My Bloody Valentine (1981)

Two miners go into a mine, one of them takes off her miner suit (surprise! she's a lady) and gets ready to get intimate with her coworker but he sees a heart tattoo on her chest, flies into a rage and kills her! Happy Valentine's Day!

Some time later, a bunch of manly men come back from the mine and are doing various manly things in a bar: playing that game where you put your hand on a table and stab the spaces between your fingers with a knife as fast as you can, drinking beer, sexually harassing waitresses, and planning Valentine's Day dances! The old bartender warns them not to, as there is a crazy miner that really hates Valentine's Day dances- or anything resembling a dance, like a party or a hoedown or a get-together- and if you have one, he is just gonna kill you. All the miners laugh off his advice and drink more beer and let's PAR-TAY!

Why does the miner hate Valentine's Day dances so much? Well, there was a dance and his supervisors left him and his crew out in the mines and there was an explosion and everyone died, except this miner!

This is probably the worst setup for a slasher movie ever. I mean, Jason was left to drown by uncaring camp counselors. Freddy was burned to death. The guy in the Burning... was also burned, but only really badly and not to death. The miner should probably be thankful really. He wasn't even hideously burned!

But you know, this is slasher and it's a really good one, so that is all the setup you really need. All the miners and their women seem to be in their late 20s at the very least, though that doesn't stop the sheriff from referring to them as "bunch of kids" a few times. The main character is extremely obnoxious- he apparently just left one day to try to make it out in the city or whatever and failed miserably and now is back doing backbreaking mine work and just expects the girl he abandoned to come back to him, regardless of the fact that she has moved on to some other manly guy. So the first guy spends most of the movie sulking and finally starts a fight with the new boyfriend and gets totally wrecked, which was surprising and awesome.

There are two things that separate this from any other slasher from the early 80s. First, it is extremely brutal! I got to watch the uncut version and I was a little shocked. There is even some totally out of nowhere and unlikely Italian exploitation eyeball violence! Second, the small mining town setting is really interesting. The last part of the movie was shot in an actual mine and it's a really great location for a slasher movie final chase.

Overall a really great horror flick and well worth seeing if you've seen all the Friday the 13th movies and are looking for something around the same time, but really violent and from Canada.


Country Blue (1973)

Bobby Lee Dixon has just been released from prison and after doing some accounting he figures there is no way he can, on his meager auto mechanic salary, escape brutal Southern life with his girlfriend Ruthie, especially considering she is married to a rich guy. So he does the only thing you can do in that situation- he gets an education and becomes an astronaut. Just kidding, he robs a bank and things go from bad to worse. Can Bobby Lee and Ruthie escape the mind-rending terror of the Country Blue?

Sadly there is no monster in this movie, just a bunch of poor people and one monkey in a cage in the middle of nowhere for no reason at all. Maybe the people shooting the last movie on the set they used here forget their monkey when they cleaned up.

It's not a bad way to waste ninety minutes, but it is basically what you'd expect. You get some nice nature photography of swamps and stuff and the movie doesn't really pick up until nearly the end where is suddenly gets really exploitative really suddenly, filled with shootouts and corrupt sweaty cops and tough as nails ladies.

The ending totally comes out of nowhere, so that is something to look forward to depending on how you feel about sudden twist endings. When it comes to drive-in fare like this, it only makes the movie better so I was cheering the whole way.

I couldn't find a poster for this (was it even released in the theaters?) so I made my own. Judging from this drawing, you might think the movie looks a little bit like Southern E.T. in a convertible. If so, mission accomplished.


Super Mario Bros. (1993)

Two plumbers, Mario Mario and Luigi Mario, jump into a parallel dimension (The Mushroom Kingdom, where everyone has evolved from dinosaurs instead of monkeys) to save Luigi's girlfriend Daisy. But they will have to contend with King Koopa (Dennis Hopper!!), who rules the Mushroom Kingdom with an iron fist and has plans to merge his dimension with the human Earth, thus taking over the world!

There's not much that can be said about this movie. It's a dark movie for kids who like Mario and dinosaurs, so of course all the hip gamer adults hate this because Mario doesn't hit blocks for coins and doesn't jump on a flagpole at the end of each scene, his height on the pole determining how many points are added to his score. So yes, this movie has very little to to with the painstakingly detailed mythos of Super Mario Brothers and if you are looking for a 100 minute film about your memories of playing Super Mario Bros. when you were eight years old, you should probably watch the end of The Wizard instead.

But here in cave of newtmonkey I don't review movies based on how close they are to video games. I review movies based on how violent they are, or how much exploitative nudity there is. In other words, the ideas they contain and what they say about the human condition.

