Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Thing from the Grave

****(out of 4 stars)

The Thing from the Grave is a Tales from the Crypt episode from the second season. It originally aired back in May of 1990.

Stacy (Teri Hatcher) is a sexy model who is engaged to a jealous and arrogant agent, Mitch (Miguel Ferrer). Meanwhile, Devlin Coates, (Kyle Secor) is a photographer who loves taking pictures of Stacy. Soon, he begins to fear Stacy's well being with her abusive agent. He gives her a necklace and promises to protect her. Devlin also offers a place for her to crash and she excepts, not a first, but only after a beating by the hands of Mitch. The two delve into a relationship and begin to fall for each other. I know, I know. There's a familiar formula with all of these episodes.

Mitch is constantly trying to win Stacy's love back. He fails. Numerous times. When he finally realizes all is finished he does the only real logical thing that he can think of - kill Devlin. He lures Devlin out to a remote location on the grounds that Stacy is in trouble and in need of help. Once Devlin arrives, he's double-crossed by Mitch. Mitch shoots Devlin and buries him.

With Devlin finally out of the picture (no pun intended) Mitch tries one last time to rekindle the love he and Stacy once shared. No dice! As the episode comes to a close, Mitch has his sexy ex tied to a bed and ready to kill her. He confesses to killing Devlin and burying him. However, in a different shot we see Devlin rise from the grave in an attempt to avenge his lover. The zombie Devlin chases Mitch into the woods, and soon is met with an ugly demise as the dead Devlin buries he and Mitch in the grave.

This episode was directed by Fred Dekker. Many of you may know some of his other notable films: The Monster Squad and Night of the Creeps. This is basically a zombie episode. And one told in a short, concise way that entertains to the fullest. Like many other episodes, we are dealing with the same formula. Most of the time it has to do with money, deceit, murder and love. In these morality plays our bad guy always gets it in the end. Mitch was that guy. Even though he is shown killing the love interest in a fit of jealousy, by the end of the episode he meets the same demise. It's irony at its best.

I've always been a fan of Miguel Ferrer. It's just his demeanor and the way he handles himself in front of the camera. It seems he's been type casted as that asshole, arrogant, son-of-a-bitch character for most of his career. He's got a funny line in this episode when Devlin kindly persuades Mitch to leave the photo shoot. Mitch explodes saying, "Why don't you take this nice, long lens of yours, get it nice and covered with Vaseline and shove it up your fucking ass! Get some shots from the inside of your asshole, hotshot." Fucking brilliant. Miguel Ferrer never fails to entertain me when he's on screen. This episode gets my highest recommendation and Miguel helps cement my opinion.

Cast: Teri Hatcher, Kyle Secor, Miguel Ferrer

Written for the Screen and Directed by: Fred Dekker

Original Airdate: 5/8/90

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Three's a Crowd

****(out of 4 stars)

Three's a Crowd is a Tales from the Crypt episode from the second season. It was originally aired back in May of 1990

Richard (Gavan O'Herlihy) and his wife Della (Ruth DeSosa) are planning to take a nice trip to a secluded cabin for their anniversary. Della, however, has been staying out late and acting strange. It seems that she is showing a little too much attention to her ex boyfriend, Alan (Paul Lieber).

Richard and Alan do have some history. Evidently they are good friends, but Richard is envious over Alan's good looks and money. Richard begins to suspect that Alan and Della are having an affair behind his back.

The three eventually head out to a cabin where there is some sort of surprise waiting for Richard. For most of the time, Richard sits alone drowning his sorrows in whiskey as he ponders about the suspected affair. Alan and Della spend most of the time together, leaving Richard alone. They are seen talking secretively and we learn that the two used to have a relationship. Alan tells Richard on numerous occasions that he's a lucky man and that he may have made a mistake by letting Della go. On top of all of this, Richard is feeling guilty over the unsuccessful attempts to give Della a child.

Alan has his own cabin, while Della and Richard sleep in a separate one. Alan and Della return to Alan's cabin frequently and Richard's worst nightmares seem to be coming true. Alan returns to Richard's cabin and says that the surprise is ready for him. Richard's jealousy and rage get the better of him and he eventually kills Alan in a jealous frenzy with a bow and arrow. When Della returns to the cabin, she is chased to an upstairs bedroom where she eludes Richard by jumping out of the window. As she lies on the hard ground Richard strangles her and takes her body to Alan's cabin. But when he opens the door he's greeted with cheers and a big "Surprise" from family and friends. In the end it is revealed that Della was pregnant and she and Alan were planning this party for Richard the entire time.

