The People Under the Stairs Review (1992)

My History With the Film:
My father married my stepmom in 1996. Following the wedding, my step-sister moved in with us and we never really got along, but we were able to bond some with our mutual interest in horror movies. I was able to expose her to IT and she showed me The People Under the Stairs.

I loved The People Under the Stairs and it immediately jumped up my list of favorite horror movies. I only watched it once, but for years it has been a positive memory for me.

I've come close several times to revisiting the film, but I always backed off at the last moment. A few weeks ago, I decided to finally bite the bullet and revisit one of my favorite horror films of my youth, and boy do I wish I would have left this one in the past.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
A thief and a young boy are stuck in a house of nightmares along with a dozen other people held hostage in the basement.

Things I Liked:
-Ving Rhames is wonderful as the over-the-top thief Leroy, and Brandon Quintin Smith (The Sandlot, The Mighty Ducks) does a fantastic job as Fool. Unfortunately, that’s where my praise for the casting stops.

-The design of the house is amazing and its full of all sorts of cool rooms and tunnels. I remember thinking about how much I wanted to explore the house when I watched this film as a child, and even as an adult I think it would be a lot of fun to see all the crazy areas and steps that turn into a slide.

-I was surprised with the social commentary this film has, especially when it emerges towards the end of the film. It’s not the type of movie you’d expect to make a statement about inequality in America, but it does and it does so well.

Things I Didn’t Like:
-This films is hard to categorize. It’s a horror-comedy, but also a kid’s movie. It has the vibe of say, The Goonies, but then has some absurd comedy and some graphic horror elements. It’s weird and watching it as an adult feels even weirder. I really enjoyed this as a kid, but I don’t think it’s aged well.

-The movie isn’t really scary, but it does have one horrifying moment where Alice is shoved into a scalding hot bath tub in order to clean the blood off her dress. I was stunned by how horrific this scene was to watch and it really felt out of place in the film. It was some great horror though.

-Man (Everett McGill) and Woman (Wendy Robie) are beloved by Twin Peaks fans, but I was pretty unimpressed with their performances. Again, I think I struggled with the tone of this film and that’s what draws me to this conclusion.

Additional Notes:
-Wes Craven wrote The People Under the Stairs after seeing a news report about police who responded to a break in at a home and heard sounds behind locked doors where children were kept and not allowed to go outside.

-Wes Craven was developing a television version of The People Under the Stairs shortly before his passing for the SyFy Channel.

Sometimes you run across a piece of media that is better left in the past. For me, The People Under the Stairs falls into this category. It's batshit crazy and way too long for my liking. I'd rate it as a one and a half out of five and say skip it, but know that this film does have a cult following and it might be worth watching if you are into something that is a black comedy version of an 80's children's flick.

Mimic Review (1997)

My History With the Film:
I rented Mimic when it first came out sometime in 1998. I don't remember the film having a large amount of advertising and I think I decided to watch it based on the cover art alone. I recall really liking the film, but I don't think I have revisited it anytime in the past twenty years until now.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
After releasing a genetically altered cockroach into the sewers of New York, an entomologist is forced to face her own creation as it continues to mutate.

Things I Liked:
-I’ve always been a big Mira Sorvino fan and she really puts on a great performance in this film. She portrays an intelligent entomologist who is troubled by her past actions and her desire to make right by her mistakes. It’s truly one of those performances you see and think to yourself, "Is this performance really going on in this type of movie?"

-The sound design is stunning in this film and features a wide variety of different tones, dangles, and clicks. Your attention is drawn to it because the young child in the film likes to mimic the sounds with a pair of spoons, and once it has your attention you can’t help but not notice it.

-The creature designs are fantastic and the CGI is quite passable. There are some moments that are very 90’s CGI, but I remember seeing this film right after it came out and was blown away by how realistic everything was.

-The abandoned subway setting is something I never tire of seeing and Mimic arguably did it best. I’d love to spend all day exploring that subway station and it was an excellent place to put the finale.

Things I Didn’t Like:
-90’s movies tend to have more happy endings than movies made today. I used to hate that, but nowadays after getting so many tragic endings it’s kinda refreshing. I placed this in the things I didn’t like, because one of the survivors of this film survived what I would call an unsurvivable situation. It made me smile, but also cringe seeing this person walking up.

-The child actor who portrays Chuy (Alexander Goodwin) was phenomenal in his performance. However, the other child actors who show up are really, really bad. They probably wouldn’t have seemed so bad if they didn’t have to counter act Alexander Goodwin.

Additional Notes:
-Keep an eye out for a young Norman Reedus cameo. I watched the film and didn’t pick up on him being in this film.

