When A Stranger Calls (2006)
Jake Wade Hall
Camilla Belle as Jill Johnson
Brian Geraghty as Bobby
Katie Cassidy as Tiffany Madison
Clark Gregg as Ben Johnson
Tommy Flannigan as The Stranger
Lance Henrikson as The Stranger (voice)
Budget $15M Box Office $66.9M
IMDb 5.1/10 Rotten Tomatoes 9% Metacritic 27/100
This is a story about a teenager Jill, that, instead of getting to go out and have fun with her friends, is forced to go babysit at someone else’s house, The Mandrakis’, as part of a punishment. Another part of her punishment is that her parents took away her cell phone. (That wouldn’t bother ME but, apparently to younger folks nowadays, that’s like taking away oxygen.)
Once Jill arrives at the Mandrakis residence the parents quickly show her about the house, show her the kids in their room asleep, inform her the live-in maid is there, give her the phone numbers of where they will be and say they will be home around midnight as they hurry out the door.
Now, the rest of her friends are at some big bonfire party and poor Jill is stuck watching two kids who spend the whole evening that she’s at their house in bed asleep. Talk about boring, the kids aren’t even awake to play games with or watch movies with, nothing.
Soon, Jill starts receiving creepy taunting phone calls from a stranger to the Mandrakis’ house phone. The calls become increasingly terrifying and Jill gets more scared with every ring. The caller taunts her in a gravelly whisper, describing the horrors he wants to subject her to. He also suggests to her she check on the children. He says others things to make Jill nervous and feel uneasy. She does call the police and they try to help her but it’s slow going. It’s only a matter of time before Jill comes face to face with her tormentor. Then, it’s a battle of wills.
This is a remake of the 1979 film of the same name. While I haven’t seen the original, I HAVE seen the sequel to the original and THAT was good. I can’t, for the life of me, see how this movie made so much upon release. It was more of a drama to me than a suspense or thriller movie. Yes, there was a suspense and psychological thriller element BUT, they could have done SO MUCH MORE with it. It’s almost as if they purposefully underplayed it. And IF they WERE trying to slow play the suspense, they needed to do more to make it more intense. It felt flat and listless at many points in the film. I expected terror and the ongoing mental torture of a babysitter and this definitely was not that. Not by a long shot.
Although it was decent to watch and all that, it’s not a movie I plan on watching again any time soon. I wish it had more meat, more blood, more gore and more thrill. It needs more suspense and definitely more terror inducing scenes. I’m sorry to say this is one movie I’m feeling buyer’s remorse about.
Wrong Turn (2003)
Alan B. McElroy
Desmond Harrington, Eliza Dushku, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Jeremy Sisto, Kevin Zagers, Lindy Booth
Budget $12.6M Box Office $28.7M
IMDb 6.1/10 Rotten Tomatoes 40% Metacritic 32/100
I remember liking this movie when it first came out on video, ya know, back in the days when we went to the video store, walked the walls and picked movies based on the picture on the front of the box??? If you were born after 2000, you almost surely have no idea what I’m talking about. The whole “video store rental” market went downhill right about the turn of the century so, you younger people never got to experience the madness of rushing to the video store on Friday evening to get to the New Releases before they ran out. You don’t know the agony of being put on a “wait list” for a movie to be returned and you certainly don’t know about “Be Kind, Rewind” and the penalty fee that came along with that if you weren’t, eh um…”kind”. Nevertheless, it was a whole experience back in the day, unlike today where just about any movie you want is at your fingertips in digital format SOMEWHERE.
Watching this film again took me back to those days. It also reminded me how young everybody looked back then. I saw Jeremy Sisto and immediately thought of his schmucko character in that annoying movie Clueless. (Please insert a double, no triple, eye roll here for one of the most airhead movies of the 90s.) But, then I also thought of him in Suicide Kings, equally as big of a schmuck but, a lot better movie.