Super Mario Bros. is interesting because of how dark and crazy the dystopia ruled by Koopa is. There is mucous-like fungus growing over everything, and society is slowly being driven insane, possibly by genetic deterioration. There are no resources left so everything is dirty and awful and all the cars are hooked into some kind of electric grid. The entire planet except for one small city is a barren wasteland. People eat bug sandwiches. I could go on and on. It's a pretty well-developed world, much more developed anyway than any of the Super Mario Bros. games.

So this could have stood up there with Return to Oz and The Neverending Story and The Goonies as a classic dark fantasy for kids that we in our 30s would all be flipping out for all the time in fits of nostalgia, except for the fact that they paced it for the video game generation. Scenes last mere seconds, just long enough to build up a quip-worthy situation. Mario and Luigi's relationship is just a means to deliver groan worthy sarcastic one-liners back and forth. It's never funny, just distressing.

On top of that, the ending sets us up for a sequel. I found it a little arrogant but in hindsight I could laugh while seeing what they were trying to do. Yeah, good luck with that guys. This movie will surely be a hit! Maybe in the dinosaur dimension.


Shaolin Deadly Kicks (1977)

Eight guys (the "Dragons") steal a "treasure map" that looks kind of like a novelty chocolate bar and then split it up among them and go their separate ways, vowing to come together again when the time is right to claim the treasure. Unfortunately for them, super-kicky policeman Fong Yee is on the case and he definitely does not want these guys to get their treasure! So in other words, this is your typical police movie, if your typical police movie was one where the cop went anonymously around kicking people utterly to death unless they give him some treasure map.

This seems like a pretty good kung fu flick, but I don't really have the depth of experience yet to say for sure. It was certainly technically a lot better than Kung Fu Arts (even though there is no Uncle Monkey in this one), and the fight scenes were pretty excellent although there were some cases of ridiculous looking wire work acted in reverse and several of the fights were way too stop-and-go and overly choreographed for my tastes. But man, can that one guy kick really well!

The version I watched was of course dubbed in English and that made much of the movie hilarious so it was hard to take parts of it seriously. All the women sound like Beaker from the Muppets, and most of the guys end up sounding like guys from black and white gangster flicks, since they have to often breathlessly fill out long stretches of dialog. There is one absolutely hilarious part where one of the Dragons, who is living a quiet life of retirement with his young daughter, is trying to assassinate Fong Yee, but every time he pulls out his assassinatin' knife, no matter where he is, you hear his daughter shout out "FONG YEE! OH FONG YEE!" and she runs over and he has to go hide.

So between all of that kicking and the funny voices there is a lot to recommend about Shaolin Deadly Kicks! One of the better cheapo dubbed kung fu flicks I have seen.

*poster downloaded from kungfucinema.com

Army of Darkness (1993)

At the end of Evil Dead II the hero, Ash, was pulled into some kind of time portal along with the monster he was trying to banish. He ends up back in the 14th century, surrounded by men of King Arthur (obviously not the King Arthur, since that guy- if he existed- lived and died centuries before this), who mistake him for a soldier of their sworn enemy, Henry the Red. Ash and Henry's men are chained up and sent to their deaths in a pit where Arthur keeps some zombies, but since Ash has developed godlike battle skills thanks to his hour of training he got back in the cabin in the previous movie he is able to pretty easily destroy the zombies and escape. People begin to trust him and he is told that there is a formula in the Necronomicon, the book of the dead, that can send him home. Not really concerned with anything other than going home, Ash heads off to retrieve the book!

Army of Darkness is a very entertaining movie. It's funny and ridiculous and has some very charming old-fashioned special effects, like adorable stop motion skeleton warriors and trick photography.

But what kind of movie is it exactly? It is the third Evil Dead movie, but shares little in common with either of the previous films. If anything, it feels a lot like an adventure or sword & sorcery movie. And not a particularly brutal one at that. It's certainly not scary. In fact, cut some scenes a little short and you could show this movie to children, who would definitely find the skeletons cool rather than creepy.

Stylistically, you won't see any of the amazing camerawork from the first movie in this one. Honestly, the movie looks a little cheap overall, which is surprising considering the budget this movie had compared with Evil Dead. Between the lack of violence/gores/scares and the somewhat cheap look, watching this movie often feels like watching a really good made-for-TV feature, which is a huge letdown considering how epic Evil Dead II felt.