-During the production, the Weinstein brothers had a constant prescense on the set and threatened to fire director Guillermo del Toro. His job was saved by Mira Sorvino, who threatened to quit the movie should del Toro be fired, and her then boyfriend, Quentin Tarantino also made some calls to allow del Toro to stay on and direct the film. Ultimately, the Weinstein's won out, because they had final cut on the film and they edited the film drastically which caused del Toro to disown the film.

-In 2015, Guillermo del Toro created a director's cut which was released on blu-ray.

I really, REALLY enjoyed watching Mimic. del Toro has disowned the version I watched because the Weinstein’s took final cut, but I’ve always enjoyed this version and this film. It feels different and its dark and dirty and I love that. I’m really interested in checking out del Toro’s Director’s Cut and might even come back for a second review once I watch it.

Mimic is a fun monster flick that isn’t going to keep you up at night, but will provide you with a creepy uneasiness for ninety minutes. If you dislike cockroaches, this film might affect you more than others. It’s not a movie you’ll want to watch over and over again, but I can almost guarantee you’ll have a lot of fun when you sit down to watch this film. I was shocked at how much I enjoyed it.

I’d rate Mimic as a three and a half out of ten and say it’s a rental.

Tales from the Crypt: Island of the Dead Audio Drama Review (2000)

In 2000, The Seeing Ear Theatre produced eight episodes of Tales from the Crypt audio dramas. Upon discovering this, I decided to listen to the first episode, "Island of Death." Being a huge Tales from the Crypt fan, I was excited to see the campy, gory stories that I love produced in an audio format and went in with high expectations. This was a terrible decision on my part.

Unlike most of my reviews on this site, I plan on discussing some spoilers since the episode runs a meager thirty-eight minutes and I wouldn't have much to discuss if I tried to avoid spoilers. If you insist on listening to this episode (against my recommendation), I won't reveal the ending. Of course, like I suggest with all reviews, if you want the full effect of the artists vision avoid reviews and experience the art form for yourself before reading what other people think.

The show begins with a remixed version of Danny Elfman's iconic Tales from the Crypt theme. This version is inferior to the original which now has lyrics performed by John Kassir, the original Crypt Keeper from the television show. The lyrics don't work and only ruin the flow of the song. This was not a good start to the series, but the theme song doesn't have much effect on the story, so I allowed it to pass over with no judgment.

Just like the television show, once the theme song finished we are greeted by The Crypt Keeper who uses some fun puns to introduce the upcoming story entitled "Island of Death." My immediate thoughts went to Ritual, the often forgotten third Tales from the Crypt movie that took place in Jamaica. That film was no where near the quality of Demon Knight or Bordello of Blood, but it was worth watching and I secretly hoped this was some sort of adaptation. It is not. Instead, Island of the Dead is a version of a story we all have experienced a million times, most notably known as The Most Dangerous Game.

This interpretation of The Most Dangerous Game story is actually an new interpretation of Island of Death, which can be found in issue thirteen of The Vault of Horror. There are some notable differences in the two stories, but the plot is similar.

The story starts off with two newly minted millionaires (Quinn and Baily), thanks to their late 90's internet start up cash, flying to Tahiti and discussing their top five movie lists. Disaster strikes and the plane goes down. Quinn, portrayed by Luke Perry, washes up on the shore of an unmapped island where he is seduced and nursed back to health by a mysterious woman named Galatea, portrayed by Gina Gershon.

After I got to experience my first audio drama sex scene between Quinn and Galatea, Quinn wakes up in a locked room with a TV and we discover that he is on a television show called MANTIS. It's named MANTIS because Galatea takes unsuspecting young men, mates with them, and then hunts them on an island full of microphones and cameras for just one single viewer. The show has an announcer Doris who keeps up with the action and over the next twenty five minutes we join Quinn on his trek through hyena dens and swamplands all while being hunted by a psycho bitch.

The voice acting is average to good. Rarely could I hear Luke Perry's distinct growl and Gina Gershon decided to go all out with chew the audio scenery, which worked well. She especially impressed me towards the last few minutes of audio drama when she decided to ramp it up to eleven and just go nuts.

Where this drama fails is in its script. Besides being totally uninspired and lazy, the writing is just bad. In audio dramas sometimes the characters have to use names a little more often or explain the events going on around them to help the listening fill in the holes and follow the plot. A good audio drama uses people with distinct voices or accents so they can limit the amount of times needed to say a characters name. For example, if you listen to the ensemble piece Who Goes There?, they masterfully bounce between a handful of characters and never once does the listener get lost on who is speaking.