This film is about a group of people, around their early 20s (maybe a couple about 19) and they get in a car accident with each other. Four of them group together to go look for a phone (and help) while two stay behind to wait at the cars. They soon find out that being wrecked and stranded on an abandoned dirt road out in the middle of nowhere IS as creepy as it sounds…even creepier. Soon they are accosted by three men, if you can call them that. I guess by scientific definition they would HAVE to be classified as human but, these creatures are definitely NOT like the average everyday people…or even the average everyday killer. These guys are the epitome of the inbred, backwoods, no teeth, psychotic killers you see and hear about ONLY in horror movies like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and well, this movie. They don’t even speak English, they just make weird whooping noises and awful sounds that could make your stomach turn. If they weren’t so violent, and ugly, you would think that they were just the typical depiction of village idiots living in the woods. But these guys are like psychopathy on crack.
Now, all they have to do is survive…
There are some really good kill scenes in this movie. The special effects are decent and the action is pretty constant. I will admit that at about an hour in I looked at the counter to see how much time was left on the movie because it was a slow spot in the film. And I’d say the first fifteen minutes or so, like any other film, can be a little slow too. But, there is some light comedy, more like sarcasm in the beginning so that helps. The acting is good but, honestly, the best are the killer freaks. They really grab hold of the roles and don’t let go. And their make-up is truly grotesque. I mean, if there was ever an ugly villain contest, these guys could take first prize, easy.
All in all, definitely worth watching and I’m glad I own it. It’ll be one I watch again.
Session 9 (2001)
Directed by Brad Anderson
Written by Brad Anderson and Stephen Gevedon
Starring: David Caruso, Peter Mullan, Stephan Gevedon, Paul Guilfoyle, Josh Lucas, Brendon Sexton III
IMDb 6.5/10 Rotten Tomatoes 63% Metacritic 58/100
I finally got to watch this the other morning. Unfortunately, I was out of sugar so I didn’t get to have my morning coffee while I watched it. That would have been quite the excellent morning wake up for that particular day. I just happened to catch this as it started on one of the cable movie channels, Starz I think. It got my attention right away.
I have always been fascinated by abandoned places, how nature just takes over when we leave structures to her devices. These places tend to look grim, dark, eerie, even sinister at times. (At least in my opinion.) Many times it looks as if time just stood still. And sometimes, these places look like time has forgotten about the area altogether. You can find tons of images online of these places…abandoned houses with furniture still in place and clothes neatly hanging in closets, dishes on tables and detergents in cabinets, toys on the floor. There’s abandoned malls with empty display cases and clothes racks still standing, sometimes a sale sign is still visible through the snow that has fallen through the broken skylights, remnants of escalators and stairs, metal trim hanging from rails, bent chairs from the food court overturned and rusted. There’s houses full of sand out in the middle of the desert, abandoned Olympic venues like cross country running tracks, swimming pools and bobsled tracks, theme parks and tourist attractions and tons of empty parking structures related to these locations. And then there’s abandoned mental hospitals, those places the state would send a person when it was decided that they were not mentally capable of functioning in any other place and most certainly not on their own without supervision, therapy, treatment or medication of some sort.
Abandoned hospitals have always held a certain place in modern horror. It’s always been somewhat lore or urban legend that the tortured souls of the mentally ill patients that were once treated at these facilities (and possibly some staff who died while working there) remain in these structures long after any sign of life has left the premises.