Bruce Campbell's Ash is an interesting character, but as a character he is turned up to 11 this time around, and although most of the time he's hilarious, sometimes you feel like they were trying way too hard to make him into this kind of sarcastic superhero. I think the best version of this character was definitely from Evil Dead II, where he was played more subtly. The subtle humor mixed with the gross-out gore scenes hit the mark exactly and worked so well, so it's a bit of a shame that they had to go so over the top with Army of Darkness.

Make no mistake, it is a worthy sequel. It's just quite a step down from two excellent films and I couldn't help but feel let down by it. Some of the jokes fall flat and without the edge provided by the suspense and absolute terror from the first film, or the gross out gore gags from the second, I was left kind of feeling a little awkward about the whole movie.


Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women (1968)

I've been tricked! Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women is basically the same movie as Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet but with some added scenes of Venusian women swimming and sitting on rocks.

A bunch of astronauts go to Venus to look for some other astronauts. Along the way they run into lizard monsters and a plant monster, but their robot, John, helps them out when he can. Until the robot complains about having to carry their worthless hides across the lava river and then they disable his circuits. Later on, the guy that made the robot feels bad about it but not for long because this other guy won't shut up about this noise they keep hearing and he is positive that it is a beautiful Venusian woman. One of the other guys brings up the more likely scenario that it is a space monster, but nothing will kill this guy's fantasy!

These are the most carefree astronauts ever. When they are not droning on and on endlessly about imaginary space babes, they are laughing off killer plant attacks, or dressing up in alien costumes to scare each other.

Whereas Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet leaves the decision of whether or not there are girls on Venus to the viewer, Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women has a bunch of hokey scenes of women that look exactly like human women and it sort of ruins the scene where one of the astronauts finds a plate with a carving of a human looking face on it, which is probably one of the best parts of Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet. They also added a completely unnecessary but constant voice-over, which is almost like listening to a really boring commentary track. The guy will describe what he is doing on the screen in the most boring way possible:

Guy is swimming
"While swimming I encounted something."
Sea monster swims out from behing rock
"But it was just a harmless octopus."
Sea monster looks dejected and swims back behind the rock

The only purpose this movie serves, other than providing the hilarious voice overs, is to make you realize that Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet in hindsight is not so bad. And that is my review, of both movies.


Evil Dead II (1987)

Evil Dead II is a remake/continuation of the first Evil Dead. The first twenty minutes or so summarize the first movie, and then the rest of the movie takes place directly after the events of Evil Dead.

Ash and his girlfriend Linda drive out to a deserted cabin in the woods for some peace and relaxation. Meanwhile, the daughter of the couple that owns the (now abandoned) cabin is on her way, meaning to help her father translate the Book of the Dead (a common enough family activity back then). Her boyfriend and a hillbilly couple are along for the help. But before that can happen, Ash plays a recording of the father speaking aloud verses from the book and suddenly there are demons all over the place!

The effects in this film are pretty amazing, from the fantastic introduction with a great stop-motion effect of the Book of the Dead writing itself overlayed across an image of a roaring sea of blood to the final battle with a giant demon head in the woods.

Also amazing is Bruce Campbell as Ash. It's almost like it's a different person playing Ash this time around! Every scene without Ash suffers in comparison.

However, although Evil Dead II is a much better film when it comes to effects and acting, it's not really scary at all. On top of that, the movie has pacing issues. Once the other characters arrive at the shack, the movie kind of drags and there are a couple of scenes where Ash is possessed and it just really doesn't work well. And there are too many scenes of people creeping over to doors to check out some noise. In a straight horror movie those scenes work to build suspense, but since Evil Dead II is more of a slapstick gore comedy they feel out of place and just end up killing the momentum.

Regardless of its status as a horror movie, Evil Dead II is a fantastic way to spend ninety minutes, assuming you don't mind a little bit of red karo syrup with your slapstick.

Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965)

A bunch of guys land on Venus for exploration, with their awesome robot. Like most cheap scifi flicks, they are attacked by plant monsters and lizard monsters for about seventy minutes and then they escape. But before escaping they find proof that the Venusians are humanlike (or at least were at some time) when they find a plate with a creepy carving of a human face on it.

The problem with this movie is that it is so slow. When the astronauts get to Venus it is pretty awesome- the surface of the planet looks relatively like the real thing (rocky and volcanic) and the only thing that causes modern man's sense of disbelief to crumble is that, well, people are walking around on Venus in these flimsy space suits. One guy gets a tear in his suit after fighting with some lizard men but this just kind of leaves him winded. 400+ °C will tend to do that to you. Oh, also there are lizard men.