I loved this episode and thought it was the best one so far out of the second season. Gavan O'Herlihy is great as the jealous husband. His maniacal manner is very believable and by the time he starts offing his wife and friend we almost feel that, in some way, they had it coming to them. Of course, TFTC adds that twist ending that I never saw coming and then you feel stupid rooting for Richard.

This episode is so atmospheric with the music and lighting. The acting is great and you always get the sense of unease. We already know what Richard is plotting; it's clear and obvious. But what we don't know are the intentions of Alan and Della. For the most part, I felt that they were going to off Richard and run off and live happily ever after. Or, at least, that's what director David Burton Morris had us believing. But when you get that final twist of the knife, you feel like you've just slammed your car into a tree going 80mph. This episode gets a high recommendation from me. Just go watch it. You'll be pleased with the way it's constructed and brilliantly written and directed.

Cast: Gavan O'Herlihy, Ruth DeSosa, Paul Lieber

Screenplay by: Kim Ketelsen, Annie Willette and David Burton Morris

Directed by: David Burton Morris

Airdate: 5/1/90

Sunday, September 19, 2010

'Til Death

*(out of 4 stars)

Logan (D.W. Moffett) is a gold digging developer who's looking to win over a rich widow named, Margaret (Pamela Glen). Logan's got the money, the good looks and the sly talk, but Margaret isn't playing his game.

Logan goes to a voodoo priestess (also his ex-lover) and she hands him a potion. The potion will do the trick; and will make Margaret fall under his spell. The priestess tells him if he uses one drop she will be his, but two will make Margaret fall in love with Logan forever. Later, Logan slips the potion into Margaret's glass and she eventually falls head over heals for him.

Turns out though, Logan gave his sweetie too much of the love potion. Freddy, (Aubrey Morris) a doctor; declares her dead. They bury her and Logan is struck with grief. The decaying Margaret reemerges from the grave to proclaim her love for Logan. After she decapitates Freddy, Logan tries to kill her, but fails.

In the end scene we see the voodoo priestess has tied down Logan and let Margaret show her undying love for the money hungry developer. The scene fades to black as Margaret, now totally decayed, finishes Logan off. So ends another tale of backstabbing treachery.

This episode is okay, but very forgettable and I don't see the average TFTC fan re watching this one. If you're a zombie or voodoo guy or gal, you can go watch other films done a whole lot better. I like the angle played with the potion: Winning the girl's love. I like her dying and coming back and Logan trying to free himself of his lover's grasp. But for some reason, this episode just didn't gel right for me. It missed the mark somewhere along the way. That's all I can really say. Give it a try for yourself, but I assure you there are an abundance of better episodes waiting for your eyes.

Cast: Pamela Glen, D.W. Moffett

Screenplay by: Jeri Barchilon

Directed by: Chris Walas

Airdate: 4/24/90

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Cutting Cards

**(out of 4 stars)

Cutting Cards is a Tales from the Crypt episode from the second season. The show was originally aired back in April of 1990.

Reno Crevice, (Lance Henriksen) a hard-nosed redneck and Sam Forney, (Kevin Tighe) a businessman are two rivals who love to gamble. When egos explode the two try to settle the score by a simple game of Russian roulette. The bullet ultimately is revealed to be a dud and both men deny having been responsible for it.

Sam suggest a better game; a game that the two are more familiar with - poker. Money is not at stake in this game of poker though. They are playing for their hands... fingers... and other body parts... literally.

They end up in a small room with two witnesses and a dealer. The cards are dealt and the hands are played. With each win the other loses a finger and so on and so on. Both men risk life and limb to out do the other. By the end of the episode, both men are legless, armless and playing a game of chess with their noses.

This episode is regarded by some fans of the show as one of the best. Although I think it's a good episode I found it kind of boring. It felt too one dimensional and way over the top, even for TFTC standards. What would've been better about this game was a winner. I just wish Reno would've kicked Sam's ass and left him in a pile of putrid flesh.
The acting was good and Lance Henriksen is great as Reno Crevice. The lighting of the episode reminded me of Argento or the Cohens. Blues and reds blanket each scene; giving the picture a nice dreary tone.