Island of the Dead shouldn't have this issue, because rarely are more than two characters ever in a scene, yet, they still decide to hold the listeners hand and finish almost every sentence with the characters name. This is distracting when you using a unique name like Galatea that stands out in a conversation. I wish I had the patience to go back and count the number of times this name is said, if I had to guess I'd say it's sixty-eighty times over thirty-eight minutes. It's distracting and irritating.

"How could you do this, Galatea?"
"Are you serious Galatea?"
"What is that over there Galatea?"

It was so grinding I almost turned the show off, especially since I had an idea how this show would end thanks to the unoriginal plot.

On the bright side, the writing did capture the campiness and corniness of the series and I felt like the ending was something you'd see in an Tales from the Crypt episode. That part at least felt authentic to the series.

Once we get our big reveal ending, the show ends and The Crypt Keeper is back for a few parting words. And then just like the TV show, we go to the credits.

What I Liked About It:
-John Kassir as The Cryptkeeper
-Decent enough voice acting

What I Didn't Like About It:
-Terrible script
-Terrible theme song

I'm not sure what to expect out of the Tales from the Crypt audio series going forward, but I have to believe it only gets better. This episode is pretty atrocious and I highly recommend you skip it. Officially, I'd rate it a one out of five and a say skip it.

The Resort by Bryce Gibson Book Review (2018)

A few months back, I reviewed The Reading Buddy, a 90’s inspired teen horror novel by author Bryce Gibson. It was a fun book that instantly put Bryce Gibson on my list of people to watch for new content. I didn’t have to wait too long since this summer his latest novel, The Resort, is scheduled to be released. Recently Mr. Gibson posted some advance reading copies of The Resort on Twitter and I quickly downloaded the book and finished it in less than twenty-four hours. I found The Resort to be great novel with excellent world building, a spooky atmosphere, and characters that are easy to root for. It’s a perfect combination of the elements I like to find in the supernatural stories that I read.

If you follow my reviews you know I do everything in my power to avoid spoilers. I feel like it’s impossible to discuss this book without spoiling it some, so I recommend you read the book for yourself before reading this review. If you insist on reading further consider this your SPOILER WARNING. 

The Resort begins by introducing us to a young man, Mackenzie, who lives on an island off the coast of South Carolina. His parents own the resort on the island that plays host to rambunctious frat boys, celebrities, and other tourists looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city living. 

Its spring break and that means the island is full of annoying college kids. While these out of control co-eds party, Mackenzie keeps busy doing chores to keep the resort up and running. Some of his chores include: safety checking the zip line, clearing off kudzu from the cell tower, and processing bike rental paperwork. He’s a bit of a jack-of-all trades and seems like a good kid who is trying to help keep his family business running smoothly, while balancing his personal life which includes his good friend (and crush) Kristen who is also on the island for spring break. He’s trying to gather up the courage to finally make his move and solidly his relationship with Kristen, but that’s only if the island doesn’t get in his way first.

After one college student dies tragically, Mackenzie’s father takes off for the mainland because he believes a local urban legend played a part in the death of this student. Mackenzie and Kristen follow after him and that’s when the story begins to peel back the layers. Is Mac’s dad a mad scientist? Is Mac’s supposedly dead aunt still alive? How does an urban legend about a man with branches for fingers factor into all of this?

If there is one thing I can say about The Resort is that nothing is what it seems. The author does a fantastic job in swerving you in and out of ideas that keeps you guessing the entire time. I managed to narrow down the cause behind all the chaos towards the end, but it wasn’t apparent early on in the book which I really liked. A lot of YA horror/thriller tends to tip their hat at the true cause of the horror in the first chapter and that takes the fun out of the guessing game. I enjoy the chase, and I felt like The Resort kept me chasing almost till the very end.

My favorite part of The Resort was its world building. Despite having lived in the South my entire life, I’ve never been on island like the one described in the book, then again, I haven’t been on many islands in my entire life. The island in The Resort may not exist, but man does it feel like a real place. When I think South Carolina islands, my mind goes to something like area around Murrell’s Inlet and that’s nothing like what’s in the book. Bryce Gibson managed to create an island that feels alive, which was necessary to tell the story he tells. It’s truly an impressive feat, and I credit this wonderful island for providing an excellent backdrop for this story to unfold.

I feel like we got a nice balance of characters, all of which are different, none are too cliché, and all received enough attention in the book that they all felt real and useful. There is only one very minor character who serves no purpose (Justin) whose name I feel could have been dropped and the story would have went on smoothly. I developed enough of a relationship with all of the characters that when approaching the end, I felt empathy for the villain of this story which is usually a good sign of a well thought out story. 