So after an awesome ride on their robot across a lake of lava our heroes go home, without even really trying to investigate the singing voice they hear that just might be a woman! Or a monster. We will never know thanks to these cowards.

The part where they find the disc or whatever with the image of a human looking face carved in it is actually done pretty well and is even a little chilling. Just be prepared to go through what seems like an hour of boring talk on the spaceship before anything cool happens.


The Creeper (1977)

A bunch of doctors get together in the woods to do some manly camping and fishing but what they do not know is that someone or something is stalking them! First, their boots are taken from them! And then they get picked off one by one. It doesn't take many words to summarize this movie. You could summarize any number of slashers from the 1970s and 1980s thusly, but The Creeper is a very special slasher.

First of all, the characters, while not likable, are interesting and interact with one another in a realistic way. These guys don't like each other so much as they tolerate one another, and the burden of dealing with a psychotic killer or killers in the woods stalking them only irritates this.

Second, they are all doctors and it is interesting how they react to the attacks. They generally know how to deal with injuries, but in a way this can often make things worse because instead of leaving someone to die, they will treat his wound and carry him along, making everyone an even bigger target.

Finally, the attacks are really subtle. This isn't "harpoon to the groin" kind of stuff Jason from Friday the 13th might pull. This is, steal all the boots leaving people unable to cover much ground, or throw a beehive into camp. It's really clever how they do this, because every step of the way you can imagine yourself in a similar situation. "What would I do if my buddy were to be caught by a bear trap while we were trying to escape from a psycho in the woods?" This is the kind of movie The Creeper is.

I think a big part of how scary you will find this movie is, how comfortable are you in the woods? I went camping with a friend only once in my life and I remember very clearly waking up in the middle of the night having to go to the bathroom and once I left the safety of the tent I was positive that a gang of crazy bears was watching my every move, waiting for me to slip up. Needless to say I was able to survive, but that is only because I was able to intimidate the bears with my cocky high school swagger. The guys in The Creeper, several years past high school, sadly cannot say the same.

Look, you can either appreciate the difference between a good movie where a bunch of people are stalked to death in the woods, and a bad one, or you can't. Possibly, this depends on how many "stalked-to-death in the woods" movies you have seen. But I am telling you that The Creeper is fantastic and if you can trust me- a simple man who just really enjoys a good film where people are stalked in the woods until all of them but one dies- then you should watch it too.

The Evil Dead (1981)

Ash and his friends decide to stay at a cabin in the woods. Therein they find a sinister recording and a book bound in human flesh. They decide it would be a great idea to play the tape one night, which is a sort of audio journal of some guy who had stayed in the cabin previously, who had been researching the history of the book and how it was used in resurrecting demons. Unfortunately for Ash and crew, the man is fluent in demon language and reads aloud the demon summoning ritual from the book. Soon, friends start being possessed by demons and all hell breaks loose.

The Evil Dead is an amazing horror masterpiece written and directed by horror virtuoso Sam Raimi, now famous as the director of the Spiderman movies. The quality of the direction is frankly unbelievable. This is basically the second movie the guy had ever done, if you include the low budget and rarely-seen Within the Woods. I usually don't like to get into histories of people involved in the movies I review, but you need to understand that Sam Raimi, on his second attempt, made a movie that outclasses nearly every horror movie of its time. It is that good.

It is absolutely packed with memorable shots and scenes. I especially like the scene where Ash attempts to escape with Cheryl and they find the bridge to the town to have been uprooted by some unknown force, steel girders curling up like the fingers of some demonic hand. The scene was shot with both the car and the camera on a slope. So when Ash exits the car and then passes between the car and the camera it appears that he is walking at a 45-degree angle to the ground. It's a simple but amazing effect, but when you see it it really makes you feel uneasy. And then when Ash discovers that the bridge is no longer an option, the scene is framed so that all you see is him and Cheryl in the headlights of the car, surrounded by total darkness. And the movie is filled with these kinds of amazing shots.

The sound effects are equally impressive, from the deep rumbling noise the demon presence makes as it glides through the woods, to the horrific voices the characters speak in when they are possessed.

Unlike its sequel, The Evil Dead is pretty much a total horror film, with very little (if nothing) to laugh at. It's a little amusing how much abuse Ash has to put up with, but even then it is more gross than funny. It's an extremely violent and gory film, but that is all part of the ride and as far as I am concerned this film is a perfect horror movie.


Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

Oh God, Michael Myers and Dr. Loomis are back again. Years have passed since the events of the previous film, and little Jamie has grown up and is now pregnant. In fact, we open the film with her giving birth in some basement in a hospital, begging the doctors not to take her baby. But they do. And then a kind nurse manages to get Jamie her baby. Jamie thanks her by running away and leaving the nurse to a horrible fate at the hands of Michael Myers, who is really angry now that he has a baby to worry about.

