Shocktober Weekly – Peter Vincent, Vampire Hunter

For the month of October, I will be doing the Shocktober Weekly column once each week.  I will give a report on the horror movies I watch whether they be ones I’ve never seen before or ones I rewatch.  I’ll jot down a few thoughts and maybe I’ll save you from sitting through a terrible movie or inspire you to watch a good one!  Each week will have a different subtitle that I come up with that pokes fun at a movie or is a hint to one of the film’s that I watched (it’s usually kind of stupid but hey I’m in the mood for stupid fun this time of year!).  So be sure to watch some horror movies yourself and feel free to leave comments on what you’ll be watching this Halloween season!

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

Halloween III was unfairly given a bad wrap when it was released since it had nothing to do with the Michael Myers storyline of the Halloween franchise.  I really liked the anthology approach that John Carpenter and Debra Hill wanted to take with the series and I wish they were given the chance.  I mean, don’t get wrong, I love Michael Myers as a horror icon but I like the idea of a horror anthology franchise.  This third Halloween has gained its fans over the years and Scream Factory was kind enough to notice and give us fans a proper Blu-ray release of the film.

After watching Halloween III, the film didn’t quite hold up to the memory I had of it when I first watched it over ten years ago.  It’s kind of uneven and loses sight sometimes of what type of movie it wants to be.  That being said, I still enjoyed it and still really like the concept of the film, an evil man using some sort of witchcraftian power to melt children’s heads using Halloween masks rigged with a deadly device.  Plus it has Tom Atkins starring in it, who my brother referred to as the B-movie Tom Selleck (it’s totally the mustache).  There are some pretty cool practical effects with some of the deaths and with the robot Silver Shamrock guards/workers (aka Irish Cylons).  I’m not sure why there were robots in this movie, especially since the main bad guy was using the powers of witchcraft for his evil plan.  Why couldn’t he have just found someone to cast a spell to make people do his bidding?  It seems like that would have fit the movie more.  The story and pacing feel a little all-over-the-place at times but Halloween III is still a fun movie that feels like it could have easily fit into an old EC comic story.  The transfer on the Blu-ray itself looks pretty damn good and Scream Factory provides us with a pretty decent 30-minute documentary that talks about the making of the movie as well as a pretty honest account of how it was received/conceived.  It was also nice to see director Tommy Lee Wallace get some recognition and love for the film which he thought was long-forgotten and looked down upon.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch is available on Blu-ray and DVD.

The Hole (2009)

This Joe Dante (Gremlins, The Howling) directed film unfortunately sat on a shelf for a couple of years collecting dust before finally being released last week on home video for everyone to see.  Joe Dante has created some films that have stuck with me as I’ve grown older and I still love them just as much as I did when I was a kid, if not more.  So being that I’m a big fan of his work and horror films, The Hole was definitely something I was looking forward to.  I’m happy to say that I’m mostly satisfied with the results of his newest flick.

The thing that stands out most about The Hole is the 80s vibe I get from it.  I feel like this movie could have easily been made during the Amblin movie heyday.  It’s kid-friendly but it also doesn’t shy away from being dark.  I really dug the child abuse fear element in the film, something that definitely wouldn’t be addressed in popular family fare of today.  The movie does show signs of its low-budget nature at times (why the hell is Joe Dante forced to work without a decent budget after all he’s contributed??) and the cinematography lacked some much needed atmosphere at times.  There were moments that I felt were too bright and colorful that played against the darker aspects of the film.  However, it still manages to create some tense scenes that would probably be on the scary side for kids.  Fans of Joe Dante may be pleased with the look of one of the final cartoonish set pieces in the film that reminded me a little of his segment from Twilight Zone: The Movie.

My favorite thing in The Hole is the creepy clown that stalks the younger brother.  They actually used puppeteers to make the clown come to life and, not only does it look really cool, it goes a long way in showing just how awesome practical effects can look.  The kid that plays the younger brother is actually another highlight of the film.  He seems like a smart and talented kid actor and did a really good job in his role, even doing a little stunt work himself.  The Hole may not be perfect and while its flaw may seem apparent, it doesn’t take away from it being a fun and family-friendly horror film.  This is easily my favorite film out of all the ones I watched this week.

The Hole is available in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack and on iTunes.

Fright Night (1985)

The original Fright Night is a film that, admittedly, I disliked when I first saw it.  In the interest of full disclosure, I used to really hate the 80s era when I was younger.  I’m not sure my rationale behind that hate as my stance has changed and I absolutely love the 80s now.  But perhaps that dislike influenced my liking of this classic as this movie is very much brimming with 80s characteristics.  I’m happy that I’ve since given this film (and the 80s) a second shot as this is an incredibly fun vampire flick.

This marks the third time I’ve seen Fright Night but the first time I’ve seen it on Blu-ray.  It looks rather good in high-def and all those awesome practical monster effects look even more amazing.  Besides its inherent 80s attributes, the practical effects are what I love most about the film.  I also really like Stephen Geoffreys bizarre but highly hilarious portrayal of Evil Ed.  The make-up effects of Evil Ed as a dying wolf is easily my favorite segment of the film.  That wonderful piece of make-up effects artistry looks so utterly badass!  I saw the recent remake of Fright Night, which to be honest, I found to be fairly decent but it seriously lacked a good Evil Ed, Christopher Mintz-Plasse is no Stephen Geoffreys.  If you have to choose between watching the two films, I’d say watch the original for sure.  It’s just a fun, nostalgic 80s romp with a vampire hunting Roddy McDowall!

Fright Night is available on Blu-ray and DVD, though I’m sorry to say it might be hard to find an inexpensive copy of it on Blu now as it was a limited edition and is most likely out of print.

Spellbinder (1988)

So I decided to watch one more movie for this column last night and scrolled through Netflix Instant to see my options.  I came across this one which appealed to me as I was in the mood for a good satanic/witch story.  Plus, I quickly glanced at the user reviews for Spellbinder on IMDB and the first ten to fifteen reviews were all about eight out of ten stars or higher.  With the positive reviews, I thought I had stumbled upon a lesser-known horror hit.  Yea, not so much.

Spellbinder starts off feeling like everything is happening way too quickly.  Jeff Mills (Tim Daly) meets Miranda Reed (Kelly Preston) after her Criss Angel wannabe magician-looking boyfriend slaps her in public and Jeff comes to the rescue.  He instantly asks her back to his place and she decides to heal his hurting back (he was playing b-ball with the boys earlier), which apparently is done best while topless.  Of course, the next logical progression is for Jeff to ask Miranda to move in with him (this is all happening within the span of a day).  She accepts his proposal, gets naked again at some point and then the trouble starts.  Turns out her ex-boyfriend is every bit as magical as he seemed and Miranda belongs to a coven that he is a leader of.  Miranda is trying to escape the group of witches but the coven doesn’t want her to leave, at least without dying first.  So Jeff must now save her from the evil coven as they make threats towards him as well.

While the rushed feeling of the beginning of the film seems to (possibly) make better sense once you see the whole film, it still doesn’t hide the fact that Spellbinder is slowly-paced, relatively uneventful and just plain boring.  They could have made the coven seem more threatening with some fantastic spell-induced deaths or display of powers but instead you just see members of the coven breaking windows with their powers or casually saying things like “give her back” or “you’ll regret this!”  It’s a very ho-hum movie that I was more excited for it to end than for the content itself.  Unless you are a hardcore Tim Daly or Kelly Preston fan, I’d say skip this one.

If you decide to not pay heed to my warning, you can find Spellbinder on DVD and Netflix Instant.

by Ben McBride


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