Cast: Kevin Tighe and Lance Henriksen

Screenplay by: Mae Woods and Walter Hill

Directed by: Walter Hill

Airdate 4/21/90

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Switch

**(out of 4 stars)

The Switch is a Tales from the Crypt episode from the second season. It's directed by Arnold Schwarzenegger. The original air date was April of 1990.

A wealthy, elderly man, Carlton (played by Willam Hickey) wants the affection and love of a young, beautiful woman, Linda (Kelly Preston). But when Linda tells him he is too old, Carlton goes to see a surgeon to defy his aging. But the surgeon can only make him look ten years younger. This does not sit well with Carlton. The surgeon inquires him about another physician; a more suitable person for the type of operation needed. And a more expensive one!

He meets the doctor (Roy Brocksmith) and for a hefty price, the doctor offers to change Carlton's face with that of his young associate, Hans, (Rick Rossovich) who will receive all of the money from the operations. After the surgery is complete, Carlton finds Linda again, only to be told that his body is still too old. After a few more operations the switch is complete. Carlton is a younger, more rejuvenated man; but left penniless. Upon seeing Linda again, for the final time - and asking her hand in marriage - he's sad to find out that she has already tied the knot with Hans. Although Hans is much older, he can financially take care of Linda, in the event that something were to happen to him. In the end, poor old Carlton had his youth back, but was left without the love of Linda or a pot to piss in.

This very much felt like a take on the Frankenstein story, but with TFTC flavor. It's also a story about the fear of getting old and rejection. Some can say, without a religious opinion, that death is the end. Lights out, game over. But what if we could consult a doctor to reverse the effects? What if we could defy aging and turn back the clocks to relive our lives. Immortality. For whatever the reason - love or security - if we could do it, we would. Although this episode is short and too the point, there are many philosophical elements that kept me intrigued and made me reflect on the notion.

Cast: William Hickey, Kelly Preston, Roy Brocksmith and Rick Rossovich

Screenplay by: Michael Taav and Richard Tuggle

Directed by: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Air date: 4/21/90

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dead Right

***(out of 4 stars)

Dead Right is a Tales from the Crypt episode from the second season. This episode originally aired back in April of '90. It stars Demi Moore and Jeffrey Tambor.

Kathy Finch (Demi Moore) is an attractive secretary. One afternoon on her lunch break she goes to see Madam Vorma, a local psychic. Madam Vorna tells her that she will be fired from her job, but will find one immediately following her termination. Kathy's skeptical and says that it's impossible to be fired because her boss is away. She leaves Madam Vorma, (who's always right) thinking that she's a phony.

In the next scene we see that Kathy's boss has unexpectedly returned from his trip and fires Kathy because she took an extensive lunch brake. Kathy is then hired off the street to work as a waitress in a local strip club.

Realizing Madam Vorma was correct, she goes back to see her. This time Vorma tells Kathy that she will marry a man who will inherit a sufficient sum of money, then, shortly after he will die a violent death. Meanwhile back at the strip club she runs into Charlie Marno, a hefty, grotesque, slob of a man who tries to win Kathy's heart. After repeatedly trying to get her attention (and with the advice of Madam Vorma) Kathy succumbs to Charlie's wishes and goes on a few dates with him. The money hungry Kathy sees this as an lucrative opportunity and marries Charlie; because Vorma said he was the man she would marry. The man with the eventual inheritance.

Later on, Kathy Finch (now Kathy Marno) wins a million dollars for being the millionth customer at a local automat. She hurries home to pack up and leave her obese hubby. Charlie is heart broken and stabs her to death, saying: "If I can't have you, nobody will."

Charlie inherits her money but eventually is put to death for the murder of his wife.

This episode is a classic and always a good one to revisit. I like the acting throughout and I must say that Demi has a set of killer legs on her. I loved the character of Charlie Marno and thought that Jeffrey Tambor did a fine job. In fact, he carried the show for me. I felt bad for the guy as he never gets a good break. He's a sympathetic character, yet oddly comedic at times. The moral message here is money kills. No matter how or where you get it from don't succumb to its power. It will never turn out good for you.

Kathy did win the money but didn't get to enjoy it. Meanwhile, fat Charlie eats his final meal and ends up dead. Nobody wins!