Later on we meet a bunch of awful people living in Michael's house, and living across from them is grown up and crazy Tommy Doyle, who was one of the little kids Laurie was babysitting during the first Halloween movie. Tommy has been obsessively researching the whole Michael Myers phenomenon, and has connected Michael with ancient druid lore and he starts explaining something about how the druids would curse one of their children with the mark of Thorn, and then that kid would grow up and kill his or her next of kin, saving the tribe from Dracula or something. Look, Tommy Doyle is obviously insane so it's up to you if you buy this druid nonsense.

The Man in Black from The Revenge of Michael Myers is back and you can look forward to his identity being revealed. And while all this is happening, Loomis is still around though sadly not nearly as out of control as he was in Halloween 5. He's just a little crazy in this one.

The whole druid/Thorn thing is pretty interesting but it really takes away from what made Michael Myers scary in the first place- he was just a kid that snapped for no reason and killed his sister and then came back ten years later or whatever and killed again. It's just not as scary when he's being controlled by draculas or druids or space leprechauns or whatever. Although one thing that is done well with Michael this time around is that he doesn't really do a lot of slow stalking. He's just really angry and you can see that in how brutal he is this time around. Michael has trouble with feelings, so he must express himself through the universal language of killing you with whatever tools he has within reach at the time, no matter how unlikely they might be as weapons.

There are a ton of stupid things going on in this movie, but apparently the movie had a rough production so it's understandable (but not forgivable!!). At one point the plot depends on Tommy tracking the location of a phone call he has recorded to a bus station, then following a trail of blood left from the phone booth in the station into the bathroom where he finds a loud crying baby hidden in a little cabinet, all in broad daylight at least a day after the incident occurred there. You mean no one but crack detective Tommy noticed the massive pool of blood on the floor of the public telephone booth in the bus station? And no one heard the loud baby in the bathroom?

So this is what we are dealing with, when we sit down to watch The Curse of Michael Myers, but it's okay. It's got the worst cast of any of the movies (though Paul Rudd as Tommy Doyle is pretty cool, especially his reaction when he first meets Michael face to face in a hallway), but it sure looks good with some excellent colored lighting straight out of 1970s horror Italy. This is also definitely the goriest of all the Halloween movies.

I thought about this really carefully and I am fine with that. Halloweens 2 and 4 tried so hard to do the same thing as the excellent first movie, but they just couldn't manage it and ended up being extremely boring. Halloween 5 threw its hands up in the air and just started cracking jokes. And The Curse of Michael Myers doesn't try any of that, instead it's just a really violent, weird, and pretty decent looking slasher movie with light occult elements. I'd rank it the third best Halloween.


Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)

Michael Myers is back again! Halloween 5 takes place directly after the end of that miserable failure of a movie, Halloween 4. Michael's little niece Jamie has been rendered speechless after Michael somehow made her kill her foster mother using Halloween magic. Dr. Loomis is still around, and Jamie's adoptive big sister Rachel is also (momentarily) around to help out. There are some new annoying kids played by thirty-year-olds who have existed up until now merely to act as fodder for Michael to massacre so we can get a ninety-minute movie. Complicating all of this, Jamie has developed some kind of psychic bond with her uncle and can sort of track where he is going. And also there is some guy in a black trenchcoat following Michael around!

This is an amazing movie. It is definitely the second best in the series, behind the first movie. That's not saying much since parts two and four are absolute garbage, but seriously this is a great addition to the series.

First of all, it is absolutely hilarious. This was obviously meant as a black comedy. Loomis is an absolute madman this time around. When he is not sneaking into Jamie's hospital room multiple times to terrify her into using her psychic link to track Michael ("Today someone dug up a coffin of a nine-year-old girl, Jamie. Jamie, you're nine years old. What do you think he's going to do with that when he finds you?"), he is treating the local cops as the buffoons they are.

It even pokes fun at the ridiculous scene in the second movie where one guy is killed because he just happens to be wearing the same exact costume as Michael Myers!

Normally, I am not interested in horror films that exist solely to make fun of how all us losers like horror movies. Scream, for instance. Luckily, Halloween 5 is way better than that. First of all, it is a lot more subtle. The guy who wrote Scream felt like he had to include a character to actually explain to you how stupid horror movies are, since you are so dumb. And on top of that, it was no better than some garbage 80s slasher movie! In other words, they made a piece of trash 80s slasher, threw in a guy saying "you guys if you go in the basement alone you're gonna get killed," sat back with a cigar and called it a day. Little did they know that we had subtler, more intelligent slasher parodies like the masterful Halloween 5 or the seminal Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI.

