher Guilty Party, I was sure it was going to be an eight or nine. In fact, I’d say the first two episodes are just that. However, as the series progressed, it got a little lost and took way too many trips down dead-end storylines. I know this was all sleight of hand for the viewer, but you can only tolerate so much jerking around. Eight episodes is too long for a slasher TV show, whether it’s Slasher or Scream. I think four might be the sweet spot.

Slasher wasn’t a waste of time. In fact, there is a lot of enjoy. Its part slasher, part siege narrative and part murder mystery. It’s a fun way to spend a few hours, but could use some editing and scaling back.

I’d rate Slasher Guilty Party as a three out of five, and say it’s a worthy watch if you love slashers and are wanting something a little different. We don’t get many new slashers nowadays, so we gotta take what we are given.

The Roseanne Halloween Episodes

Here at The 90’s Horror Review, I plan on spending most of my time covering horror movies from the 1990s. However, every Halloween season I like to revisit some 90’s sitcoms that featured Halloween episodes and I thought I’d share some quick reviews of a few of these shows. I’ve decided to group these episodes by their particular show and give a few quick thoughts on each. Without further ado, let’s take a look at one of the 90’s most beloved shows around Halloween, Roseanne.

Roseanne is arguably my favorite sitcom of all-time. I love the hijinks of the Conner family and how they deal with the everyday pains of life. I’ve watched the entire series (minus the final season) through four times now and I can still happily pop in any of the DVDs and enjoy an hour or two with my favorite TV family.


Roseanne was known for making great Halloween episodes. Most sitcoms used Christmas as their big holiday to base an episode around, so Roseanne did what she usually did, and went the opposite way. Christmas was rarely mentioned, yet Halloween was embraced by The Conners. The shows are such fan favorites, a Halloween themed Roseanne DVD was released. The first season of Roseanne did not feature a Halloween themed episode and neither did the final season (well, season nine sorta had a Halloween episode but the less we talk about that the better), but the other seven remaining seasons did. Here are my recaps and a few thoughts (as spoiler-free as possible) of Roseanne’s Halloween episodes.


Boo! (Season Two, Episode Seven)
I always forget how amazing the first Halloween episode of Roseanne is. They really went all out. In this episode Dan and Roseanne take turns playing pranks on one another trying to determine who the Master of Halloween Pranks is. The Conner’s set up a haunted house with all the family playing a part in scaring their guests, which include a business partner of Dan’s. It honestly may be the best Halloween episode of television ever.

What I Like About This Episode:
-It really shows how much the series embraces Halloween and isn’t just one big prank set up like many of the later episodes.

-The haunted house is a lot of fun, and anyone who watches this can’t help but want to walk through The Conner’s house and see all the great decorations.

Rating: Must SEE TV!


Trick or Treat (Season Three, Episode Seven)
Roseanne and Jackie take DJ costume shopping and he comes back with a witch’s outfit, which embarrasses Dan. Dan is forced to deal with the issue of DJ’s costume at the Lodge’s Haunted House, while Roseanne and Jackie find themselves stranded at the Lobo after the car breaks down. Roseanne is dressed like a bearded man and decides to mingle amongst the guys.

Season three’s Halloween episode is almost as wonderful as the first. It’s full of great costumes, a goofy haunted house, and typical Conner mayhem.

What I Like About This Episode:
-I love The Lodge setting which is family friendly and super cheesy. It reminds me of all the horrible cheap Halloween haunted houses I went into as a kid.

-Roseanne’s scenes dressed as a man are hilarious, especially when she starts causing trouble.

Rating: Must SEE TV!


Trick Me Up, Trick Me Down (Season Four, Episode Seven)
Roseanne and Dan play a huge prank on their uptight neighbor Kathy to begin this episode. Kathy doesn’t take it very well, which pleases Roseanne. But when Kathy shows up at the Lodge for the annual Halloween party, Roseanne is convinced Kathy is attending just to get back at her.

What I Like About This Episode:
-Kathy Bowman is so dislikable and seeing her pranked is wonderful. I don’t think it’s very realistic (her coming into Roseanne’s house and all), but still a lot of fun.

-Roseanne’s paranoia is a little annoying at the end of the episode, but luckily it’s eclipsed by a special guest star making his return.

Rating: Must SEE TV!


Halloween IV (Season Five, Episode Seven)
Roseanne is bummed about Becky and is not in her usually Halloween spirit. When she refuses to go to The Lodge party, she is visited by the Ghost of Halloween Past, Present, and Future. Yeah, it’s the tired old Christmas Carol template, but it works really well in this episode. It’s our only peek at Roseanne/Jackie as children and also gives us a nightmarish futuristic Roseanne.

What I Like About This Episode:
-Roseanne’s Halloween spirit dating back to her infancy was a lot of fun.

-Roseanne’s reaction to seeing her friends trash talking her cookies and pranks was hysterical.

Rating: Must SEE TV!


Halloween V (Season Six, Episode Six)
It’s Halloween time again at The Conner’s and Roseanne is put in a big pickle. Darlene is going to a party with a guy at her college, while still dating David. Roseanne feels bad for David and encourages him to find someone to hang out with. However, once David starts bringing a new girl around, Roseanne is devastated at the idea that she may have encouraged David to date someone else. Hijinks ensue.

What I Like About This Episode:
-Watching Roseanne squirm is always fun.

-The mugger scene is fantastic!

Rating: Recommended.


Skeleton in the Closet (Season Seven, Episode Six)
When you start watching Roseanne Halloween episodes back-to-back, you start seeing a pattern which kinda takes away the fun of the surprises. In this episode, Leon is holding a Halloween party at The Lunchbox for his gay friends. He shows a little interest in Fred (Jackie’s husband) which peaks Roseanne’s interest. It seems Fred has a bit of a past when it comes to hanging out in gay bars.

I remember loving this episode the first time I saw it, and considered it my favorite Roseanne Halloween episode. Upon revisiting it though, it doesn’t hold quite as well as I remember, but it’s still a lot of fun.

What I Like About This Episode:
-David attempting to explain gay people to DJ is wonderfully written and acted.

-I loved the payoff at the end.

Rating: Recommended


Halloween: The Final Chapter (Season Eight, Episode Five)
This is not a good Halloween episode. I’ll just say that upfront. Roseanne began declining quite a bit in season eight, and this episode is part of that decline. It’s actually hard to summarize this episode because it’s all over the place. Basically, a Ouija board tells Roseanne she is about to go into labor and well… there are dancing, psychedelic hippies and flashbacks to previous Halloween episodes.

What I Like About This Episode:

-It was nice seeing Roseanne flashback to some of the previous Halloween episodes.

Rating: Skip it

And as I mentioned in the opening, there was something that sorta passes as a Halloween episode in season nine, but as far as I'm concerned, season nine didn't exist nor did that episode. Nothing to see here.