Starring: Demi Moore and Jeffrey Tambor

Screenplay by: Andy Wolk

Directed by: Howard Deutch

Airdate: 4/21/90

A Quick Word.

I'm going to be doing some blogs on the old Tales from the Crypt episodes. They won't be in order or anything, but I'm gonna try to do the best of the best from my personal favorite episode choices.

Keep on coming back to view more from us. You're always welcome to stop by and leave a comment if you like.

Die, Monster, Die!

**(out of 4 stars)

Stephen Reinhart (Nick Adams) is traveling to the small village of Arkham in England. He's hoping to reacquaint with Susan Witley (Suzan Farmer)whom he fell in love with when they were going to college back in America.

Susan Witley lives in the Witley house. The house is held in contempt by the local townsfolk and they seem to fear it. Stephen is denied any form of transportation and continues to find the house on his own two feet.

Eventually he finds the mysterious house, surrounded by an ominous fog. Once inside he's greeted by Nahum Witley, (Boris Karloff) a wheelchair confined scientist and father of Susan. Nahum Witley insist that Stephen leaves immediately. Stephen refuses and decides to hang out for a few days.

Stephen talks with Susan's mother, Letitia Witley,(Freda Jackson) whom actually summoned Stephen to come to Arkham in the first place. She speaks of weird happenings around the home and the sudden disappearance of their maid, Helga. Letitia seems to have fallen victim to some sort of disease and is sensitive to light, which is why she's obscured by draping cloth, surrounding her bed. She urges Stephen to take her daughter away from the house. For some reason, Stephen sticks around only to go snooping on the old Nahum Witley late at night.

Later, as the mystery is slowing revealing itself, Stephen and Susan enter the greenhouse and discover pieces of a meteorite that is rapidly changing the growth process of the plant and animal life. Further investigation brings us to the basement of the Witley home, where the rest of the meteorite is hidden by Nahum. Although the meteor is bringing life to the plants, it's also grotesquely mutating others in the house that have been exposed to it for long periods of time. Namely: Helga, Letitia and Merwyn (Terence De Marney) the manservant. After the mysterious death of Merwyn, Nahum is seen burying his body.

As the film comes to a climax, Stephen and Susan are running rampant trying to stay alive. We learn that Helga went crazy and now emerges as an ugly, mutated, toxic waste, chasing around our hero's. She is brandishing a butcher's knife and dressed all in black. She is eventually killed off. And don't forget old Mrs. Witley. Remember her sensitivity to light? Well now she's a melting mess of toxic goo as well, with murder on the brain. Unfortunately she chases Stephen out in an open rain storm and melts away faster than the wicked witch of the west.

Nahum Witley does have a moment of sympathy when he destroys the meteorite and begs Stephen and Susan to leave. Soon, though, he shows up looking like the toxic avenger's cousin. His face is green-glowing and smoldering due to radiation. After the final battle ensues, Nahum falls two stories to his death. The radiation erupts from his body and sets fire to the house. Stephen and Susan are surrounded by orange and red flames, but make it out unharmed.

This film was taken from H.P. Lovecraft's "The Colour Out of Space". Jerry Sohl penned the screenplay and Daniel Haller directs.

This would be the first Lovecraft adaptation that Haller would try, later he would direct The Dunwich Horror. I haven't read the original source material (The Colour Out of Space) so I'm not sure how parallel the plot is with Die, Monster Die! I have, however, heard that this film deviates away from the story and only adds little bits of Lovecraft's original idea.

The movie relies heavily on the Gothic feel. The sets are good and the house itself seem to be dreadful enough. Certainly not somewhere I'd venture too after dark, well, maybe I would. The overall plot, whether sticking to the original material or not, is rather effective and I got a kick out of it. I like the effects on Helga and Letitia after they turn into toxic killers. Their faces have a green tint to them and the features are melted about the face, contorting all the features into a grotesque image. I found that part of the make-up rather good.

The effects... not so much. Most of them are superimposed and looked really cheesy and out dated. I know, I know. It's 1965 for fucks sake. The effects were good for its time! But really, it took me away from the overall frights that the film tried to deliver on.

The acting is good - not a problem there. Nick Adams plays a good role and is very believable. However, Boris Karloff is the obvious reason that this film is watched in its entirety. I say that because without him, this film falls to one star for me. He brings such a presence to the screen with his low voice and those mysterious eyes. We never really know what to think of Mr. Witley. At one point we see a selfish scientist, risking his family for the secrets kept. By the end - we see a man trying to save his family by trying to destroy that secret.