And not only is Halloween 5 a hilarious masterwork of unrelenting comedy hijinx, it's also a really good horror flick! Instead of trying to stupidly ape the slow suspense of Halloween, like all the others did, Halloween 5 is quick and stylish, with plenty of attention paid to gorgeous shots and excellent use of color. It looks a lot like the beautiful Italian horror movies of the late 70s and early 80s, but manages to be compelling with very little blood or gore.

You really can't go wrong with this one. It certainly doesn't deserve the poor reputation it has.

Deep Red (1975)

Music teacher Mark witnesses the murder of psychic Helga and decides that he needs to investigate this case on his own. Meanwhile, the killer goes around killing people. A character introduced out of nowhere ends up being the killer and there is an epic struggle at the end.

This movie is awful. I watched the censored American version, which omits twenty minutes of the most brutal violence, but even so is way too long with a running time of 100 minutes. Nothing happens in this movie! All I can remember about this movie is nearly 100 minutes straight of footage of Mark slowly walking in houses looking at things, punctuated with completely over the top and convoluted murder scenes.

There is simply nothing in this movie to merit a recommendation. The characters are dull, the dialog pointless, the pacing so slow that any attempt at suspense results in boredom. It doesn't even have the wonderful sense of color that Argento's Suspiria boasts. I really can't see how this movie is seen as a classic, when horror masterpieces like Martin and A Bell from Hell were being released around the same time (give or take a few years). Even trash like Scream Bloody Murder or Blood Freak is more entertaining than this poorly-paced film. And the title is dumb! Deep Red... you know, like blood and also like strawberries. And putting a doll on your poster isn't scary! Even if it is transcending the boundary between posters and reality and cutting the title on the poster to death. And also I hate your dog, movie, and your face is stupid!

A Bell from Hell (1973)

A young man named John is released from a mental hospital, his doctor ordering him to report back every week or so for a check up. John burns his documents first chance he gets and heads home, where his vaguely sinister aunt Marta and three beautiful cousins are waiting. Apparently Aunt Marta had John committed to the mental hospital and it is up in the air whether or not he was actually crazy enough to merit this treatment, especially considering the fact that by doing so Aunt Marta has taken control of the family fortune that John was meant to inherit. Complicating things further, John has had some kind of intimate relationship with at least two of the cousins, and there is still some kind of lingering tension between them.

This is an amazing movie. First of all, although the title does not act as a concise plot summary ("John vs. his Aunt and Cousins" would have been a pretty cool title I think), it does show up on the screen with an image of said bell, and that is always worth bonus points in my book. If Halloween 4 opened with a shot of four calenders, all with October 31st circled in red... well, I'm not saying that would have made the movie any good, but it certainly wouldn't have hurt.

Second, this is an amazingly paced thriller that doesn't insult you by explaining everything and takes its time in developing the story it wants to tell. Roughly an hour goes by before you really even realize anything is going on, but the characters and atmosphere are all so captivating you won't care. You reach a certain point where you start to piece together what is going on and from that point on you are glued to the screen.

There is no black-and-white morality presented here. The script is very vague about whether or not John is really crazy. It is also vague regarding whether or not Aunt Marta was acting in John's best interests in having him committed. So basically it is up to you to figure out who to believe, and depending upon which side you choose this movie will turn into either a "crazy guy menacing a houseful of women" story or a "wronged guy getting his revenge" movie.

A Bell from Hell is really indicative of the very best that European horror from the 1970s had to offer. The atmosphere is phenomenal, the direction skilled, and the script clever and intelligent. Finding treasures like this is what watching horror movies is all about.


Scream Bloody Murder (1973)

A young boy named Matthew watches his father doing some generic purposeless farm work. The boy slowly gets onto a tractor and- just when the timing is right!- he purposefully runs his dad over, leaving a broken, bloody ruin of a man that looks a lot like a mannequin. Then Matthew leaps off the tractor and seemingly against the laws of physics he manages to run over his own hand! In other words this kid is a psycho and also incompetent, and if that is not a recipe for hilarity I don't know what is.

Matthew is sent to a mental hospital, his hand replaced by a hook! Then one day adult Matthew receives a letter from his mother. Turns out she has met some guy named Mr. Parsons and is getting married! Matthew looks at the paper with hatred in his eyes. "...Mr. Parsons!"