One aspect of the story that surprised me was a hint of science fiction that was woven into the plot. I didn’t see that coming, but I’m thankful it was there, because it gave credibility to the pending doom that occurs throughout the final third of the book. I’ll be honest, anything involving plants, (outside of Swamp Thing) is usually an instant turn off for me, but I thought The Resort made a good case for how plant life can be scary when presented in the right story.

I had a couple of issues with story and most of it came once Mackenzie and Kristen arrived on the mainland. I felt like there was a missed opportunity with all the creepy folks out by Silas Harrow site, and I would have loved to seen that explored more before we moved on. It seemed like part of the story was cut out and maybe that scene needed to be trimmed back a little more if we weren’t going to explore it any.

I also had a slight issue with how things were handled the morning after Mac’s father sobered up after running off to the main land. It’s mentioned that they have breakfast, but there is no real moment when Mac confronts his dad or demands an explanation. I understand he’s seventeen, but if I had to take a boat, rent a car and track down my father who is passed out drunk in a stranger’s pickup truck, I’d want an explanation the next morning and wouldn’t just go on business as usual.

My final issue is a bit of confusion. ::SPOILERS:: THIS SECTION RUINS THE ENDING OF THE BOOK SO PLEASE SKIP IT IF YOU HAVE NOT READ IT YET. The plants on the island were controlled by a computer program, but also seemed to respond to Ryan (the spreading of the vines as he walked up to Mac’s house). Was there some sort of mental link between him and the vines. If so, that would explain how all the vines die and free up the island for Mac’s father to be buried. If not, it’s said that the supply boat brings help to the island, but what kind of help? How do you handle all these out of control computer controlled plants, especially after the computer has been destroyed? The ending wasn’t wrapped up in a nice little bow and that’s okay, but I would have liked some clarification on how things went back to normal, well… the new normal for Mackenzie and his mother. ::END SPOILERS::

Overall, I really enjoyed The Resort. In fact, I’d argue that I enjoyed it a bit more than The Reading Buddy. The Resort is a thriller, but like most good thrillers, it has horror elements within it. It’s a fast paced book that is an easy read (in a good way) and one I think most fans of horror/supernatural fiction will enjoy. The ending was well done and comes together fast, intense and is in your face. I love that in a book and it was a great way to end the story.

I’d rate The Resort an four out of five and say it’s definitely worth your time. Pick up a copy when the book is released this coming Monday, June 11th.

Check out Bryce Gibson's Website / Twitter

Who Goes There? Audio Drama Review (2002)

On January 24th, 2002, BBC Radio 4 aired an episode of their Chillers series entitled: Who Goes There? This audio drama is an interpretation of John W. Campbell's (under the name Don A. Stuart) 1938 classic novella by the same name. Of course, when referring to this story most people probably know it better by the name that John Carpenter made popular, The Thing.

Who Goes There? was originally adapted for film in 1951 under the name The Thing from Another World. It was a loose adaptation but one that influenced future filmmaker John Carpenter to give the classic science fiction story his own twist in 1982. I watched The Thing when I was twelve or thirteen and immediately fell in love with the icy isolation the film presented and it remains a film that feels timeless and one of a kind.

I was doing some research on audio dramas when I ran across a listing that mentioned the BBC had done an interpretation of Who Goes There? back in 2002. I knew I had to hear it, and luckily for me, it was available online in quite a few places including YouTube.

Clocking in just under 30 minutes, this ensemble piece tells the story of a group of Antarctic scientists who discover an alien in the ice and decide to thaw it out in order to study it. Once thawed, it escapes and begins taking on the form of other carbon based life forms found at the research station such as the sled dogs and the scientists.

The 1982 movie and the audio drama both do a fantastic job at instilling fear and paranoia into the viewer/listener. You truly feel isolated from the world and paranoia sets in when you realize that anyone of the characters may (or may not) be The Thing. The actors do a fantastic job conveying the stress and desperation that comes from facing such an unpredictable situation like this and I found myself really getting into the story.

My only complaint is the beginning of the audio drama spends a little too much time spelling everything out for the listener. Obviously when dealing with an audio drama production some information must be conveyed via dialogue to the listener, but I felt like this one crossed the line with directing stating facts for the listener in order to speed up with world building and move along the story. I'd rather seen this drama stretched out to forty-five minutes or an hour and allow the characters to naturally come to topics instead of listing them off over and over in order to catch the audience up to what is going on at this research station.