Boris Karloff was 77 when he made this film and was actually using a wheelchair. It's a shame to know he'd be dead in just a few, short years. Even at the ripe age of 77 he still had it. He never lost that touch. Actors like him come few and far between.

Cast: Boris Karloff, Nick Adams, Suzan Farmer

Story: H.P. Lovecraft

Screenplay: Jerry Sohl

Directed by: Daniel Haller

Running Time: 1hr 19min


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Dreams in the Witch House

**1/2 (out of 4 stars)

Mick Garris apparently had a dinner one night and summoned a bunch of his fellow film making friends because of an idea he had mustered. The idea (on paper) would seemed to be great to any horror fan in the world. Mick's plan was to invite directors from the horror genre to collaborate with one hour episodes featuring grisly tales of the macabre, masterfully titled, Masters of Horror. With the likes of legend film makers, John Carpenter, Stuart Gordon, Tobe Hooper, Don Cosarelli and others this inception would be the greatest thing to hit television for the avid horror fan. For these masters of horror could show off their talents and thus improve the current status of the horror genre.

I'll be the first to admit that I haven't seen many of these films. The reason is simple. Of the handful I've seen, I've been less than impressed. Episodes like Jenifer, We All Scream for Ice Cream and Pick Me Up were disappointing and left me wondering how we define a master of horror. However, I've reluctantly kept an open mind and eye for the rest of the series. I still have yet to see any of Hooper's or Carpenter's episodes, although I've heard negative things about both. But when I was browsing over on Netflix I wanted something quick to watch. I wanted something to feed my need for horror. So, with that open mind I gave Stuart Gordon's episode a shot. Dreams in the Witch House was surprisingly good and now I'm willing to watch other episodes again.

Stuart Gordon is known for his many adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft. Dreams in the Witch House is another one to chalk up on his list of THE GENTLEMAN FROM PROVIDENCE'S adaptations.

The film starts out showing an old dilapidated house. Miskatonic University student, Walter (Ezra Godden) is looking for a cheap, quiet place to study and complete a thesis project. We are quickly introduced to a few characters living inside the house: The overweight, ignorant landlord (Jay Brazeau), a creepy, mysterious old man, Mazurowitz (Cambell Lane)and a beautiful woman, Francis (Chelah Hordal) and her infant son, Danny.

Walter is given the cheapest room of the house. He starts hearing weird noises and upon investigating finds the uncanny Mazurowitz praying loudly in his room. (One inkling that this guy is off his rocker was watching him pray while slamming his head off of a table). The man offers a cross and warns of a rat with a human face that scurries around the house. Walter dismisses the man for a complete psycho and goes about his business.

Walter is attracted to the lovely Francis who comes to him in a dream one evening. She disrobes in front of him and they make love. Little does the horny Walter know, but the person pretending to be Francis in the dream is actually a witch. She leaves a ghastly mark on his back. Later, while Francis is working, Walter keeps an eye on the young child. The witch returns! We eventually learn that the witch wants Danny as a sacrifice for an ancient old ritual.

I won't go into any spoiler territory here because I think you should check out this film. Stuart Gordon does an adequate job in setting up a modern atmosphere to a story that was written in the 30's. Many people have tried to adapt the Lovecraft story and failed, but Gordon like he did with many others, prevails.

The acting is pretty good and convincing. Ezra Godden plays a great sympathetic role as a man who everyone believes is going insane. But as an audience member we see the downward spiral he descends and feel some pity for him. (This proves to be the case in many of Lovecraft's characters). Rats with human faces, weird neighbors and asshole landlords are enough to drive anyone crazy, right? Well, add that with one bitch of a witch and I'm sold!

The house in itself is a startling character in the film. The creaky noises and forbidding events that unfold are enough to make you want to pay extra the next time you need an affordable, quiet place to live.

This film clocks in at less than 60 minutes. It's a quick way to burn some time and a good film to boot. I must say that so far, this is the best of the Masters of Horror episodes that I've seen. Unfortunately, sifting through the rest of the series may be a struggle. We'll see, I guess.

Directed by: Stuart Gordon

Written by: Dennis Paoli

Starring: Ezra Godden, Chelah Hordal

Episode two of the first season of Masters of Horror