Mr. Parsons is a great guy and is trying his hardest to bond with Matthew but Matthew will have none of that and the only bonding Parsons will be doing in the near future is the very special kind between his chest and an axe. Mom finds out and in the ensuing struggle she falls and hits her head on a rock, dying instantly. Matthew runs away, killing people as he goes, until he meets Vera who is a part time painter and part time prostitute... and who Matthew decides he must protect from all the men who want to touch her.

Scream Bloody Murder is a fine little exploitation shocker. Matthew is annoying as hell and every time he tries to talk to someone you just want him to shut up. This is a slasher from before the 80s, so not all the victims are instantly detestable which means you do feel bad for them when Matthew flips out on them. This is really a key point if you are trying to make a slasher but don't have the budget of a Friday the 13th or an A Nightmare on Elm Street. The latter Nightmare on Elm Street films can get away with annoying characters because they are primarily special effects flicks. Scream Bloody Murder was made for less than I spent on my dinner last night, so having sympathetic characters helps a lot.

Scream Bloody Murder is unfortunately not an Italian gore movie from the 70s, so it doesn't really have any really crazy stuff in it. Though at one point towards the end Matthew develops teleportation powers! He corners a woman in a room upstairs and she escapes, makes a mad dash for the front door, but when she opens it Matthew is there waiting for her outside the house. I guess coming from the guy who managed to fall backwards off a tractor, landing in front of the tractor so his arm could get run over, this is not too surprising. If only you had used your powers and your claw for good, Matthew!

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

Michael Myers is back, and with Laurie Strode mysteriously out of the picture you have to wonder what he is going to do for the next ninety minutes.

Well, Halloween II explained to us that Michael was after Laurie because she was his sister and this movie expands that to Michael being after all his relatives and it turns out Laurie had a little girl, so Michael knows what he has to do.

While being transferred from one mental hospital to another Michael overhears a doctor mentioning that Michael has got a niece somewhere out there and upon hearing this immediately kills that guy. It's really hilarious, I am talking immediately as in the second the guy says "blah blah niece" Michael flexes his hand and then before you know it his is driving his thumb into the guy's forehead! I guess Michael just really hates his family.

Michael heads back to Haddonfield to take out his little niece Jamie, and while he is expertly tracking her everywhere (regardless of the fact that in Halloween II he was shot in both eyes, then exploded, and then left to burn to death) it just so happens that there are a bunch of people around for him to murder graphically. Following Michael around is Dr. Loomis again, who survived the same gas-filled room explosion Michael lived through. Loomis is definitely feeling the effects of living through a massive fiery explosion- he sort of limps sometimes, and has a little patch of scar tissue on his right cheek.

As much as Halloween II was a huge step down from Halloween, Halloween 4 is even more a step down down the ladder of Halloween movies. There's just nothing much you can say about Michael Myers, and every time they try to fill in his background a little or give him a clearer reason to kill people it just ends up taking away from what made him an interesting villain in the first place (and consequently what made the first movie so good).

In the first movie, you cared about Laurie and her friends because they all seemed like good kids. Nearly every character in this movie is annoying and the dialog sounds like it was written by adults who have forgotten how they acted and talked when they were kids. At one point Jamie is bullied by some other little kids and she runs outside, rests against a tree and tells herself, "you're gonna be alright, you're gonna be alright." I don't think I've ever seen an adult say this, never mind an eleven-year-old kid. That's because people don't speak like this! It's movie dialog nonsense.

There is really nothing to recommend about this movie. Like Halloween II it trades the suspense and wonderful direction of the first movie with gory deaths and pointless background information. Just even more so.


Spartacus and the Ten Gladiators (1964)

A bunch of gladiators, led by Rocca, are kicked out of the arena for arguing with their boss when some other troupe of gladiators is forced to kill each other even though they are all friends! Wandering around, they come upon a young lady being threatened by some goons and Rocca leaps into battle to save her. It turns out she (Deliah) is the daughter of Senator Varro, who welcomes the gladiators into his home in return for saving Deliah.

Shortly after, Varro mentions that his slave, Spartacus, has escaped and is preparing some kind of slave revolt and wonders if Rocca and his men might take care of things for them. They do, and of course they end up befriending Spartacus and his crew once they are told how irredeemably evil Varro is.

This turned out to be a pretty entertaining gladiator flick. Like most movies of this kind, the good guys are totally good in every way and the bad guys are totally despicable human beings. For an obviously low budget movie some of the battle scenes are pretty epic in size and the choreography is nice.

