Posts Tagged ‘Dee Wallace’

The Howling (1981)

October 4, 2021

For as long as I can remember, I have had an affinity for wolves. I often considered myself a lone wolf growing up to convince myself that being alone and apart from other people was cool instead of the result of near-crippling anxiety. The wolf imagery did not come out of nowhere. My great aunt Tutu taught my mother to howl at the full moon at one point when the two of them grew close. In turn, my mother taught her three kids. Even though I was embarrassed (when I shouldn’t have been) I howled at the moon with my mother. I have never had affinity with the predator part of the wolf because I consider myself to be personally non-violent. However, like werewolves, I had a beast inside of me that clawed its way to the surface regularly and made a mess of things. For me, it was outbursts of rage and anger caused by my anxiety and depression.

I have been looking to watch this movie for a long time but I never could find it on a streaming service that I had. The movie is directed by Joe Dante, who proved himself to be a comedy horror legend with the Gremlins franchise. This movie is the second horror movie that he directed. The first was Piranha, one of the most famous Jaws rip-offs produced by the legendary Roger Corman. He directed my favorite part of The Twilight Zone movie, a twist on It’s a Good Life for a generation who grew up with television. Innerspace was an interesting science fiction comedy movie that actual spooked me a bit as a kid mostly because of Disney’s Body Wars ride. While I still have quite a few of his movies that I want to see, I know him by his great track record.

The first thing I noticed was the initial setting. This is set in Old New York City, before puritans came in and “cleaned it up”. We are in a dark urban setting, nowhere near the lighter tone in that same year’s American Werewolf in London. It is closer in tone to Wolfen which also came out in 1981. This is more of a supernatural crime drama than a paint by numbers horror movie. Part of what makes that clear are the special effects. All of the makeup effects are done by Rob Bottin who also worked on The Thing among others. The cinematography matches the dark undercurrent and the strange nature of the characters. As has become a refrain in my reviews of horror movies I like, the lighting is excellent and plays with shadow and light pleasantly. The special effects are absolutely well done and terrifying. They ride an edge where they could have been goofy but ended up frightening to me.

The movie has a stellar cast. Its star is Dee Wallace who appeared in such horror classics as The Hills Have Eyes, Cujo, Critters, and the Frighteners among others. She does a great job as a wide-eyed yet troubled news reporter who is trying to figure out a mystery. Christopher Stone plays her husband, a seemingly decent guy with a bit of an anger problem. Belinda Balaski and Dennis Dugan play two plucky investigators trying to help their reporter friend solve the mystery. Robert Picardo plays an absolutely creepy maniac and is so good at it. Elizabeth Brooks plays a wicked seductress who is often very fun to watch. There are great bit parts from Slim Pickens, John Carradine, and Dick Miller.

Overall, I really loved the movie. It felt very grounded and dark while still maintaining a good pace. The way they treated werewolf lore was different enough from other movies to make it very interesting. The acting was very well done and the story was engrossing. I would recommend this movie.

Media Update 12/20/18

December 20, 2018


Mercy Christmas

Most people who observe Christmas as a holiday want to spend it with people who at least tolerate them. I spend every Christmas with my mother and at least one of my brothers and some combination of other family members. The one year that I had to work in another state while other people were back home celebrating was painful. So, I can understand somebody wanting to be loved on Christmas and jumping at any chance to be together with anybody on Christmas. In this movie, that feeling leads to bad things for our loveable hero. While this was a simple horror movie, it actually had a lot of heart. It is about family dynamics, office politics, and Christmas. It is also about cannibalism. It is obviously cheaply made but I could not help but like the actors involved as they tried their best on a low budget. That low budget did not impede a fairly good story and an interesting concept. The movie has a momentum to it that made it hard not to love by the end of it. The ending is chaotic and fun and totally earned and strangely fitting for Christmas. Remember, Christmas is as much about the family you choose as the family you are born with or marry into. I recommend this movie.


Red Christmas

I was attracted to this movie because it stars Dee Wallace, a veteran of so many horror movies. She was in both The Hills Have Eyes and Critters, both of which I watched for the first time this year. When I found out she was in this new Christmas movie, I felt I had to check it out. Ultimately, I am glad that I did. However, I was about to shut it off at first. By ten minutes in I kind of hated the family together on Christmas who would not stop bickering. Also, it was inexplicably set in Australia even though half the cast was not Australian. I stuck with it and it got better. Once the actual horror elements started, I saw that the family stuck together when the chips were down. Also, there were so many low key good elements to the movie. For one, I loved how they depicted panic with the camera shaking and going out of focus. I also liked Dee Wallace who was the shining star of the film. I also liked the action that kept guessing what was going to happen next. I feel that it is rare when I am too surprised by horror films anymore. The movie felt kind of like The Hills Have Eyes in that a defenseless family is caught off guard and besieged by a superior killer. The cinematography very much reminded me of seventies classics like Hills or Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The movie kept me guessing here and there and was utterly brutal but kind of fun. I definitely recommend it as well.