In this film, we follow five guys, well…four guys and a newbie, as they remove asbestos from an abandoned asylum, Danvers State Hospital. We have Gordon (Mullan), who is the owner of the small asbestos removal company that’s been hired to do the work. He is married and is a proud new papa of a baby girl but, times are hard and money is tight. Gordon is feeling the stress both at home and at work. He really needed this gig and in order to get it, he said they could complete the job in a week instead of the two weeks (minimum) his buddy Phil (Caruso) first stated it would take to finish. While surveying the work to be done Gordon actually hears a voice coming from somewhere in the hospital but, he brushes it off and moves on. Phil is in kind of an awkward spot in life himself. He recently lost his girlfriend to his co-worker Hank (Josh Lucas) and takes his mind off of it by smoking weed in secret so no one knows. Out in the open, Phil harasses Hank every chance he gets. It’s obvious Phil has been around longer than Hank and is definitely closer to Gordon and Phil seems to use this to his advantage to get over on Hank as much as he can. Then there’s Mike. Mike is a law school dropout. He’s incredibly smart and seems to be rethinking his rebellion against the white-collar path of his father. He also seems to be questioning a lot of the decisions he’s made and where he’s ended up, almost like a mid-life crisis but, before 30. Also, Mike finds some recordings of therapy sessions that he gets very interested in but, I’ll get to that in a minute. Finally, we have Jeff. Jeff is Gordon’s nephew. He’s young, inexperienced, a newbie at…well…everything (sometimes it seems like even breathing is a new concept to this kid). I do think the kid has a brain in there somewhere because he throws out some smarts every once in a while. However, I think his brain gets jumbled and his smarts get lost and he comes off very stupid. I don’t know for sure how old he’s supposed to be but he’s late teens, early twenties. I’m gonna say nineteen. And he acts it. But then again, so does Hank, so…
Back to Mike and the recordings…
Mike knows quite a bit about the hospital. He knows about what kind of treatment practices went on at the time it was a fully functioning facility…ECT (basically electro-shock therapy), hydrotherapy, lobotomies, a number of things. Now like I said before, while they are working Mike finds some recordings of some therapy sessions of a former patient, Mary Hobbes who was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly referred to as Multiple Personality Disorder). He finds these tapes when he goes downstairs to check a tripped breaker that made his machine stop running. He finds nine sessions to be exact, seemingly one per box and labeled per session. Initially, he starts listening to just to see what they are. But as he gets further and further into the sessions, he gets so much more involved. He starts taking notes on the case, making notes about Mary and each of her identities.
While they work this job a number of strange things happen. Tensions continue to rise and stress gets so thick and heavy you could cut it with a knife. Eventually, everything gets out of hand and people get hurt.
But, that’s all I’m going to say. Because I liked the movie a lot and I don’t want to spoil anything.
Like I said in my opening, I have always had a fascination with abandoned places. I can spend hours looking at photos online from urban explorers and professional photographers that have captured these forgotten places on film. And it IS true that mental hospitals, psych wards and such, are by far the creepiest of all the places I’ve looked at. One of the coolest things about this film is that Danvers State Hospital does actually exist and they filmed the majority of the movie there, on site. A lot of the building is said to have been unsafe for filming however, they were able to use a small area and I think that it was executed very well. They didn’t even need many props or anything because, having been a fully functioning asylum fifteen years prior to filming, there were numerous items still left behind, like the wheelchair we see in a hallway or the bathtubs in the hydrotherapy room (wicked scene, this is obviously a treatment that would have made any SANE person feel trapped, I can only imagine how someone who was perhaps deeply disturbed would have felt about it or reacted to it). Plus, I’ve seen many photos online of abandoned asylum building where there are old files on the floors or old file cabinets with papers and folders still inside them. So, to me, it’s not far out that Mike would find such things in the asylum while on this clean up job. I’d probably be more surprised if he didn’t find anything.
I thought the movie was good. I liked the actors. I think they did their parts justice. I also think that if one of those big time major production houses had picked up this film instead of these guys having to go the indie route that it would have been a much more successful venture for them. It wasn’t weird for me to see David Caruso (a lot of people recognize his character Horatio Cane from CSI: Miami) smoking weed either. I’ve seen him in another movie with Nicholas Cage called Kiss of Death (1995). Not the best movie in the world but, certainly not the worst. Anyways, Caruso is no angel in that movie. He’s no villain but, no angel either…that’s for sure. And I think the writers (one of them is the guy who plays Mike by the way) really tried to think their plot through. However, I also think they wanted something a little more mind probing and thought provoking, rather than just hand you every little thing about the movie on a silver platter. Sometimes, the writer or director (or both) like to make you think a little bit, stimulate your brain cells, make you think things through and try to apply reason and logic to a situation where such things do not exist. It’s more fun that way.
UPDATE: Here is the Danvers State Hospital website. They have some fantastic images of the hospital on here. www.danversstateinsaneasylum.com
The Langoliers (1995)
Directed and Written by
Based on the novella by Stephen King
IMDb 6.1/10 Rotten Tomatoes 50% Metacritic NO DATA
Okay guys, this is a three-hour flick. If you can get through it, it’s a good movie. Most Stephen King stories make good movies. But, it IS long and it DOES take some time to develop. They ask the same questions of each other over and over again when the audience has it figured out in a matter of seconds. If you can stomach that, you’ll be fine.