I think the most interesting thing about this movie is that while it deals with a bunch of guys who have no rights whatsoever and are forced to kill each other in battle in order to entertain a bunch of monsters, this movie is really lighthearted. While watching it, there were plenty of times that I forgot I was watching a movie about the cruelty of humanity, and instead it was about a bunch of beefy guys in short shorts horsing around. These are your new breed of fun-loving happy-go-lucky slave gladiators. Instead of screaming a lot and delivering dramatic speeches about how they will never fall to the combined might of all of Rome, these are the kinds of guys that will punch a soldier on the side of the head (doesn't matter that he is wearing a helmet), and then place his body on a pile of other soldiers and just laugh and laugh. If this movie came out in the 80s, I think they would then exchange high-fives.

So if you are in the mood to watch a movie about a bunch of gladiators who are just so happy they gotta smile, I think you could do no better than Spartacus and the Ten Gladiators!

Halloween II (1981)

Michael Myers, Laurie Strode, and Dr. Loomis are back in this gory but boring followup to the amazing Halloween. The film picks up right where the first ended, complete with a quick recap of that last few moments of the first film. Loomis shoots Michael a bunch of times, causing Michael to plummet from a balcony, seemingly to his death. Loomis runs outside to investigate but by the time he gets to the spot where Michael fell, the body is nowhere in sight! Laurie is taken to a local hospital so she can recover. Pretty soon, Michael shows up to finish what he started.

This is really a movie that should never have been made. It tries to have it both ways- it apes the style of the first movie, but there are a bunch of gory death scenes throughout, possibly inserted in order to compete with the increasingly gory horror movies released since Halloween. Surprisingly, the movie was written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill (who wrote the first movie) but this film is so lifeless and dull that it definitely came as a shock to me to find this out. Rumor has it that the gore scenes were shot and inserted by Carpenter himself after filming had finished. If this is true, it's very disappointing. Luckily, Carpenter went on to do some fantastic movies after this unfortunate debacle.

The suspension of disbelief necessary to enjoy this movie is probably impossible or at least dangerous to maintain throughout the running time. There is one part where you see Michael kind of just walking around doing his thing and then Loomis sees him and starts waving his gun around wildly, which cause Michael to go stand in the street, patiently waiting for a speeding cop car to come out of nowhere, slam into him, drag him into an ambulance that is just kind of parked in the middle of the street, causing the ambulance to explode! It's only a few minutes into the movie so you know something is up and sure enough it turns out it was just some kid dressed exactly as Michael Myers.

This was meant as the end of the whole Michael Myers/Laurie Strode saga, and maybe with that in mind the ending could have at the time seemed triumphant and awesome, but in hindsight, you realize that both Michael and Loomis have survived their final battle- wherein Michael is shot point black in both eyes blinding him and then Loomis fills a room with gas and lights the room up exploding everything in it, Michael completely engulfed in flames to the point where you can see that his head is burning through his mask!- to go on to do multiple sequels. And that is just ridiculous, no one could have survived that explosion! And Michael is obviously blinded, he does that thing blinded people do in movies, where he is blindly swinging his scalpel in front on him even though no one is there. And yet in the next movie, he is going around hunting people like the Predator.

It's hard to recommend this movie considering how it compares with the previous one, but it is still better than your typical slasher.

Hercules and the Masker Rider (1963)

Don Juan comes back home a war hero only to find that his girlfriend/cousin Blanca is to marry the evil Don Ramiro in order to stop a war between Ramiro and her father, Don Francisco. Juan and Blanca decide to elope and are caught and Juan is banished from the land! He ends up getting mixed up with some crazy gypsies, and among the gypsies walks Hercules!

The best thing about this movie is that they don't explain why Hercules is there. Did he travel forward through time, arriving in 16th century Spain? Is he just some guy named Hercules (a very common name in Spain, back then)? The film doesn't tell you and you are left to decide on your own; the hallmark of a good film.

So I thought Don Juan would become Zorro or something, but he looks as much like Zorro as he does the Lone Ranger or the Green Hornet or any guy whose costume is just whatever he was wearing that day with a tiny mask over his eyes. But he does ride around and get into a lot of sword fights and even cuts one guys pants, causing them to fall down, comically exposing his hilarious olde tyme underwear.

This is pretty much your typical Italian Hercules muscleman movie. The bad guy is totally evil and cowardly and the good guys are so good they won't even kill guys that are trying to kill them. The problem is there isn't much of anything going on in this movie and even the constant fight scenes are pretty boring and do nothing to keep your interest.

This is the first movie in the Warriors 50-movie set and I am hoping it is just a poor choice because I don't think I can take forty-nine more of these!