The audio production was adapted by Mike Walker, an award winning radio dramatist and directed by Rachel Horan. The rest of the cast is posted below:

MacReady: Liam Brennan
Prof Blair: Loan Meredith
Dr Norris: Cyril Nri
Cdr Gary: Christopher Godwin
Kinner: Harry Myers
Connant: Colin Adrian

I enjoyed Who Goes There? and it's a quick, fun listen that I think all fans of The Thing can find some pleasure in listening to. The cast is British and the ending is different, but I think that is what makes this adaptation unique and interesting to listen to. I'd recommend listening to it alone at night with headphones and its even better if you are snowed in.

I'd rate Who Goes There? a three and a half out of five and say it's worth a listen.

Horror Movies Watched So Far in 2018

It's June and that means the year is halfway over! It really does feel like time goes by faster as you get older, because I feel like Christmas was just last month.

I was looking back on the past six months and I realized that I've watched quite a few horror movies that haven't been discussed or reviewed here on The 90s Horror Review. I thought I'd give a quick review of what I've watched so far this year.

Mike Flanaghan has quickly made a name for himself in the horror community and I decided that I wanted to catch up on all his previous work. Oculus stars two of my favorite actresses: Katee Sackhoff and Karen Gillian who play a mother and daughter dealing with a haunted mirror that has been brought into their life. The story takes place in two time periods and alternates back and forth and it's a very simple story, but a scary one. I really dug it. Four stars out of five.

I think we've all got a little vampire fatigue, but after seeing this title pop up on Netflix I decided to give it a go. I'm a big fan of Josh Hartnett and this movie has some absolutely stunning cinematography. I love movies set in isolated and snowed in towns, and this movie really captures that well. The vampires were unique and intimidating, but the story fell a little flat. Three stars out of five.

Fede Alvarez's remake of Evil Dead is one of my favorite horror movies of all-time. It seems like as every year passes, my appreciation for it grows more and more. I was excited to finally sit down and watch his follow up film and I found another tension based horror film that keeps you on the edge of your seat. I didn't enjoy it as much as Evil Dead, but Don't Breathe is a fantastic film and one I think everyone should check out. Four stars out of five.

I never saw the first Ouija, but after hearing great things about Mike Flanaghan's sequel, I decided to check it out. Origin of Evil is a fine film that feels like a throwback. I adored the cigarette burns during the reel changes and I thought the movie was competent, but nothing special. It was a forgettable flick, but a good way to spend ninety minutes. Three stars out of a five.

I wanted to love this film. After seeing the trailer, I was so hyped for it. They marketed it as Groundhog Day in a slasher film and that sounds like something right up my alley. Sadly, the film didn't live up the hype. It's partially due to a very unlikeable protagonist, although she does end up growing on you. I'm interested in seeing if the sequel can right the wrongs of the first film. Two stars out of five.

I heard about this film from the r/horror and to be honest, it's not typically my type of horror film. Pet is about a man who keeps a woman caged in the basement of a pet shelter in order to "fix her." Things aren't what they seem and the film provides many twists and turns and keeps you guessing about who is manipulating who. I loved it, but its a one time watch, especially after a scene at the very end that sucked. Four stars out of five.

I tried to distance myself from the hype of Get Out because. By waiting a year later, I think I managed to avoid most of it and I went in with a fresh attitude towards the film. I loved the first half of the movie. I thought it was a wonderful film, full of creepy moments and fantastic social commentary. Then the film takes a turn and I was not a fan. It felt like two movies combined into one and once our main character learns more about what is going on, I wasn't much of a fan of how the film decided to go. Three stars out of five.

I've seen Alien at least a dozen times, and while the tension is mostly lost on me now, I always enjoy accompanying the Nostromo crew on their adventure. Alien is a classic for a reason and I'll always be a fan. Four stars out of five.

I'd heard good things about The Shallows, but I'm not the biggest shark movie fan. I like Jaws and Deep Blue Sea, but that's about the extent of my shark movie love. Well, I guess I can add The Shallows to that short list. This was a great film full of tension. It had that "this could happen to anyone" vibe and I love that in horror. Four stars out of five.

I'd heard some online rumblings about The Ritual and decided to give it a shot. I'm so glad I did. It's a wonderful monster movie that takes place in a forest in Sweden. The movie has a great cast, a good story and some excellent effects. Four stars out of five.

Other horror movies watched that will get feature reviews on the site: Stigmata, Scream 4, Valentine, Phantoms, Demon Knight, Mimic, Event Horizon, The People Under the Stairs, The Craft, Teaching Mrs. Tingle, Alien vs. Predator, My Bloody Valentine, Still Screaming, Jennifer's Body, Jeepers Creepers, and Halloween 3.