The Elf

I find the whole tradition of the “Elf on a Shelf” to be really, really creepy. The concept of Santa always watching you is unnerving enough but to have something in your house watching, judging, and reporting is crazy. I always thought it was a natural subject for a horror movie and finally, somebody tackled it. Of course, they had to use a different doll because the official one is trademarked. However, this movie is plagued with problems. The acting is so wooden that I wondered if I was not watching a bad dub of a foreign movie. The plot makes little sense mostly because almost nothing is explained. They drop the viewer into the middle of a weird story without really giving any lore or explanation. The characters come up with some of it but the viewer is not shown how they come to these conclusions. The camera work is very shoddy and uninteresting as well which is sad. The actors’ audio is not properly recorded so the dialogue is muddled. Although considering the acting, that might be doing them a favor. The only thing I found interesting was the brief bits of puppetry or animation done with the doll. Except that the doll’s kills are not shown and instead we see them through jumpy, confusing camera shots from the doll’s point of view. It was a bit of a letdown and it made me hope that somebody else tries this concept again. I do not recommend this movie.

Music of the Week:
Gwen Stefani – Cheer For The Elves

The Dollyrots – Because I’m Santa

Lindsey Stirling ft. Sabrina Carpenter – You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch

Aloe Blacc – Funky Ass Christmas

Fantasia – The Snow Is Falling

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Blood for Christmas”
– I finished Hilda Season 1
– I finished Happy! Season 1
– I watched more Lucifer Season 2
– I watched more Seven Deadly Sins Season 3
– I watched more Chilling Tales of Sabrina Season 1
– I started watching Designated Survivor Season 2
– Merry Christmas!
– RIP Joseph Van Tiem

Media Update 11/1/18

November 1, 2018


The Babysitter (2018)

I have had this one on my list for over a year and part of the reason I relaxed the theme this week is to make sure I had a place for it. I especially was interested after seeing that the script previously made the 2014 Blacklist and the 2015 Bloodlist. Both are yearly lists of well-reviewed but unproduced scripts. The movie is about a young boy who is curious about what his babysitter does after he goes to sleep. He witnesses her holding a meeting for a satanic cult. That is not even a spoiler, that is the plot blurb on IMDB. What happens next is wild and a lot of fun. This is a horror/comedy movie that leans more into dark comedy. Samara Weaving is in the title role and she is so much fun that it is hard not to like her. Judah Lewis plays the boy who is a little too old for a babysitter but incredibly smart. Bella Thorne has a more minor role as one of the cult members and she is hilarious. Robbie Amell is a legend in this movie and just comes off as hilarious. Andrew Bachelor and Hana Mae Lee round out the cast with minor but memorable roles as more cult members. This movie definitely felt innovative while also clearly being an homage to the horror genre in general. It also felt like it paid tribute to various coming of age movies as well. I definitely recommend it as I was pleasantly surprised at how good this was.


The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018)

So, I was a huge fan of Melissa Joan Hart back in the day and, because of that, I watched most of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. I also saw the character in Archie Digest. When I found out they were making another series based on the character, I was interested. I knew that there had been a more serious take on the franchise in comic book form and I had a feeling it was going to be like that. Also, at the last moment before it was released, the original cast of Sabrina the Teenage Witch endorsed it. Also also, it is created by the same people who created the Riverdale show. Anyway, the show is great. A lot of the core concepts are kept intact with the show set in Riverdale’s neighboring town Greendale. Kiernan Shipka is really likable and easy to empathize with as Sabrina Spellman, a half-witch reaching her 16th birthday. Michelle Gomez plays a teacher with a hidden agenda concerning Sabrina and she is wonderfully sinister. Chance Perdomo is funny and sarcastic as Sabrina’s cousin Ambrose. Lucy Davis and Miranda Otto play her aunts who add a lot of the comic relief. The show has a more apparent “Smash the Patriarchy” feel to it which I can definitely get behind. The show has a few scary and/or gross scenes but it is mild compared to other stuff I have watched in the past. Mostly, I find the world they are creating interesting and I am soaking up the lore. I definitely recommend it.

 


Critters (1986)

This is part of the movies that are classified as Gremlins ripoffs even though the script was written long before Gremlins was released. It is written by Domonic Muir who later wrote Evil Bong and Gingerdead Man (understandably under a pseudonym) so we know he can mix horror and comedy. It is directed by Stephen Herek who later directed Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead. Scott Grimes plays the young boy hero and he did a great job for his young age. His mother was played excellently by horror veteran Dee Wallace who I mentioned earlier this month in The Hills Have Eyes. The movie is about creatures that escape an alien prison and come to a rural part of the USA and terrorize a family. It is funny because I saw parallels between this movie and movies like Gremlins, TerrorVision, and the remake of Invaders from Mars. The movie has some comedy but I found it more tense than funny. Part of that is colored by the air of urgency through the whole film. The titular Critters are relentless and nigh unstoppable and things look pretty grim through the whole movie. Also, there was way more blood than I would have expected from a movie classed with Gremlins. Still, the movie ends up being pretty light and fun as we watch a hapless family struggle to survive. It definitely fits in with a lot of the comedic horror films of the time and I think it holds it own in that category. I definitely recommend this one and I wish I had seen it a lot earlier.

 

Music of the Week:
Paramore – Misery Business

Peggy Suave – Posin’

The Gore Gore Girls – Hard Enough

The Weeknd – In The Night

Arcade Fire – Everything Now

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Halloween Hangover” as a recovery from October
– This is also this blog’s 800th post. Wow!
– I finished watching Gotham Season 4
– I watched more of The Haunting of Hill House
– I watched more Daredevil Season 3
– I watched more Once Upon a Time Season 7
– I watched more Curious Creations of Christine McConnell
– I watched more Barry Kramer on YouTube


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