The story is about eleven people. Eleven people on a red-eye American Pride flight. Flight #29, destination…Boston. But they soon have to make a detour into…The Twilight Zone. No, I’m kidding, I couldn’t resist. They experience issues in flight that make them have to land in Bangor, Maine. And here’s why.
During the flight, they hit something “like” turbulence but NOT turbulence and all the passengers, except those sleeping, disappear. I’m talking the passengers, the flight attendants (back then they were called stewardesses), the pilots, everyone not sleeping. When they disappeared, anything not biological remained either in their seat on the plane or on the floor near where they were sitting. It’s an eerie sight.
And then there’s the sound when they land in Bangor. It’s very faint at first but, it grows closer and louder as time goes on. Dinah is the first to hear it. As if that wasn’t creepy enough, they find the airport they land at, a usually bustling place, to be completely bare and deserted. The whole place is without a soul to be found. It looks like a ghost town. There’s also no power. When they get to a food vendor and taste the food, it’s flavorless and awful to eat. They also discover that they can’t light matches that they find in the airport and that the soda (or pop, if you prefer, depending on where you’re from) doesn’t have any carbonation and is flat. (We ALL know THAT tastes horrible.)
Oh, then there’s Mr. Craig Toomy. Narcissistic, in a hurry and delusional. What a perfect freakin’ combination!!!! Toomy, getting more and more unstable the longer he is forced to wait in the empty airport, finds a gun there and takes a hostage, trying to force take off. Now, Captain Brian has theorized that since the matches and all that are “lifeless”, the fuel there will be too. He believes that the turbulence they experienced was caused by passing through an aurora borealis, entering a time rift that sent them a few minutes into the past, thus making them out of sync with everything and everyone else.
So, when Toomy tries to shoot Albert, who chooses to play hero, the bullet merely bounces off of him and falls to the floor. This allows the capture of Toomy and Nick ties him up.
Meanwhile, they also discover that inside the plane is the present. So, it’s like the plane is a jar and everything inside the jar is “the present” and everything outside the jar is “the past’. Inside the plane all the food is delicious, the matches from the plane work (See how long ago this was made people? They used to give out matches on planes and in airports). Because the plane is still “the present” anything brought on the plane, like matches from the airport, will “catch up” to them and then be in great condition. SO, the matches from the airport WILL work, it just takes a little time. Brian suspects the same will be true about the fuel.
While they are preparing to take off, Toomy escapes and kills Don and fatally wounds Dinah in the process. Still, they refuel the plane and Dinah warns them against hurting Toomy, claiming he is needed.
As they board the plane, the sound they were hearing is loud and very near. It soon breaches the horizon and these creatures appear. Mr. Jenkins refers to them as Langoliers, creatures that feed on the time that has past. Mr. Craig Toomy believes they are creatures that have come to eat him because he’s been bad and has been a lazy worker and person. (Interesting theory. It’s what he was told growing up by his father. Nice bedtime story huh?)
Finally, as they get ready to take off, Toomy comes running out of the airport in a panicked stupor. As the Langoliers get closer, they target Toomy, allowing the rest of the passengers on the plane to escape and take off.
Once in flight, however, it occurs to Jenkins that the only reason they survived the first pass through the time rift was because they were all asleep. Quickly they have to figure out a plan to knock themselves out in a safe way in order to sleep through passing through the rift but still be able to wake afterward.
Captain Engle suggests that they lower the air pressure in the cabin to where they pass out. The only drawback is that one person has to stay awake to up the pressure right before they enter the time rift…or they’ll all die.
So, because of his history, Nick decides that he’s going to do one good thing with his miserable life and he’s the one that stays awake, flips the switch and saves the day. And it works.
Like I said, I like this film. It was originally a TV mini-series that played over a two-night span, I believe. I don’t remember for sure. I’d have to look it up. But, it’s a fun story of Stephen King’s. I mean, creatures that chomp away at time just a few minutes after it’s passed us by? What kind of a crazy idea is that?! What’s even crazier is they do a fantastic job putting that into perspective in the movie particularly when they are leaving the Bangor airport. You actually see, well, what’s left of the past get eaten away. It’s almost surreal.
Each character seems to play a part also. Although each may not be as influential or as important as another. For instance, Bob Jenkins is very influential in putting all the pieces together however Albert, who seems like a nobody and frankly, a weakling, saves Bethany from Toomy. So everybody seems to do their part. King has a way of intertwining characters so that they are needed for the story, no matter how insignificant they may be at the time. Laurel becomes Dinah’s caretaker after her aunt disappears in the flight. See what I mean?
So, if you get the chance, this movie may be what many of you might consider old (I laugh and assure you it’s not, movies from the 30s are old, this is mid 90s so, cut us some slack) but it is definitely worth watching. Who knows, you may even like it enough to want to watch it again. The thing about King stories, you almost never catch EVERYTHING the FIRST time you watch.
Directed by William Lustig
Written by C.A. Rosenberg, Joe Spinell
Joe Spinell as Frank Zito
Caroline Munro as Anna
IMDb 6.5/10 Rotten Tomatoes 39% Metacritic NO DATA
I have had my eye on this film for quite some time. It was highly controversial when it came out, which was at the height of the 80s slasher film craze. 1980 was a crazy year for the slasher film. So many films were trying to stretch into new realms of the horror genre. Originally released unrated, it was specifically marketed to people over the age of 17. Eventually, it received an R rating BUT, went through a small period of being banned in the UK.
The story takes place in New York City. A grown man, Frank Zito, murders and scalps young women, taking them home and adding their scalps and/or corpses to his mannequin collection. He has very apparent mommy issues and a real insecurity with women. Frank was abused by his mother, who was a prostitute. This sprouted a hated for women in him and as he grew older it grew into a violent and hateful contempt.
First off, let me say that I’ve seen Joe Spinell in a few movies and he always looks old, he always looks the same and he always looks like a serial killer. The guy is like the poster boy for serial killer central, as far as looks go. (I’ve been watching true crime for 20 years. I’ve seen serial killers of all kinds. Spinell is “aces” in the “creepo” department.
But, his actual ability to convey the behavior of a serial killer…eh. There’s a point in the film where Frank is supposed to be crying or sobbing himself to sleep and honestly, it’s one of the worst and most annoying sounds ever. It couldn’t sound anymore forced or fake.
I suppose the idea behind the plot is a fairly good one. I mean, while the research shows that most serial killers were abused as children, the fact is that the majority of the victimized DO NOT grow up to be victimizers themselves. So, it’s not a stretch that an abused boy with a fractured psyche might not be able to handle his emotions in a healthy and productive manner.
However, the big controversy of the film was the violence. I love a good splatter movie any day. This would qualify…if I had turned the sound off. What little dialogue there was, wasn’t very good. I read that the film had a $350,000 budget and was basically filmed on the fly, with no filming permits, with little props (using what’s on hand and available) and filming in real locations on a whim. It shows. Interestingly, the film grossed $10 million at the box office in spite of the flat plot, skeletal dialogue and basic filming.
The bonus of the film was we get a fairly decent kill scene with the one and only Tom Savini as a victim. That’s actually the scene that sticks out the most to me. Unfortunately, the film really didn’t have a lot of substance. You know, like Halloween (1978) kind of set the bar and the formula for the ideal slasher flick. The plot was basic but, there was enough that went on that you didn’t lose your target audience, the audience didn’t get bored. This film just seemed to be a camera following an ugly guy around while he tried to get up the nerve to make it with a hot chick and when he got the opportunity, he failed miserably and got all pissy and killed her. (That’s actually more common in real life than you might think...among psychos at least.)
This film was re-made in 2012 starring Elijah Wood. I have that version too. I’m hoping it is better. This one was just okay. I thought being a classic slasher film that it would have been better. My hopes were sadly dashed by the harsh reality of Joe Spinell and the fact that not only is he not the best serial killer actor he’s not the best horror writer either.